Sunday, December 14, 2014

California Mega Storm (The hidden survivors journal)

It started out with my trying to sleep in.  For the first time in my entire teaching career (and my school attending career as well)  The districts decided to shut down the schools for the anticipation of a horrendous storm.  I made my observations on Facebook to pass the time.  (Yes, where I live we had power the whole day.) I thought I would put all of my storm rambles together in one post.  Here's how the day before started, when I heard that I would not be allowed to teach the next day.

Ok, So I have resigned myself to being part of kooky California...but closing the schools because it's going to be rainy and windy...Now we're just gonna be laughed at by all the other states. Be prepared everyone, California is gonna have its lunch money taken away by Rhode Island and Texas is gonna give us a swirlie!

Then this is how I woke up.  It pretty much put me in a goofy mood.

So whoever had "5:08 A.M." in the 'When will Jeff's dogs wake him up on the day he unexpectedly gets to sleep in" are the winner. Unfortunately your prize was seen tumbling down the street in the wind.

I don't want to alarm anyone but our wind chimes were just playing the Minute Waltz in 47 seconds. Also, I just saw a silly old bear who seemed to be stuffed with fluff, and his little piglet friend, floating away while holding an umbrella. More updates to follow.

People kept asking me to continue I did.

Storm Survivor Journal:
8:02 A.M.
I haven't seen any other survivors in more than an hour. They are all sleeping in. The dogs, who normally bark at trouble, are silent. I can only assume that means there is no trouble.
Spent the better part of an hour writing a constitution to rebuild society...then I thought, Nah, I'll just Google the one that already exists.
It's been days since I've had milk. Mostly because I haven't had the desire to have any. I am going to attempt the arduous walk into the kitchen to get some. Wish me luck.

Storm Survivor Journal:
10:51 A.M.
Successfully navigated the parking lot where the tires pushed away the water that was standing in one area of more than 2 inches. It really put the "Most terrain: Level Moderate" rating on the tires to the test. Water splashed aside almost two feet away from the van. I did not need to put chains on at this time.

Inside the store I navigated the aisles and had difficulty finding the bare necessities. There were so many choices in the the way. I stocked up for a couple of days of existence before I realized that they only had one lane open. I was the only customer, so the wait wasn't terribly long. I was pleased to see that the complete breakdown of the monetary system had not happened yet. I was able to pay with a credit card.
I was able to get the food into the house before our son lost his mind. I briefly regretted teaching him about the Donner party, but when he poured himself a bowl of cereal, my fears abated.
Our indoor shower, that is installed in the middle of our living room ceiling, is working nicely but seems to be stuck in the "on" position. There are two gentlemen on the roof trying to turn the knob to "off" somehow. I did not hire snipers to watch their every move, mostly because I called them and asked them to do it.
Morale is high. I credit it to discovering that Looney Tunes plays reruns during the day when I would usually be working. I will attempt to update further as the seconds turn into minutes, and the minutes turn into hours...but for now, That's all folks!

Storm Survivor Journal:
2:42 P.M.
The rationing has begun. I have taken stock in our supplies and determined that we need to be careful. The determining factors were: number of people in the house, number of bags of individual sized potato chips (Lay's Classic), and the likelihood that our teenage son has a hollow leg used to store food. Jake and Sylvia (my co-survivors) ventured out in the weather to go to a party. I can only hope that they made it, and eat enough to not notice that I have eaten most of our supplies.
It has become apparent that I need to pay attention to some sort of exercise regimen, I fear that my muscle tone has begun to atrophy. I blame the people who have sent me messages from the outside regarding my journal. I may have to send a coded message explaining that you are only encouraging me.
The rain has been steady for a few hours now. If I were to go outside I would be soaked to the skin in mere hours of being in the elements. I can certainly see the wisdom involved in having so many news reports and school closures. Imagine the turmoil that would ensue if hundreds of Californians were to walk around with slightly water spotted polo shirts.
I actually forgot one of my very own survival tips and paid dearly for the mistake. I walked outside to talk to someone on the front steps and I completely forgot to take off my glasses. The numerous steps involved in removing tiny little drizzle droplets from my glasses almost made me miss the beginning of the program I wanted to watch on TV.
The dogs are getting anxious and fidgety. I can only assume that it is due to it being only ten minutes away from their normal feeding time. Having a full month's supply of food is small comfort in the face of this one day storm. Somehow we must strive to go on...even in speckled shirts.

Storm Survivor Journal:
4:03 P.M.
I can only assume that the nearly 12 hours of steady dampness has begun to take its toll on the people of California. There must be some sort of brain fungus that remains dormant until the roads stay wet for longer than a marathon of westerns starring Don Knotts (excluding the Apple Dumpling Gang series). I think the fungus has been activated.
I noticed the descent into madness while I braved the elements to check the mailbox. I was not washed into the abyss as I leaned out of the door. There was no mail yet so the danger has not fully passed yet.
The evidence, I saw two cars going down the road at a reasonable speed. The second car, however, was following so closely they could have been part of a fuel injected conga line. The only reason I can see that a person would follow so closely on a wet day like today is that his (or her) brain has been taken over by an extraordinary substance.
Had a nice surprise. My mom stopped by. I saw her from a distance, through the downpour, and opened the door while she disembarked from her weather gear. (closed her umbrella). There was no sign of her sherpa. I can only imagine that he was lost on the trip. I'm sure mom performed a nice ceremony next to the impromptu marker where he breathed his last.
Odd occurrence on this damp day. Our old fashioned telephone, the one attached to the wall, proved that it was effective on days like this. It's effective on other days too but it worked today like any other day. When it sprang to life I was a little startled because it is usually only used by salespeople and people conducting surveys. Today was no different. I was glad to see that it was operating as it should. It's a good thing too, that was the way my school district chose to inform me that they were going to force all of the innocent children of our district to trudge through the aftermath of this mega-storm and make them go to school. The bottoms of their shoes will be wet and there will most likely be soggy leaves for them to stomp on.
With them coming to school, fortunately, means that I will be going in to work. They say that the way to get over a traumatic event is to get right back into what you would do normally. I can only hope to recover from this experience...over time.

Storm Survivor Journal:
11:43 P.M.
It is past time to go to bed and I just want to say that I am looking forward to a day where the most exciting thing will be when my entire class tells me, at nearly the same time, that they saw a lot of rain and wind yesterday.
I would like to say thank you for putting up with my silly little ramblings. I would also like to say that I understand that there were several places, relatively close by, that experienced real storm trouble and flooding. In trivializing the overreaction of the news media for our area I definitely did not mean to trivialize people who were going through actual hardship. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who have been inconvenienced, injured, or put out of their houses.
And so, with a slightly dampened spirit (of course the pun was intended) I crawl off to bed as I dream of which shower I will use in the morning since the gentlemen with the tarps failed to stem the rising tide of water continuing to pour into the living room. We're thinking of telling the insurance company that the storm blew away the entire second story of our house. Papa wants a new master bedroom! Wish us luck.

Still working on the emotional scars.  Day by by.... day.....

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cast Party

In the summer, even though we haven't done ANY camping due to a permanent malfunction with our trailer-pulling truck...and a hopefully non-permanent malfunction with our truck-replacing bank account, my mind wanders to the forest by bodies of water.  While my mind is out, wandering willy-nilly among the trees, it notices things that it then relates back to me in excruciating detail.  Usually at night, when I am trying to sleep, and have to get up early the next morning.  These memories are then the stories I relate to you all.

The last few camping stories have been about a friend of mine, since we went camping together a lot, but today I thought I would pick on a member of my family for a change.  My cousin Tom.  His family and my family did a lot of camping together while we were growing up.  There were times that we would stay for a week at a lake or a river and just hang out.  Tom was a bit more outdoorsy than me.  Of course that is like saying that centipedes have a few more feet than I do...but let's not quibble over semantics.  I am suddenly reminded, though, that after spending many unfruitful hot hours sitting on the edge of a lake, drowning worms, swatting mosquitoes, and essentially practicing casting, Tom's sister Kay came over and asked for a shot at fishing.  I, of course, said "Sure" since there were obviously no fish in the entire lake...and I was beginning to have my suspicions about whether or not there were any fish anywhere on the planet.  Kay took my rod and reel, cast it into the exact spot I was fishing, and in about eight seconds was walking back to her dad to show him the fish she caught.  Oh well...I wanted to go make myself a glass of Tang anyway.  Did you know that the astronauts drank that stuff?

Another time Tom and I were stomping around the banks of a smallish river/largish stream and I was watching him fish.  I went into semi-retirement after the whole showed-up-by-my-cousin incident at the lake. We walked around talking about nothing in particular (which was always my favorite part of fishing anyway) and the fish were not biting.  We didn't know it at the time but they were all in a group at the water's edge next to Kay...just waiting for her to hold out her hands, or a frying pan, so they could climb over each other to jump into her grasp...but I'm not bitter.  After quite a while, and the call from the camp that lunch was about to be ready, Tom decided that the best fishing would be in the middle of the water, casting upstream, and avoiding all of the trees from the bank so he could really send it out there.

We waded into the middle of the water and told the family that it would be one more cast and then we would come in.  Tom leaned back, set the reel, took a deep breath, and flung that Super Duper (#503) lure as hard as he could!  It was poetry!  There, standing in the middle of the river, looking upstream into the beauty of God's creation with enormous birch and fir trees leaning over each side of the bank casting shadows over their portion of the wide and swift cascading crystal blue water Tom had threaded the needle.  His lure did not go into the trees.  He wouldn't have been so rude as to trample on my specialty of catching the ever popular tree-trout.  His lure went straight down the sunny center of the river and disappeared into the distance.  It was unnatural how far it went!  It just seemed to go on forever!

Now, I always thought Tom was a great guy but this magnificent cast had ratcheted his stock up a few notches.  I was seriously impressed that anyone could have aligned the cosmic tumblers so perfectly with the right wind speed, line strength, reel tension, and aim to come together all at the same time.  I looked, open-mouthed, from the last place I could make out the lure to Tom's face.  His ever-present smile was just a little bit bigger right now.  The sides of his mouth pushing up toward his laughing eyes.  It was like a smirk that had just gotten completely out of control.  He started reeling it in.  He knew what he had done and the amazing cast he had made.  I think he was secretly glad that his pudgy bespectacled cousin was there as a witness to this religious event.  At this point telling you that a fish was on the other end of the line would have been too much.  My dear readers would be knocking over their computer monitors and yelling "SHENANIGANS!" into the air.  I agree.  While I do enjoy a good fish story, and I have been known to spin a tall tale once in a while, I will remind you that this is 100% true!

There we stood in the center of the river reeling in the lure.  Neither of us could stop grinning... still he reeled.  Lunch was all but forgotten...still he reeled.  We had our excuse ready for when our moms asked us why we were late...still he reeled.  Then he reeled some more.  And still more.  And suddenly the realization that even if he had caught the tail end of a low flying plane and it had pulled most of the line off of his reel...he would have been done by now.  Simultaneously we looked down at the reel as he continued to turn the crank...and we saw the tiniest end of the fishing line, flipflipflipflip, as it went around and around.  The lure had broken the line and flown off into the next county.  We laughed and worked our way back out of the river so we could go eat our balogna sandwiches, plain potato chips, tiny handfuls of homemade Gorp (trail mix complete with carob chips), and wash it all down with Tang (Did I mention that astronauts drink that stuff).

I don't really remember the reaction from the family to our telling of the greatest cast story in all history, but I will never forget the fun we had on all those trips together.  And Tom, don't worry.  The line breaking didn't make your standing go down a single notch.  In order to slide down that scale you would have had to do something particularly heinous... like catch a fish with my gear... in a matter of seconds... after I had been sitting in the hot sun working on my second degree sunburns and getting eating by mosquitoes... for hours... without so much as a single nibble!  But honestly, who would ever do something as horrible as that?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Going to switch focus for a week...

I am going on a mission trip to San Francisco with a group from church.  You can follow along with us here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Mortality Clicker

Jake, my son, just had an accident at the local trampoline place.  He has a concussion, memory loss, and loss of balance.  He is no stranger to injuries and I am fairly certain that he alone is the reason that the cast technician at our local hospital drives a Lamborghini.  He is an active kid and when he came out of the foam pit that caused him to hit his knee to his forehead (a feat that I couldn't do if my life depended on it) he wouldn't let me help him stop the bleeding until I took a picture for Facebook.  He also made sure I caught his double flip on video.  Watching him get injured and then go unconscious for a couple of minutes was not pleasant and, if the expression is true, it probably subtracted a year or two off of my life.

I woke up this morning wondering if I had ever subtracted any years off of the people around me when I was growing up.  When I took a swan dive off the roof and tried to cushion the blow, ineffectively, with my left arm, I am fairly certain that I didn't subtract any years from my mom's life since she wasn't there to see it.  When I got up and waved at her from a thirty degree angle in the middle of my forearm, that may have subtracted a week or two, though.  As an aside, I am hoping that I did, however, subtract some time from my "friends" who had filled my backyard until I started my freefall.  By the time I hit the dirt my yard was completely empty.  I count that as a turning point in my friend choosing abilities.  Not sure what ever became of those guys...hope they had their affairs in order.

As I ran through my childhood I was fairly certain my year-subtracting activities were kept to a dull roar...until I remembered the pool.

Mike was a great friend.  We were constantly at each other's house.  I would ride the four miles to his house on my one speed squeaky bike, I would spend the night at his house, and in the morning we would ride back together to my house.  I'm sure, over the years, there must have been a couple dozen times that one of the four parents wondered where we were and then just figured that we were at the other's house.  There were plenty of things to do.  We had vacant lots near us...they had a fort.  We could walk to the stores near our house...we explored the school playgrounds near his.  And then his family built a pool...and my family said, "Where's Jeff?"  

It was one of those half-in half-out nearly buried pools...if my memory is correct.  Not the biggest pool I'd ever been in, (remind me to tell you sometime about our friend whose father invented the Lincoln Arc Welder...their pool belonged in a movie) but it was great.  We would try to make whirlpools by walking around the outer edge.  We would race from one end to the other.  And. for today's story...we would have contests to see who could hold their breath the longest.  

Allow me an ADHD moment please.  I have the lung capacity of an olympic swimmer who also sings opera on the side.  In college biology they tested it and the instructor thought the machine was broken.  In an acting class (I know, I know, but I had general requirements to get through) the teacher had the class collectively hold a note for as long as they could. Everybody else... "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.........." gasp gasp gasp
The instructor finally told me to stop.  I'm not sure which came first, the lung capacity or the holding breath contests...but they both happened.

One day Mike and I were swimming in his pool and there were no other people around.  Fairly surprising since he had three brothers.  We were just splashing around.  There weren't enough of us to make a decent whirlpool so we started swimming back and forth under water.  Then back and forth and back again...under water.  Then Mike had to pee.  He jumped out of the pool, dried off, and ran inside.  Swimming by myself was never as much fun as with someone so I just hung out at the edge.  Then I thought.  "I can practice holding my breath."  I took a huge breath and slipped below the surface.  This was well before the days when people were told not to swim alone.  Nowadays if your child was anywhere near a puddle without floaties and board-certified lifeguard, alone, you would be getting a visit from the police department.  It was a simpler time.  

Enter Jean...Mike's mom.  The victim in this tale.  She was inside baking and listening to the radio.  This particular year had been tough by the water.  There were two kids who had drowned fairly close together and the news was reminding everyone to be diligent when watching the kids by the pool.  She came out to check on the boys...who were being suspiciously quiet.  She came to the edge and looked in to see me, lying on the bottom, spread eagle, motionless (to conserve air) and this is when her mortality clicker starting spinning backwards.  

I, of course, was unaware of any of this and was serenely enjoying the solitude and quiet of a still pool.  The first sign that there was any problem was when I felt something grab my head.  I was surprised, of course, and tried to get away.  

On the surface Jean was trying to bring me up so she could get some oxygen into my lungs...but I slipped out of her hands.  So she tried again.

Under the water I was being mauled by something and I couldn't figure out what was going on.  I pushed away from the edge as hard as I could and stood up so I was out of the water about chest high.  I saw a panicked Jean grabbing for me, in tears, and she hugged me for a long time sobbing.  She wasn't even concerned that I was soaking her apron with the tiny little pale flowers.  

I was clueless and then she told me that the news had just reminded people about those two kids so she wanted to check on us and there I was at the bottom.  It was then that she noticed the line on my cheek.  In her effort to grab me, and my effort to get away, she had given me a scratch from my right ear all the way to my nose.  It was bright red and it hurt like the dickens but right away I knew I got the better end of this exchange.  

Sorry Jean.

Monday, March 3, 2014

One time...

I have often thought about renaming this blog, "One Time..." because most of my stories could start with those two words.  In fact, one time, a friend and I took a road trip to Arizona to check out a Navajo Mission to see if it was needing the support of our youth group.  We had three days to get there, check out the place, and then come back to reality.  What that meant was two full days of driving sixteen hours each way.  I think I assaulted poor Mark with approximately 18,000 stories about things that I had experienced...all of them started with "one time..."

Having said that, One youth group traveled up to Bear Valley to go on a snow trip.  That's what we always called it.  A snow trip.  We were fairly certain that there would be snow the places that we went.  We would load up about thirty kids into a bunch of vehicles and travel the five hours it would take to get to the cabin.  (It may not have actually been five hours but it sure felt like that when we were cramped into ancient sedans that we affectionately called boats.)

I am reminded of these trips because our kids have traveled up to a place this weekend that they are calling the "winter" trip.  It will be cold.  It has the elevation required for snow...but, alas, this weekend is promising to be bereft of snow and the accompanying giant drifts to push people into.  Since this is the first time in years that the youth group has gone and I haven't been a leader I have to say I am a little relieved that there will be safe roads to travel on.  Most of the danger in the weekend will revolve around the mechanical bull in the chalet and the manufactured hill of snow they use to slide down riding sleds made of cardboard and duct tape.

The places I used to go, when I was in high school, were a little more snowy.  In fact, the cabin that we usually rented had to be accessed by snowmobile in the winter.  My dad built a large sled with old skis attached to the bottom to get all of our gear up the mountain.  People had to be ferried up on the backs of these loud hot machines, in the freezing cold, in the dark...before we could start our weekend trip.  It was fun.  It was cold.  It was terrifying.

Allow me to explain.  After we had all gotten up to the cabin and settled into our rooms...that consisted of laying your sleeping bag onto approximately six square feet of floor...we had dinner, singing, a message, and then we goofed around talking about silly things until we fell asleep.

Saturday atop the mountain was always a fun time.  We would have a gigantic breakfast, after figuring out that the "high altitude modifications" on the sides of the hash browns packaging merely meant that they were never going to cook...ever, and then we would play.  Some of the adults would drive people around on the snowmobiles that were rented for the weekend.  Everyone else would attempt to slide down the impossibly steep hills in front of the cabin on little disks of plastic.  I'm going to go ahead and say that it was fun...for others...but it wasn't my thing.  I'm particular about my sledding activities.

It is my thinking that the hill should be climbed...first...and then slide back down to where you rest.  It takes away from the fun of the ride if you have twenty people at the top yelling that you should climb faster so that someone else can have a turn having fun. It's a minor point but an important one in my book.  Additionally, the hill that they had chosen to slide down was dangerously close to several large trees and two even larger cabins.

Given that the hill was fraught with peril, I decided to hop around on the snowbank at the crest of the hill. This at least seemed to be fraught with safety...or so I thought.  As I walked around atop this crunchy pile of snow I started hopping into the powder.  I would go in up to my knees, then I could sit on the seat I had just formed for myself.  I had done it a few times and thought it was fun.  I looked a little like Tim Conway from when he did his Dorf character.  I could lean forward and back and my legs, from the knees down, were held fast in the snow.

I did this a few places before I did the final hop.  I failed to realize that that little twig that I was about to hop on was maybe attached to something else.   I also didn't figure into my trajectory that I had to climb a seven foot snow drift to get to the other side of the downhill sledding.  Additionally, I didn't think that the tiniest sprig of evergreen poking out of the snow was actually the top of a very large tree.  I hopped, and disappeared.  Apparently when you hop onto the loose snow that surrounds the top of a tree it just gives way and you slide down quite a way.  I went from standing on the top of a snowbank to staring out of the bottom of a pine scented snow tunnel in about a second and a half.  Luckily someone saw me go in because, the way the snow was pressing against me, I wasn't going to be able to take a deep breath to yell for help.  In an instant I had a lot of empathy for people who were caught in avalanches.  I knew, firsthand, why people don't just "push their way out."  I was at the mercy of the snow and every wiggle sent me a little further down into a little tighter space.

Right about now, if I were telling the story to my kids, one of them would sarcastically ask, "Did you die?"  I was 'stuck' in this hole for a short time.  It felt like an hour and was probably more like a couple of minutes.  I remember thinking that I had to fight off the panic.  It would have been really easy to start wriggling and crying and trying to claw my way to the top...but none of that would have helped me.  Besides, I had my image of being the overweight socially awkward teen to protect.  I wasn't ready to add a new level of "panicker" to the mix.   I held it together for the duration of the event and never succumbed to freaking out.  Nobody even mentioned the incident after that.  The rest of the weekend went without a hitch and I think no one ever knew how close I was to completely losing it.  I never did.

But there was one time...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Double "O" Seven and Two Thirds

It's funny what jogs your memory.  It's also funny that my memory is the only thing that jogs in the area of my body.

Two days ago I was out for a significant walk.  My entire family is raising money to go on a trip to San Francisco by delivering flyers for a real estate agent in our free time.  Yes, we are those guys.  Luckily the flyers we deliver are more like newsletters and, even more luck, a lot of people actually enjoy getting them. The trip isn't to see the city...especially since we live less than an hour from there and raising money to make that drive would be the equivalent of not going out to dinner once or twice a month.  Our fund raising isn't about gas's about feeding the homeless, working with the poor, and spending our spring vacation doing something other than catching up on shows we've taped (excuse me...DVR' age is showing). We get a few cents per flyer and we manage to do a few hundred a month.  We won't be eating caviar in the city...but it helps pay for the program we are visiting.  I suppose, if you wanted to help fund the trip for the church group we are taking with us, I could give you the donation information if you sent me an email.  But I am not writing to ask you for money.  Seriously, I am writing to try to make you laugh.

Sylvia and I were out this last Saturday for a few hours while we delivered our flyers.  It is always nice to get out and get some exercise while we make the rounds.  We also get to see some interesting things. I have seen a statue of a giant pair of feet on someone's front yard.  I have also seen hoarders next door to landscaping enthusiasts.  I have seen new fences being built and old ones being held up with wire.  I have seen decorations from former careers in the railroad industry (at least I hope they were in that industry and didn't just take a switch from some unsuspecting railroad...I better call Homeland Security)  There have been some interesting things that cross our paths while we are out and about (that's oot and aboot for our friends to the north, eh)  The one thing I chose to write about this morning...a make-up mirror.

Just in case you are wondering, or worried if your house happens to be on our route, all of these things I've seen have been in plain view and essentially on display in the front yards.  I don't go poking around in others' business and I am hoping that the people who deliver to me do the same.  I don't even look in windows as I walk up the entry ways.  I wouldn't want to be rude.  The one exception to this rule is the make-up mirror.  It wasn't on the lawn, it was high up in what I am assuming was one of those tiny little windows that people have in some bathrooms.  The reasons I noticed it were two-fold.  One, it caught the sun.  And two, it reminded me of Craig.

Craig and I go way back.  I would venture to say that he is my oldest friend.  And, while he caked it on pretty good while he was in acting classes in college, I am fairly certain he didn't regularly wear make-up. The mirror in question belonged to his mom.  It also wasn't just a mirror.  This one, and the one that I saw in the window, was one of those concave types that magnify the image and make you gasp a little when you first look into it.  (That may not be a fair representation considering that I gasp a little no matter what mirror I look in...but I digress)  You know the type.  They are usually on a flexible arm and can be used to do any number of activities that require fine detail.

The only reason I know that Craig's mom had one of these mirrors is because his family was kind enough to take me camping.  Burney Falls.  Northern California.  If you haven't been...bucket list that place.  Leave your mirror at home.  I have many fond memories of that place and those trips and I am sure more stories will wiggle their way into the blog as time passes but don't let me get sidetracked today.

One thing about Burney Falls is that it is located about two and a half meters from the sun.  In the summer most of your activities involve finding water, finding shade, and finding soft serve ice-cream that lasts more than two seconds before becoming a sticky puddle at your feet.  We would hike, fish, swim, climb rocks, see signs to watch out for rattlesnakes under the rocks, get off the was fun.  We found a mountain of piled obsidian and cave that was so protected that it had a frozen pond in it even though the temperature outside was well over a hundred.  We always kept ourselves busy.

As we returned from one adventure we noticed that his dad's truck was full of smoke.  Unusual to say the least.  Craig ran over, opened the door and the smoke cleared.  There was no electrical problem.  There weren't any lit cigars.  No Rastafarians had visited.  There was just a lot of thick white smoke.  It soon became clear (pun intended) that Craig's mom had inadvertently been the cause of all the smoke.  I imagine, in order to find a comfortable place to sit, a little privacy, and enough light to do what needed to be done, she had put this make-up mirror on the dashboard of the truck.  When she was done, since we weren't driving anywhere soon, she left it there.  As the sun rolled across the sky it became perfectly aligned to the mirror and the resulting ray of light, focused by the curved lens, started traveling across the door panel.  It didn't start a flame, but it did burn.  The interesting thing (as if this wasn't already riveting!) is that the motion of the Earth caused this beam of focused light to travel down the side of the door panel.  If I remember correctly it ended up being a few inches long before we noticed the smoke.

Well, that is the official version of what happened.  I have my own theory that Craig's mom was really a spy and, since we were camping, and didn't have time go get her laser that she would have used to dispatch her enemies by slowly cutting them in half, she did the best she could using the items she had on hand.  Of course  at the time I didn't see the secret agent belted into the cab of the truck, she's too good of a spy for that to happen, but I have my suspicions.  Also, on the way home, she just had to "run in" to a super secret nuclear research lab to pick up a cup of uranium...but I'm sure it was just a coincidence.

So that's it.  Seeing a little mirror in a window some thirty five years later served as a doorway into a fun memory.  That little dark burn line stayed on the door panel of their truck for as long as they owned the truck.  It was, to me, a constant reminder of the lesson learned that day...Don't mess with Mrs. K!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The List

Years ago when Ray Orrock, my silent unwitting blog mentor and newspaper columnist, was working his magic with words and observations, he would include games for the readers to play.  Now don't get your hopes up.  I have no games for you today.  Well maybe one...if you behave yourselves.

A few weeks ago we made our world famous homemade pizza.  Well, it's maybe world renowned.  All right, all right, I made it while standing on the world.  Happy!?  (You are this close to losing today's game!  Watch your step!  I'm not mad.  I'm disappointed.)

Anyway, when we have people join us for dinner and they seem like fun-loving and tolerant people, I break out the world's simplest game.  It was a game that Mr. Orrock used to play every once in a while.  The birthday game.  I actually think he called it "golf"  but everything cannot be the same, can it?  When he would put this particular game into his column, it would come with instructions to guess the ages of the famous people, jot them down, then read to the end of the column and get the answers. The difference between your guess and the actual age was your score for that person and the lower the score the better.  At the end of the column he would have a score sheet that explained something like: 

0-3 Age Ace
4-6 Pretty Good Guesser
7-10 Amateur Ageist
11-15 Go watch some classic movies
16 +  Were you even trying?

I think he had more clever brackets than these...but what can I say, it's a vacation day for me.  Of course, when the game was over I was almost always in the "were you even trying" category because the people he put on the list were some that I'd never even heard of.  But it was fun.

 If you have stuck with me this long, and you stop putting that thing in your ear, (I mean don't even know where it's been) then I suppose you have earned your game.  

Here goes:
Jennifer Anniston - from Friends
Tom Hiddleston - Loki on Thor
Joe Pesci - Either Goodfellas or Home Alone depending on your age
Taylor Lautner - (I think he was the kid I was a body double for in that vampire movie)
Christina Ricci - Casper or Addams Family
Josh Brolin - Brand on the Goonies ok, ok, MIB III (K from the past)
Jerry Springer (don't make the mistake of guessing apparent'll be low)
Florence Henderson - Best known as Alice's boss on some show about the Brady kids.

OK, so that's the list.  Guess, keep score, and find your ranking.  That's it.  Feel free to comment with your score but I am not going to try to manipulate you into doing that by offering a prize of any kind.  Maybe I'll come cook you dinner...or clear out your gutters...or just hug your ankles since I am so starved for written recognition of any kind...but I digress.

The reason I mention this game at all is because I like to play the game during dinner.  When we all sit down to eat I break out the second page of the paper and read the names of the celebrities in the birthday column.  It's not really to see who will win, it's more of a fun way to get things going conversation wise.  Since the kids know that the newspaper list is in order according to age, and they are rarely people they've heard of, their guesses are usually "108" or "389."  When they get a little further down the list toward people that they've seen in movies or maybe heard of their band...then the guessing gets more serious.  Well serious for the Garrett household's dinner table.  There is a lot of laughter, many silly comments back and forth, and occasionally we make it nearly half way through the list by the time we have finished eating and having fun.  It is indeed a rare day when we get to the bottom of the list.  

We have had a few people over for dinner that didn't get treated to the birthday game.  On special occasions we forgo the folded paper at my end of the table.  But if the paper is handy, and the diners seem willing, we play.  Enter our newest friends.  

This young lady and her daughter came to visit and wiggled their way into our hearts.  They were instantly family even though we had never met.  Although, they are from the middle of the country so they are probably my cousins somehow.  We were so comfortable with our new additions to the family that I got out the paper and read the first, oldest name.  As is the case with many days, nobody knew who it was.  The kids guessed their usual silly numbers that rivaled summer temperatures in Arizona or on Mercury.  Sylvia guessed somewhere in the seventies and our guest just looked blankly wondering what was going on.  More conversation then I called out another name that nobody had ever heard of.  The kids guessed goofy, Sylvia guessed a little less than her previous guess, and the young lady said, "I don't get it.  Are you reading names from the obituary?"  

It seems, I was so comfortable with them that I forgot to tell her the rules of the pointless game.  We all enjoyed a laugh then performed the secret 'you are now part of the family' ritual and continued on.  We may have to rethink the whole parameters of the game though.  She regularly beats us.  

And now the answers:
Jennifer Anniston  45
Tom Hiddleston  33
Joe Pesci  71
Taylor Lautner  22
Christina Ricci  34
Josh Brolin  46
Jerry Springer  70
Florence Henderson 80

Let me know how you did.  Post your comments if you like.  The response I get to this might determine if I do another game in the future...It's another birthday game but I have to warn you it's a little morbid.  By the way, did you ever notice that people die in alphabetical order?

Exactly How Hungry Do I Look!?!

It has happened again!  I have been subjected to what I hope is just a clerk on auto-pilot, but if I am honest with myself, it smarts a little.

The other night Sylvia sent me a text that, in a very few words, explained that she had had one of 'those' days.  In a moment of clarity and marital attentiveness I replied, "I'll bring home dinner."  That was when I was reminded of what I wanted to write about today.  

Decades ago I drew the short straw during a poker game at our house and had to go to get dinner.  The poker game consisted of my grandpa, two of my uncles, some cousins, my dad, and me.  The short straw was actually determined by virtue of my being born last.  No actual straws were harmed during the sending of the youngster.

Considering that I am bred from what can only be described as strapping barrel chested stock. Our stats rival that of your average professional linebacker (minus the muscles) and we all had healthy appetites.  I walked into Kentucky Fried Chicken well before the Politically correct KFC was born, and probably when the Colonel was still alive now that I think about it, and ordered. The rest of the clan was back home telling stories, drinking, and playing cards...probably in that order...and I was in the house of clucks.  I ordered two large buckets of chicken, enough corn to qualify for farm subsidies, and enough mashed potatoes to fill a kiddie pool.  I also inquired about sauces, butter, and if they had any deals that would involve me walking out with a cake or two.  I was set.  The clan at the house was going to be happy.  I was about thirty-five dollars poorer.  And then it happened.

The clerk said, "Is that for here or to go?"

"What??"  I turned around and looked around me for the other six people who should have been with me to eat this amount of food.  The place was empty.  I turned back to the clerk and said, " go." and raised my hands from their sides, palms up, as if to say, "Huh?"  The look on my face and the size of the order made him realize that this, even though it is probably ingrained from the date they start, was a stupid thing to say.  He stammered, he cleared his throat, and then he apologized by offering me a free drink while I waited for this gargantuan order.  I had just gotten over the sting of this harmless oversight when I cruised in to get dinner the other night.  

We have "that" house where visitors are always welcome and lately the teenagers in our brood have been coming home with I padded the order a bit when I was at the newly branded KFC.  For those of you familiar with this establishment, I'll just say, they were going to have to get out the BIG BAG to hold most of my order.  And still, the kid behind the counter said, "Is that for here or to go?"

You'd think I would be ready with a reply.  
"Here.  And hurry, I'm on my way to a competitive eating contest."
"Here.  But give me a water.  I'm on a diet."
"Here.  Don't worry, most of it is for my giant invisible rabbit friend, Harvey."
"Here.  Forget the napkins...just bring the hose!"

But no, I meekly said, "To go."  And then waited for him to see the error of his ways and offer me a free soda.  No such luck.  I guess he could tell by my order that I was trying to cut down.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oh Say Can You SEE?

I wanted to 'see' if I could try something new.  I will 'watch' to 'see' if there are any adverse reactions. In 'hindsight', I may have wanted to rethink this.  I should have 'seen' that there could be opposition.  I just hope I can 'open some people's eyes'.  'Look' out it comes!

The other day my longtime neighbor and friend, Sammy, wrote this as her Facebook status:

"ok, I'm ready for this discussion to happen. Why is it because I'm blind people think I can't say stuff like "I watched that movie," or "guess who I saw," people freak out and say "you mean you heard?" Do I really have to change my vocabulary to make you feel more comfortable?"
The obvious answer is, "No" but that wasn't her point.  She wasn't looking for an answer.  She is a strong woman who isn't really concerned about whether or not her expressions make you feel uncomfortable.  The thing is, this one post ignited a squall of comments and after a while I 'saw' that I could no longer 'watch' from the sidelines.  (I apologize...I am almost done.  I don't want to 'look' like a fool.)

All right, full disclosure time.  I like words.  I actually love them and I choose certain ones specifically to create the feeling I desire.  I remember once, a long long time ago, when I was saying good bye to Sammy in her driveway, I uttered something along the lines of "Ok, see you later."  She, with her ever-present smile, responded, "OK, see you later."  I've said things like this my whole life.  But this day I cringed.  I even hesitated as I got to the word "see" and tried, as my face turned red, to desperately search for a word that would work for a "non-sighted person of otherwise able capabilities."  (You have to understand that I was raised in the epicenter of political correctness)  I probably went in and talked it over with my family..."I could have said talk to you later.  I'm so stupid."  I was able to get over this little incident (with years of therapy and self-loathing) and I became a moderately productive member of society.  Sammy, on the other hand, may have noticed that I hesitated in my sentence, thought that I swallowed a bug, and went on with her very happy life.  

During the lengthy Facebook comment discussion session many sighted and blind people commented.  The consensus was, from the sighted people: We try to be careful with what we say because we have been conditioned to try to not make anyone feel bad.  And from the blind responders: We get what you mean.  SAY IT! and then move on.  The only time we feel uncomfortable is when you feel uncomfortable.  If we don't "see" what you mean, we will ask.  in fact, one of her friends wrote that when he was at OCB (Which I Googled and found out was Orientation Center for the Blind) people would say, "Hear you later." when saying good bye.  Interestingly, that expression made him uncomfortable.  I'm afraid I would agree.  I mean, if I were to become blind and went there, I would probably say something like that as a joke...if I wanted to make others uncomfortable.  It would be similar to when kids teased each other as they left the playground, "Smell you later."  

Others commented about other ridiculous things that people do around others who are blind.  One, of course, is the natural instinct to speak louder.  This, of course, is nonsense.  Everyone knows that you only speak louder when you are talking to someone who doesn't know any English and they looked at you blankly the first time.  (If just saying it louder doesn't help, try e-nun-see-ate-ing every syllable to get your point across.  Works like a charm.)  

Without having any standing or authority in the matter because I am not blind although I do have a fairly healthy tri-focal prescription and I am partially colorblind. (That last part was supposed to sound like someone who says an offensive joke but then says it's [cousin, wife, friend] is [part of that group]) I am going to just offer my opinion.  I think the entire idea that we, as a society, have become so afraid to hurt someone's feelings, that we have slipped into a time of being afraid to say anything.  I think that is sad.  

I'm not saying I'm above it...I'm just observing.  Not too long ago Sammy also wrote something about how people on Twitter were suggesting that she was pretending to be blind to, I don't know, get sympathy?  Maybe.  Get followers?  Perhaps.  Lure people to her secret island so she could take over their brains and rule the world?  Probably not.  I personally don't see why anyone who wasn't an actor, getting paid for it, would pretend to be blind.  But there you go.  Such is life on Twitter.  Anyway, I commented, "You're blind!?  No wonder you didn't wave back when I walked by your kitchen window."  Was it funny?  Some might think so.  (I personally thought it was hilarious...what can I say, I crack myself up.)  But, I half-held my breath until Sammy hit the "like" button to show that it was OK to mention something like that.  Before writing this post I mentioned to her that I thought this was an interesting topic and that I wanted to write about it.  Had she not given me her blessing I would have felt funny writing about this.  It's that same old, "I don't know what to say so I just won't say anything." disease.  Don't get me wrong, I would have written about it...but I would have felt funny.  As it is, I am planning to send this over to Sammy to see if I have missed anything and to "see" if she wants to give her perspective before I hit "publish".

I'm not saying that this is the definitive word on the subject.  I have no point of reference for what it is like to be blind.  Well, that's not entirely true.  In some ways I think that we are all blind to something or other.  It can just be our perception.  It can be things that we see everyday.  It could also be how well our eyes play tricks on us.  During the discussion a few of her blind friends started talking about watching movies and specifically The Sixth Sense.  Spoiler alert:  Bruce Willis is a ghost.  Sammy and her friends talked about how boring the movie was because the big suspenseful climax happened at the beginning of the movie.  When that movie came out it was the big hush-hush hit of the season.  "Don't tell!"  "You'll love the surprise ending!"  Well I guess for people who were really paying attention it was a big snooze fest.  

I had noticed, because we see each other often, that Sammy uses a lot of expressions that cannot be taken literally.  I noticed them, thought it was interesting, and then filed it away in my brain along with all of the other random things that I notice that other normal people don't.  I had always attributed it to her mother, who I once had the pleasure to interview, and her "go get it" attitude.  It seemed like her philosophy was, You got a heartbeat...go do all the things you want to do!  I don't hold the same explanation anymore.  Now I think, she is a person who should be able to say whatever she wants and anyone who tries to "correct" her on something as trivial as that is just downright rude...and frankly being a little "shortsighted."  (Sorry, I had to squeeze in one more.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Resume ( A.K.A. Pay me to write stuff )

Jeff Garrett is a lover of words and the effect his writing has on his readers.  He has been writing short stories and journals for his family since his creative writing days in college and has only recently realized that he had been essentially writing a blog all along.  With this realization he started an actual blog at  This latest writing adventure is regularly enjoyed by approximately 2,500 people per month. He has written a satire blog and two travel blogs for short-term mission trips. 

 Jeff Garrett enjoys writing and is most comfortable making people laugh.  His self-deprecating humor along with seemingly endless and original connections between various objects or situations makes for entertaining reading.  Readers of Jeff¹s blog comment that random events and ordinary occurrences are transformed into an original humor that is happily unexpected.  While humor is his comfort zone, Jeff enjoys the ability to make his readers think, smile, reminisce, laugh, or even cry.  He has been a librarian for an elementary school in Newark California.  He has taught special education for eleven years, kindergarten for 6 years, and is currently teaching 2nd grade.  He has written several grant proposals that have been fully funded and single-handedly executed their implementations.  He has been published in the Tri-City Voice.
Jeff Garrett earned an associate’s Degree in Natural Sciences from Ohlone College in Fremont California, A Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies from California State Hayward in Hayward California, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from National University in Cupertino California. 

When not writing, Jeff can be found teaching in Newark, CA, working with youth at his church, or traveling by camper across this great land of ours.  He currently lives in his childhood home with his loving and understanding wife, two teenage children, and two chocolate labs.  He is suspiciously curious as to whether the TV networks have secretly placed cameras inside his home to gather Sitcom material for their fall lineups.  His latest material can be read in the blog titled, Do I Really Live in This Sitcom?

By Jeff Garrett

“It was a dark and stormy night…” will never be words written by me. (with the obvious exception of this resume)  I have decided that I want to take a giant leap of faith and put myself out there to be judged by a large group of people.  Never again will the phrase ‘send in your resume’ hold me back.  While writing in the confines of an assignment, I am very good.  While writing from deep within, I am even better.  When challenged, I am amazing.  I am also incredibly humble.”

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Sister Oh Mine!

My sister's birthday is here.  She had a party and we weren't able to make it.  I decided to send a letter as a greeting.  She just gave me permission to include it in the blog.  Here it is:

Greetings Sister Oh-Mine!

(not to be confused with Sister O’Mine, the Irish nun from the convent down the road.)

(Really really not to be confused with Sister Ermine, the exotic dancer who insists on wearing fur during her act.  (Although, you do tend to pay for a ridiculous amount of things with dollar bills.)) 

But I digress…

Happy Birthday! 
I thought I would take this opportunity to wax poetic on the anniversary of your birth.  “Poetic” is, of course, what we named the van.  I’m not sure that waxing it will have an appreciable effect on the enjoyment of your day, but it is what it is. 

I cannot believe you have been cruising around the globe for a half a century!  (To those listening or reading…In case she hasn't revealed her true age to a significant amount of people…I failed math and ‘half a century’ is the term I use for 29 years.)  I do want to point out, though, that the A.A.R.P. Gestapo have been camped out on your lawn for about a month…armed with a sensible sweater, a dollar cup of coffee from McDonald’s, and a ginormous hourglass.  (I have no idea why the guy wearing the black robe keeps tapping the top of it with his scythe…I wouldn't worry about it.) 

Being your brother (your much, much younger brother…by the way) has had its ups and downs.  Most notably when you were learning how to drive and you plowed up one side of the traffic island, and bounced down the other side!  (Have no fear.  I think the statute of limitations on getting into trouble for that ran out about 32 years ago…which is odd since you are only 29. (Just go with it…I think we are fooling everyone!))

We are very sorry that we will not make it to the party tonight.  I thought about sending you this greeting in a telegram so that someone could read it aloud and it would count as being there.  A few problems:  First, Have you noticed how long this is STOP  I tend to be a little wordy STOP  I would hate to have to tell the kids that they cannot go to college since I decided to send a note to Aunt Susie STOP  Second, we do not live in a movie from the fifties STOP There was something to do with fifties though…I forget what it was STOP  And lastly, I am bringing the entire clan up to see you tomorrow STOP

Anyway, should you begin to feel sad about this particular milestone birthday STOP If you have any ideas about retaliation toward your brother STOP If you start to think that this was done with anything but love in mind STOP If, however, you are having the time of your life DON’T STOP!
Happy Birthday Sis,
I Love You,

P.S.  The van looks really great!  If that helps.