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.)