This one time at the Three-Legged Mare

Oregon Trail

I went to lunch with some coworkers today. We were able to get away and talk about non-work stuff. It was a nice distraction in the middle of the day. We hit on just about every medium of popular culture. The conversation went a little something like this:

Video games:

Coworker 1: “Once I started on video games, I was hooked. I loved Tetris.”

Coworker 2: “One computer I had was an old Radio Shack that had 8″ drives. We played DOS games.”

Me: “Did you ever play Oregon Trail?”

Coworker 2: “I played this one game on my abacus.”

Coworker 1: “I think I played that one.”

Me: “I used to play this game called Global Thermonuclear War. No one ever won, so we just played Tic Tac Toe.”

Music:

Coworker 2: “My daughter has this completely disjointed playlist. Her friend thought she was nuts.”

Coworker 3: “My parents listened to jazz when I was growing up.”

Coworker 1: “My parents loved the Beatles.”

Coworker 3: “…Crosby Stills and Nash…”

Coworker 2: “Do you know what their first gig was?”

Coworker 3: “Woodstock.”

Coworker 2: “Do you know who the most experienced artist was at Woodstock?”

Me: “Jimi Hendrix?”

Coworker 2: “No. This artist was in Vietnam and had 4 Top 10 hits…”

Coworker 3: “Country Joe MacDonald.”

Me: “I don’t know much about music. I grew up in a small town and my dad was the preacher. We weren’t allowed to listen to music. It started when these kids died leaving prom.”

Movies:

Coworker 1: “I love campy 50s and 60s horror movies.”

Coworker 2: “There was this horror movie from the 60s. They kept talking about this monster. They never showed it, they just kept talking about it. At the end, you find out that you were the monster the whole time. The whole film is shot from your point of view. At the very end, you’re getting killed by all these people because you’re the monster.”

Me: “I read the book that movie was based on. I think it was called The Monster at the End of the Book.”

For some reason, I’m not invited to next month’s team lunch.

The World’s Largest Vacation


We just returned from our vacation in Colorado. We did all the touristy Colorado activities. We hiked up the mesa, which is the largest dormant volcano in the country. In the process, we nearly killed my wife. The next day, we hiked up the ridiculously rocky path to Hanging Lake. The path itself may only be about a mile long, but it is the most difficult mile I have ever walked. We were told that it would be easier than the mesa. It was not. On the way up, we nearly killed my wife.

Then I learned to tube and drive a boat. I had put a floating key chain on my GoPro, in case it fell off if/when I went down. I wasn’t convinced it would hold up the camera. I hesitantly tested it carefully, by not really letting go of it while it “floated.” On my second wipe out, the GoPro went for a swim. I floated helplessly in the water, panicking and frantically spinning about, looking for the blue key chain to bob to the top. Nothing. There was a look of sheer terror on my face. Certain that my GoPro met its watery demise, I was wishing I would have gone under as well rather than face my wife’s wrath. After what seemed like minutes, but, according to the video footage, was mere seconds, I saw the blue key chain on the surface. I have never felt such relief.

The way home was probably the most activity I have ever crammed into 2 days. We left Colorado and ventured into Kansas. My wife is Czech, so of course, we had to stop in Wilson, KS, the Czech capital of Kansas. We took a picture next to the World’s Largest Czech Egg. (To save you from the disappointment my 15-year-old suffered, this is not an actual egg. It is a large painted egg-shaped sculpture.)

From there, we headed north to the Garden of Eden. Samuel Dinsmoor, the man who created the Garden of Eden was an interesting man. Dinsmoor served in the Civil War. After the war, he started creating cement sculptures designed to bring tourism to Lucas, KS. His sculptures, while having some biblical references, are all about how large corporations take advantage of the little guy. They are…interesting. When Dinsmoor’s first wife died, he was not allowed to bury her on the property. Instead, she was buried in the local cemetery. One night, Dinsmoor decided to dig up his late wife and bury her in his backyard. To make sure she couldn’t be relocated to her original resting place, he covered her grave in cement. He married his second wife when he was 81. She was in her 20s. Don’t ask. I don’t know, either. Their children, listed as the last surviving offspring of a Civil War veteran, died in 2013. When Dinsmoor himself died, he had already planned to be added to the spectacle that is the Garden of Eden. He fashioned a cement coffin, complete with a glass top, to be placed in a cement mausoleum atop his first wife. If you take the tour, you will be allowed entrance to the mausoleum to see his mummified corpse. Even after all these years, his beard would make most hipsters envious.

It was getting late when we left Mr. Dinsmoor. But we had a special, secret plan, before heading to the Wizard of Oz museum. The World’s Largest Ball of Twine was immortalized by Weird Al Yankovic. The ball of twine Weird Al sang about is located in Minnesota. The ball in Cawker City, Kansas is its much-storied rival. (We’ll leave out the supposed largest ball owned by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.) Cawker City is a small town in northern Kansas that has all but shut completely down. The shrine to the twine, though mentioned on the city signs on both sides of town, has no pomp and circumstance about it. It is in a gazebo just large enough to protect it from the elements. It is so nondescript that we drove past it twice before stopping to ask where it was located, only to find out we were directly across the street for it.

From there, it was a mad dash to Wamego. It is about 2 hours from Cawker City to Wamego. We left about 3:40pm. The Oz Museum closes at 6:00pm. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. The teenage girls running the museum were not too pleased to have visitors so closed to closing time. They reluctantly let us in, and promptly locked the entrance to the display behind us. It may have been that it had been a busy day already and we were feeling a bit rushed, but I think only the most diehard Wizard of Oz fans would really appreciate what is probably the focal point (despite the fact that it only had one or two more signs than the ball of twine) of this small town. On to St. Louis for another night’s sleep before our final trek home.

Headed from St. Louis to Ohio, we ran into more than our fair share of construction. Traffic was so bad that we hopped off I-70 looking for a detour. Instead of a faster path home, we found a gift shop chock full of Native American memorabilia. We posed for pictures in front of a large bison (not the world’s largest) and inside a tipi (also not the world’s largest). We shopped a bit then headed back out. Traffic was moving now, so back to the highway.

On our way to Colorado, I remembered seeing a sign for another attraction that was sure to be closed when we headed through the first time. Since it was now early afternoon, when I saw the sign, we had to stop. Again, the kids had no idea. Most of them were woken suddenly, no idea where they were. They were groggily surprised to be forced to stand next to the World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, IL. Their moods got better when they got to ring the chimes. Directly across the street from the wind chime, they were constructing the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. We took a picture in front of the work in progress. Then we headed across town to the World’s Largest Golf Tee. We were met with a lot of, “Really? What now?” It was great. Leaving the golf tee, we were told of another attraction in the center of town. Casey’s giant pencil. “It’s not the world’s largest, though.” Who cares? Giant pencil! More pictures! Again, we got a lot of, “Are we really stopping there? No more pictures! Please!” But I know they loved it. Memories!

Perhaps the one thing I noticed driving halfway across the country with the kids is that when you have a 15-year-old daughter, every picture looks the same.









Sleep with one eye open, dad


The other day, I was doing Andri’s hair in preparation for ballet class. When I got done, she started brushing my hair. She was using her detangling spray to make it stay down. Apparently, my hat made my hair all crazy. I told her not to worry about it because I was going to put my hat back on. She disagreed.

Andri: “Dad you should try not wearing hats.”

Me: “Yeah. That’s not gonna happen.”

Andri: “Yeah, but when you get old, you’re going to be dying…to not wear hats. ”

Me: “Oh yeah?”

Andri: “Yeah. You’re going to be dying…to get rid of that stuff. You’re going to be dying…to get rid of all that fancy stuff. Yeah. You’re going to be dying.”

I get the feeling she’s trying to tell me something. And I’m pretty much not going to sleep ever again.

I’m just not sure how well this evolution was thought through


We have all been taught that evolution is the survival of the fittest. For example, there was this white moth whose population thrived. Through some mutations, some of these white moths gradually became darker, turning grey and black. Along came the Industrial Revolution. With the advent of factories, pollution increased. As the pollution increased, the darker grey and black moths became less visible to moth-eating predators. As a result, the darker moths eventually became the majority. (This is literally the only example of evolution I can remember from my schooling. For some reason, this has stuck with me for 20 some odd years.)

TRexNow, we all know about the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They have big heads and little arms. This makes them less than ideal at, say, capturing a time traveling kid who is about to foil your diabolical plan. But, for this shortcoming, they evolved to excel in other ways. They were ferocious. And they were rather fast for their size. This made escaping the savage T. Rex especially difficult, even in your Jeep.

But at one point, there had to be at least one Tyrannosaurus who had proportionate, regular-sized arms. They could easily catch their prey. Pick things up. Carry things. Read books. Drive cars. Basically, lead a normal dinosaur life.

Somewhere along the line, of course, evolution stepped in. Evolution, who obviously has a sense of humor, decided that the little arms are best for survival. As a cruel joke on the king of dinosaurs, over the course of a few generations, heads got bigger as arms got shorter. This caused a divide across the top of the food chain. The “new, improved” T. Rex gained superiority. While the now odd-looking T. Rexes, those with usable arms, ran away, formed their own clan, and eventually died off.

But, before they left, you know there was that one T Rex with normal arms who looked around and was all, “Seriously? Come on, man!”

The power of suggestion


Last week, my wife surprised me with a trip to Key West for my 40th birthday. What is most amazing is the number of people who knew about the trip, yet not one let it slip to me. Not even my 5-year-old, who is notorious for giving away secrets. Especially to me.

If you ever get the chance to go to Key West, I highly recommend it. And rent a scooter. Yes, it’s the cheesy tourist thing to do, but it is more fun than you would expect. And it makes parking much easier. However, don’t try to fly directly to Key West. It won’t happen. The flights from Miami to Key West are frequently severely delayed, if they are not cancelled. Instead, fly to Miami and rent a car to make the 3-4 hour drive. It will be less stressful. (Just ask the couple from Minnesota who were traveling for their anniversary, only to be sitting in the airport waiting for a flight for 4 hours.)

In addition to actually being able to get there, driving is a much better experience. Water stretches out as far as the eye can see in beautiful hues of blue and green. Islands are peppered throughout, all against the backdrop of the brilliant blue sky. It really is something to behold. Even if you drive there at night. The water is invisible hues of black, peppered with black islands, against the backdrop of a pitch black sky. But that didn’t stop anyone from slowing down to stare at the scenery as we made the 4 hour drive at night. Everyone making the drive is on what they call “Key time.” Nobody rushes in the Keys. For us normal folks, with limited Key time, it is frustrating as we try to drive anywhere near the speed limit. Most of the sole route through the Keys is a 2 lane highway, with nowhere to pass. When you do reach that elusive 4 lane section, you quickly switch lanes and stomp on the gas. You don’t stop until the passing lane ends, hoping to get around as many cars as possible.

At one point, Tammi said, “Why are they driving so slow? It’s not like there are deer that will jump out in front of them.” This is a common occurrence in the frozen tundra of Ohio that we are all too accustomed to. Not 2 minutes later, we passed a sign. “Entering protected animal area. Speed kills key deer.” Are you serious? She then said, “If someone hits one of the deer, we can bring down plenty more to replace them.” (At this point, we knew nothing about Key deer. It wasn’t until we met up with our friends who pointed out these aren’t regular deer. They are miniature deer. About 30 inches tall. The perfect size to carry around in your back pocket for when you get the craving for deer jerky.)

Looking for a less plausible reason for the slow drivers, Tammi said, “Ok, fine. It’s not like kangaroos are going to jump out in front of them. I just want to see what happens.” I think she was testing her control over the universe. When we finally got to our hotel and went to the lobby to check in, this fellow greeted us.

G'day, mate.

Apparently, she does control the universe.

On our way home, we got to enjoy the scenery that we could not see on the way down. At one point, we saw a Crocodile Crossing sign. There was a metal fence the entire length of the highway. And a concrete barrier down the middle. I don’t know how they’re going to get into the road to cross it, and where they’re going to go. Then I saw an opening in the concrete barrier.

“Here it is, boys. This is where we’re going to cross.”

I must break you


Recently, a friend turned me on to Trivia Crack. For those of you not familiar, it is like Trivial Pursuit on your phone. Being a trivia fiend, Trivial Pursuit is probably one of my favorite games. One problem. Nobody wants to play with me. Perhaps it is because of their imminent demise at the hands of my steel trap mind, full of useless knowledge.

DragoI am the Ivan Drago of Trivia Crack. A beast. Unbeatable. A force to be reckoned with. Relying solely on my confidence. My superior trivia expertise. My powers of deduction. My mental prowess. I was Apollo Creeding my way through opponents. Destroying all who dared challenged me. There has been more than one game where I bound through an entire game, winning all 6 “crowns” in one turn. None could beat me.

Until that fateful day. I lost a game. Then I lost a second game a few days later. My brow had been cut. I was bleeding. They saw a weakness. Sure, my win percent was astoundingly high. But the damage had been done. As those who had never won against me before finally got their victory, they would text each other screenshots of the win. They all rallied around each of my defeats.

My time as The Siberian Express had ended. I changed my approach. I started answering questions outside in the bitter cold. Doing mental push-ups. I have become trivia Rocky. Sure, I take a few beatings now and again. But I know, in the end, even those who once hoped for my crushing defeat will be chanting my name.

Rocky

Not the answer I was expecting


After dinner, the 13-year-old threw his juice box in the trash can. We don’t do that in our house. If it can be recycled, it goes in the recycle bin. We’re a responsible family. I have to pay $2.90 for each trash sticker that goes on our trash can. Recycling is free. Plus, something about protecting the Earth. I called him upstairs. I was hoping to subject him to the same speech I was given by our tree council (yes, we have a tree council whose sole responsibility is counting the number of trees in the city) about how we’ll all die if we cut down even mostly dead trees, we will all die.

Me: “What is your juice box made of?”
Him: “Cardboard.”
Me: “What is cardboard made of?”
Him: “Paper.”
Me: “What is paper made of?”
Him: “Trees.”
Me: “And what happens if we cut down all the trees?”
Him: “We’ll have lots of paper.”
Whitney: “We’ve solved the paper shortage crisis!”

I was outwitted by a 13-year-old and a Whitney.

That Awkward Moment


This morning, I was in the shower. The bottle of shower gel was almost empty, so we’ve had it upside down for a while. To be able to get some in a timely manner. Last night, one of the girls showered in our shower and put it right side up. Not feeling like waiting, I decided to use the new bottle that has been sitting there for a few days. Only, the top wouldn’t pop up.

It was then that I realized that it had a plastic seal over the top. With wet hands, I tried in vain to rip it off. Finally, I found the perforated section and began pulling. A small piece came off. I tried again, and again, pulling off several chunks, before eventually getting the whole seal, which, for some reason, extended almost halfway down the bottle. With the wad of plastic in my hand, I reached around the curtain and tossed it, so I could get back to showering. I was planning to clean it up when I got out.

When I got out of the shower, I started gathering the pieces of plastic to throw away. Having the luck I do, the largest piece landed in the toilet, of all places. It was a big enough piece that it could potentially cause problems down the road. I reached in and pulled it out to throw it away. Gross. On to my second shower of the morning.

After getting ready, I was taking the trash out. The neighbor across the street was taking out his trash at the same time. I yelled out, “Good morning!” I’m told this is the polite thing to do when you see your neighbor. Apparently, he has never been told this, as he said nothing. We made our second trips to the curb at the same time. “Morning,” he said. He obviously just hadn’t had his coffee yet. I mumbled back something unintelligibly. Quiet enough that I’m sure he thinks I didn’t respond to him. Now I’m the rude one.

Driving the girls to school, I asked the oldest, in the front seat, if she had her Vaseline with her, for my chapped lips. As she handed it to me, I jokingly said, “Thanks. I need a snack.” The next thing I know, *SMACK*. “SNack! I said sNack!”

And…my coffee tastes like anise for some reason. So I’m sitting here drinking a cup of black licorice.

So my morning is starting off great. How is your day going?

Turn around, bright eyes

lunar eclipse

A little song I wrote standing in my driveway at 6:25 this morning.

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely when I’m standing outside by myself
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit tired when I get out of bed so early
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit nervous when the Earth blocks the light from the sun
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit terrified when I can’t find the moon in the sky
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart

lunar eclipseAnd I see no moon tonight
I hope the moon’s not gone forever
And if you help me find the moon
We can have the moon forever

And it’s not like there were clouds
‘Cause we can see the stars together
This kind of thing doesn’t happen every night
Your love is like a shadow on the moon all of the time
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark
I hoped to see the blood red moon and only see stars
I really need you tonight
No blood moon in the sky tonight

Once upon a time I looked up at the sky
But now I’m only left with the stars
There’s nothing I can see
No total eclipse of the moon

Once upon a time there was light in my night
But now I’m standing in the dark
Nothing I can see
No total eclipse of the moon

I learned nothing


I was doing some online training at work today. There were photos to go along with every slide. Instead of paying attention to the material presented, I was distracted by the images. I was making up dialogue or back stories for each image.

Below is what I learned from my “training.”

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“I’m pretty sure one of these guys is going to kill me.” “I’m going to kill that guy.” “Not if I do it first.”

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“This is where I’m going to bury that guy. Also, I write everything backwards.”

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“Seriously, Paul? Were you checking out my butt? Again?!”

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Regulators are responsible for mounting up.

IMG_3717

“Why, yes. I am a Wayans. How did you know?”

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“Circle. Circle. Square. Circle. Triangle. Square. And this will get me unlimited lives on Contra?”

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“Hi. I’m Anna Farris. I’m here today to talk to you about requirements.”

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“Don’t look at her breasts. Don’t look at her breasts. Dammit!”

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“You remember that first guy? He’s in my trunk right now.”

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“So, Paula gets the house, the car, and the motorcycle. Jim, you get the lawn mower and the wagon.”