Saturday, November 29, 2008

War's Over...

So yesterday I'm flying home to CA. after a week of Thanksgiving in Farmington, NM. It was a great time with Celeste's family and way too much food was consumed. We had cool temps with some rain and it was nice to feel a little bit of winter - though also nice to get back to California weather and scenery. I've never flown out of Farmington before - it's a small municipal airport serving commuter flights with puddle jumpers - a twin prop big enough to get you to Denver, Phoenix or Albuquerque without too much risk. But this time I had to fly back early to get home for church so off to Farmington I go. The beauty of a small town airport is the ability to give good service and not get caught up in all the procedures and distractions that come with the bigger ones. So I get up at 5am to get dressed and get to the airport for my 7:30 flight. As I walk in I notice there's only one little x-ray machine and it's locked up behind a glass door so I sense that something's awry already. I find someone at the ticket desk who proceeds to tell me the flight has been moved to 9:03 - seems the crew didn't get in until late the night before and are required to get their rest. That's fine - I get it - but there's only me and 5 other people on the flight. Thinking it's not too hard to get word out to those of us up and moving by 5am to go ahead and grab a cup of coffee and bagel on the way in (since there's none such at the airport - or in flight) - or maybe even a little more sleep - cause we're gonna be little late. Even the big guys communicate when there's a delay - there's only 6 people and you've known since last night. It's OK - I'm just not a morning person so am a little perturbed to begin with. The bigger deal is that I will miss my flight in Phoenix which is on Southwest. Well of course - Great Lakes Air (the puddle jumper) can't get into Southwest's system to accommodate a reschedule - so it's back to Celeste's family's house I go. I get online - make the arrangements - send an email to my ride in CA. - and back to Farmington Municipal.

This time I walk in and see that the machine is up and running - my 5 co-passengers are moving through the line - and the plane is sitting outside with the gas truck pulled up next to it. Things should be quick and easy now. But no - this is actually the part that threw me the most. I get the whole x-ray thing. It's our bureaucratic idea of how to fight terrorism. Whatever. It's a bit inconvenient but just play along - it makes us all feel better. So my shampoos, after shaves, lotions, etc. are all in their clear 3oz. bottles secured within a see through plastic bag. This all proves that I'm no terrorist. But there are still a few things in my bag that I'm concerned may cause alarm - because they could indeed inflict serious damage should I be so inclined. Well - sure enough - there was an item in question that got me pulled aside and properly dealt with. I'll give you a quick quiz and see if you can identify the illegal item in question.

1) A pair of scissors?

No - seems scissors are fine. We have no problem with you carrying on scissors.

2) How about Tweezers?

Nope - can't imagine any harm in tweezers on board.

3) Ahh - a Gillete Fusion 5 blade razor with extra blades - right?

Bring it on - no problem there.

4) OK - Cologne? Could be used as mace I suppose...

uh - uh... it's fine.

5) Toothbrush? Maybe if jabbed in an eye or an ear?

Nope - all good.

6) OK - laptop power chord - it could strangle...

Cables are OK.

But Wait! There is one item in here that's of great concern. That you would even consider boarding a plane with such an unquestionably dangerous item in tow certainly calls your very  patriotism into account. Just what do you think you're trying to pull off with this young man?!

That's right. I'm guilty as charged for trying to smuggle on a tube of Colgate Total toothpaste. I should've known that scissors, razors, tweezers, etc. were enough and should have never attempted to slide by with the likes of toothpaste. What was I thinking? Fortunately I wasn't arrested - but simply watched as the agent tossed my tube of toothpaste in the trash can and then boarded the plane with my much less dangerous items.

Which brings me to the title of this post. I'm not sure that the war on terror is actually over - but I am afraid that we've already lost!

(I lovingly dedicate this post to my good friend Bob Tone who served and fought hard for much better than this!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guitar Hero...

So this week I go to lunch with a guy who just moved to LA and has since found our church. He's a musician, as is his wife, so we meet for lunch and get to know each other a bit. He's just out of college from the midwest and has moved here to take his first "real" job. And this is what has me most intrigued - as he's told me he moved here to work for Guitar Hero. At the time I'm not even sure what it entails but am pretty certain it's the coolest job ever. Turns out it is. His gig is to show up every day to his desk/studio/ workstation - pick up his guitar - hit play on the playlist - and begin figuring out guitar parts to every song imaginable. Then he determines what would make this guitar part an "easy", "medium", "hard", or "expert" part to play - reduces it down to the five keys available on the game's guitar - and plays it into the computer to write the program for the game. Oh yeah - he also gets to program the lighting moves and pyro explosions for his songs. I don't know what his second "real" job will be - but after this one it's gonna suck!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rock-N-Roll Fantasy...

Everybody has one. It's what Karaoke and American Idol are made of - not to mention Guitar Hero. So I'm in Ventura at an elder's retreat - already sounds great doesn't it? We've spent the last two days in deep discussions about visions and values and strategies and bylaws blah blah blah..... Great stuff really lest I sound unenthused. But regardless - at some point enough is enough and it's time to let your hair down so to speak. At dinner last night Dave and I realize that several elders have never seen or heard of Guitar Hero - scarey I know. So we determine that tonight following our long day of church stewarding - and a great dinner - that needs to change. This isn't a group that tends to play too hard. It's typically business when we're at these things. And we're talking several lawyers, financial advisors, engineers, etc.... and mostly 50 plus - though that's not as old as it used to be. So Dave makes a run home to grab his x-box and one ups Guitar Hero with Rock Band instead. We have a projector and a large screen in the conference room - we're just missing audio. So I run to Target to buy the biggest jam box Sony makes - with full intention of exercising their return policy tomorrow - and we get it all set up. A group of very reluctant elders entered the conference room after dinner to a rock and roll stage and dimmed lights. After several minutes of uninterested comments and threats of early bedtime - little by little one would dare to take a guitar in their hand and try a few notes. Before long there was a willing bass player and slowly Dave and I would surrender our instruments to their curiosity. The first half hour or so went without vocals until finally someone stepped up to the mic to give Eye Of The Tiger a shot. By now more guys were beginning to want in and you could see the sparks of boyhood dreams ignite. For a solid two hours we had standing room only, wait your turn, School Of Rock, let me try drums, guitar, vocals, 50 plus chairman and elder board members rocking Nirvana, Talking Heads, Billy Idol, Bon Jovi, Journey, Metallica and more. It was awesome to watch the dream come alive. To hear these guys screaming monotone lyrics two octaves too low and playing what seemed more whack-a-mole than drums - but living the dream nonetheless- if only for a moment in a hotel conference room in Ventura. Finally the gig was over and we packed our gear just like any lounge band - only I'll return the PA to Target - then off to the rooms for a good night's sleep. There will be many great rock and roll dreams tonight - but none greater than the one Dave and I lived as we watched it all unfold. I think we've reached a whole new level - next time there will be video.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Poop's Just Funny....

Me - on my arse watching the Dodgers playoff game on TV. 
Colin - on his in the bathtub. 
Live action ballgame sound fills the house along with ambient water splashing and the faint sounds of a child playing in the tub. All of a sudden a yell from down the hall....

Colin: DAD!!!!
Me: (hit pause) Yeah Buddy?!
Colin: Remember the other day when we went to the pumpkin patch?!!
Me: Yeah, I remember!
Colin: Remember when I was riding on that horse and he was real?!!
Me: Yeah, I remember!
Colin: Remember when he stopped - and then that other horse peed and pooped?!!
Me: Yep - I remember!
Colin: That was SOOOO funny!!! (hysterical laughter...)
Dad: Yes it certainly was! (join in laughter...)

Colin resumes bathtub activity. I hit Play. 
Once again the sounds of baseball and bath fill the house...

I love my home!


For those counting down the days till the 60th Anniversary 25 cent burger extravaganza.... Read and weep. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are.....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sidehugs and Handshakes....

I'm a hugger - always have been. I appreciate a good hug and am always happy to give one. I grew up in a huggy house - a very long line of huggers. My dad's perhaps the biggest hugger of all. Twas always common for me to greet my friends - both male and female - with a hug. Nothing awkward, nothing sensual, just a good solid "you're my friend and I'm happy to see you..." hug. But I fear the hug's losing credence these days. Not certain if it's just not politically correct, perhaps a bit gay if the same sex, maybe sexual harassment if the opposite... not sure. But I like the hug. There are still a few people in my circle that I can count on for a good hug and I always look forward to seeing them coming my way. My wife of course is one. My son - depends. He's mostly a high five guy. Nothing wrong with the high five - but it's no hug. I think he'll come around. Curtis and Kristi... huggers. Brenda.... a great hug. Wes.... definitely a hug - and usually accompanied with the line from Tommy Boy... "brothers don't shake hands.... brothers gotta hug!" Mostly it's important to know who is and who isn't. There's not much more awkward than going in for the hug with a non-hugger. You can try to roll out for the side hug - but it's typically even more awkward by that point. And I kinda don't get the side hug - except where height or size issues prevail. But overall just seems a little impersonal and somewhat demeaning to me. It kinda says "yeah - I acknowledge your acquaintance and should probably show some form of recognition as to your presence - but I'd rather not." I almost feel that the high five beats the side hug - it's at least got enthusiasm and good contact. However - being in ministry and all - I practice the side hug often. But I like that the old folks go right in for the full frontal. They're not the least bit concerned with any new fangled political correctness - they're getting the real deal and leaving a trail of cheap perfume behind. I like that!

Then the handshake... who knows anymore. As a rule of thumb I like the traditional hand in hand handshake. It should be firm as to imply sincerity, but not so hard as to appear inconsiderate. And by all means it should require full engagement. Neither party should stop short of the skin between the thumb and index finger coming in full contact. One party squeezing the others fingers doesn't constitute a handshake. That piece of skin is there primarily for the purpose of shaking hands and should be fully utilized. The best method for insuring this is to move your hand toward the other party at a slow to medium speed - then accelerate to a fast speed as you slip your hand all the way into the clasp of theirs. Especially if you know the other party has a tendency to grab the fingers. (I learned this at church as a youth. Ray Walters, God bless him, was a finger shaker.) Just 3 or 4 moderate shakes is good. Not too vigorous. The second hand is not needed to sandwich the original two - one is sufficient. Then release in an appropriate time frame.

But anymore it's so hard to know what to anticipate. Just the old fashioned handshake now has to be followed by a series of ad ons that are just too hard to keep up with. I remember in Jr. High it was the traditional shake, followed by the thumb wrap, followed by the finger clasp. Now I'm not so sure where we're headed once we begin a shake but I'm pretty certain it'll end with a fist bump. All the in between stuff will usually just kinda die out in a sea of uncertainty - then end with the bump. Honestly, I think I prefer the side hug. Imagine if we actually greeted each other with a "holy kiss"... how politically incorrect is that?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What The Whale...?!!???!!

I love this true happening from the peace and love 70's. Saw it on TV last week with Michael and we laughed our butts off. What a great trip back to the pre-politically correct days. I'd love to have been in the meeting when this idea came up....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

You Say Tomato....

"Soon as I put on my toboggan, I'm fixin to carry ya'll to the Sonic to get a Coke. Just don't let it tump over in my car." That's Texas for "As soon as I put on my stocking cap, I am going to drive you all to the Sonic to get a soda. Just don't let it spill in my car." Crazy - the words we use. "Fixin to" means going to - or about to. "Ya'll" of course means you all. "Carry you somewhere" means to drive you - certainly not literally carry. "Coke" can mean anything carbonated. "Tump" means to tip over or spill. And "toboggan" means a wool hat, or stocking cap. This is the one that first tipped me off to the possibility that the words I grew up with perhaps weren't exactly universal. 

I'll never forget the day working on the ski lift at Copper Mountain in Colorado when upon my lunch break I took off as always to get in an hour of hard skiing. As I sat on the lift to the top of the mountain I realized that I had left my hat in the lift station below and that my ears and head were going to freeze. No problem - I would stop in at the top lift station and borrow my friend's - he was simply sitting inside the shack and wouldn't need it for a while. As I got off the lift I waved to him inside and then skied around to the door. We exchanged pleasantries and I proceeded to ask him if I could borrow his toboggan. A little unsure he asked, "what?" I said - "do you mind if I borrow your toboggan? I left mine at the bottom and my ears are getting cold." Quite confused he said, "You want my toboggan?" At this point I decide he's a bit territorial over it and maybe this was a little too personal for our stage of friendship. "Yeah" I said, "I just need something to wear over my ears while I ski. I'll bring it back in an hour." He replies, "You're going to wear a toboggan?" "Sure - unless you have an ear band." At this point he begins to contort his face in a problem solving manner and eventually says, "do you mean a stocking cap?" My immediate thought is that sounds a bit effeminate - but I nod and say "yes - a stocking cap - a toboggan." He breaks out into laughter and begins describing his vision of me skiing with a sled - or a toboggan - on my head. 

At that point I began to question my whole vocabulary. Seems there were a lot of colloquialisms in there - not to mention a pretty steep accent. Over time I've realized that every place has them - and every native is always surprised to learn that theirs aren't universal. For instance, in the midwest it's called a pop, or soda. In the south it's definitely just Coke. I've somehow landed on soft drink for the most part. This past week I referred to my house shoes to a native Californian who laughed and said, you mean slippers? Which reminded me of my Australian friend who calls his PJ bottoms his house pants. 

It's amazing really that the english language can have so many different words to say the same thing. Even more-so is our innate ability, conscious or otherwise, to quickly adapt and emulate the local lingo. For instance, when I first moved here, to get to the beach I would take Hwy. 118 to either Hwy. 23, or I-405, then take Hwy. 101 to Kanan Rd., over to the Pacific Coast Highway. But now I take "the 118" to either "the 23" or "the 405", then take "the 101" to Kanan Rd., over to "PCH" (and not "the PCH" - please - are you trying to piss them off?) Yes - it's essential that "the" comes before any number that would indicate a hwy or interstate. This is exclusive to Southern California and they would laugh aloud at your insistence to declare the denomination of the road, be it hwy, interstate, tollway, etc... before saying its number. A simple "the" is all that's required. So... I say when in Rome. After all, I love my SoCal friends and by all means the last thing I want is to sound unintelligent with the words I use - I mean that would like be so like totally like not awesome like gag me totally not rad.... don't you think? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Battle Of The Bands

So.... which one creeps you out the most? Both worth a full viewing...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drive Time Reflection

So in a month I turn another year older. Being officially forty something - I'd rather not. I remember when I hit forty - it dawned on me that if I died and someone read my obituary their first thought would be "eh, he was 40 - what do you expect? Can't live forever!". Truth is - by the time I hit 40 I had lived a pretty good life. Still living one in fact. Actually it would be hard to beat the one I have. Being married to a true friend and having perhaps the greatest kid on earth (maybe biased) is beyond blessing. Getting to do what I love to do and using God given gifts to do it is a privilege. Getting to do that with people I admire, trust and enjoy is an honor. Wrap all of that up and stick it in So. California and it's just about perfect. I don't always remember that - but when I do I'm both thankful and humbled.

But as I reflected on my life recently I realized I've really lived about a dozen of them. It would be hard to tell my story because you'd have to select a specific chapter to focus on. It all seems so random. Only God could've put it all together - and I'm glad he did cause it's really a great ride. I think the reflection began while on vacation recently. That's when I typically reflect - there's not much time for it otherwise. As we were driving from LA to Phoenix, to Tucson, to San Diego, to LA, I realized there are very few - perhaps zero - interstates I've not driven in this country. Between living different places and spending years on the road touring I've covered a lot of ground. Most of it multiple times. It's hard to name a place here or abroad that doesn't have some bizarre association for me. I'm watching the Buffalo Bills play earlier today and am reminded of the little bar on main street where they invented the Buffalo wings out of necessity. Watched the Packers later and am reminded of driving through Wisconsin and buying cheese curds on the side of the road. Celeste and I watched "In Bruges" a couple of nights ago and I loved seeing the town of Bruges, Belgium and am reminded of those incredible, old buildings and walking the streets eating waffles (it's what they do!). I was reading a CS Lewis book earlier today and remembered walking the grounds of his estate, The Kilns, in Oxford - smoking my pipe and feeling quite intellectual. Anyway - these things go on, and on, and on - not just locations - but things I've done, jobs I've had, etc.... Celeste only a month ago learned that I ever flew planes. One of the many jobs I had growing up was at an airport which eventually led me to spending hours taking lessons and flying every chance I got. I never completed my license as I moved to Colorado to be a ski bum instead - yet another chapter.

So I began listing some of these random things as I drove on vacation and it's quite something. Pretty amazing what one can accumulate over time. I'll share my driving list - or at least the counts - for amusement, but I'll spare you the details and stories for now - they're a bit involved.

States Lived In - 6 (TX, CO, TN, NM, NV, CA)
Homes - 26 (not counting periods of time hanging at someone else's place)
Roommates - 14 (same as above)
Jobs - 36 (not counting small, odd jobs - a fun list btw)
States Visited - 48 (never AK, laid over in HI several times - doesn't count)
Countries Visited - 28 (best I recall - maybe more)
Continents Visited - 5 (certain of this one)
Cars Owned - 18 (also a fun list)
Guitars - 11 (currently 4)
Dogs - 11 (currently none)
Cats - 5 (currently 1)
Motorcycles - 3 (currently 1)

Not an exhaustive list - but exhausting for sure. A million memories and stories for each chapter. So as I'm reminiscing and tabulating I realize something else. Colin - who just turned 4 - has already lived in 3 states, 4 homes, visited 16 states and has flown well over a dozen times. God help him - who knows what his list will look like in 40 years. I just pray I'm still around to help him make it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My... How He's Grown...

August 2004

August 2008

... and I don't mean Colin so much. I realized today that since he was born I've pretty much matched him pound for pound. We've each gained roughly 40 pounds since that day. I figure if I continue to match him I should weigh around 325 by the time he's in high school. I'm afraid it's time to do something - and I do mean afraid. There's not much I dislike more than eating right and working out. Why can't riding motorcycles, watching football and eating Corn Pops keep you fit? What a drag. I know I can do it - I lost 40 pounds while Celeste was pregnant - not the most sensitive thing to do by the way. I've since got them all back - maybe even a couple extra. So today as I'm lying on the couch watching football (see a pattern here?) Colin comes in and announces "Dad, you've got a big, fat tummy." Ouch! Kids say the darndest things, don't they? I immediately recall always teasing my dad as a kid with this same banter. What goes around, I guess. Anyway - I try and convince him that it's not really fat so much as just full. No - he assures me it's fat. "It looks like a big balloon", he says, "you just need to let some air out." He then spends the next several minutes pushing, sitting and jumping on my stomach in effort to deflate it and determined to see immediate results. He reluctantly concludes that this isn't really working and I agreed and told him it would require eating right and exercise. He declared that he knew some exercises and proceeded to demonstrate. Needless to say we then took a little walk around the neighborhood looking for some motivation. Didn't really find any out there. But - here I go - gotta do something. Think I'll pour a bowl of cereal and map out a plan.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...

I know what you're thinking, but this story isn't so much about football, or even sports in general, as it is about genetic makeup, rites of passage and the enduring power of pop culture. Nevertheless, a story worth telling, so I shall. I have to say that this past Monday could not have been sweeter. It's typically a good day - the weekend's over - there's a bit of a church hangover to work through, but the day is pretty well designed to do just that. But this one was especially good. Opening weekend of football season had come and gone with every game I care about having turned out beautifully. And for added pleasure, the Dodgers finally took over first place and are in position to make the playoffs. Amazing. But that's not why I'm writing - that just made it a good day. It really got sweet when I got home. We're coming into fall in SoCal - no more torturous 90 degree days - we're in the 70's and 80's now. I walked in the house, dinner was cooking, so I struck up a baseball game in the backyard with Colin until it was ready. We then sat on the patio as a family enjoying the scenery, the cool evening, dinner and each other. A great day still - but not why I'm writing. 

Following a bath, Colin and I retired to the couch in the den. Sporting new race car pj's and clasping various transformers, he crawled up next to me for a final stretch of play time before bed. As he did, I hit play on the DVR to begin the much anticipated season opening of Monday Night Football - Green Bay and Minnesota. No sooner did the piano riff at the start of Hank Jr's song begin than Colin perked up and leapt from the couch. By the end of the intro he was positioned in the open floor looking up at the TV and ready to rock. It seems "Are You Ready For Some Football" was just the phrase he's been waiting to hear for 4 years. He danced his little butt off for about 60 seconds while every ounce of testosterone in his body arose and shouted "this is why we're here!" As the song closes out, the special effects take over. Packer and Viking helmet/spaceships go burning through space until they come to a lit up Lambeau Field in which they descend. Each helmet lines up on the field facing the other - and then with great forward thrust ram head on into each other. It's a massive explosion of computer generated shrapnel that settles and morphs into the Monday Night Football logo. Just as the logo appears it is majestically underscored with the unmistakable sound of "da-da-da-da.... da-da-da-da-da.... da-da-da-da-da-da.... bom-bom-bom-bom....... da-da-da-da-da",  the orchestrated theme song that has declared it football season for 39 years. Colin - still standing in the middle of the floor looking straight up at the TV mounted above him - slowly turns his head - eyes and mouth wide open - and as if his breath has completely vanished whispers "whhooooaaa....", followed by a reverent silence. He completely gets it! No explanation needed! It's Monday Night Football for crying out loud! Surely there is a prouder moment in my life, but at this time it escapes me. I swear tears formed in my eyes. I could barely speak to express my great pride to Celeste who was sitting across the room. I was quite verklempt. 

Maybe it was the music - it stirs a lot of memories from a lot of years. Maybe it's the realization that I was just Colin's age when MNF began and can recall that same wonder. Heck - I still have it! Perhaps it's just the excitement of fall, cooler weather, holidays and football. Maybe it's just that I love my life, my family, my home and it was the culmination of a really great moment. Or maybe it was that I was out of deodorant that day and was forced to smell powdery fresh as I resorted to Celeste's that made me overly emotional. Whatever the reason - it was a great moment - on a great day - in what is hands down the most wonderful time of the year. Let the games begin.... Go Cowboys!