Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Duke vs. Batman

I was driving Alison to school the other day and I wanted to quote one of my favorite John Wayne lines -- McClintock's "I ain't gonna hit you. I ain't gonna hit you. To hell I'm not!" 

I don't remember why, but it was perfectly contextual to the conversation. But to make it work, I had to be sure she knew who John Wayne was. (Sad, I know.) So I asked if she knew who John Wayne was. 
"Was he Batman?"
she said. Seriously.

I almost wrecked the car. "No!" I said. "In what universe could the cowboy John Wayne be confused with Batman?"

I explained who The Duke was, giving her the rundown of his cowboy movie persona, not the real life one which I choose to ignore. My dad was a huge John Wayne fan. And yes, I know the quote is incorrect but it's how I remember it... Anyway, I gave her the scoop on the larger-than-life characters John Wayne brought to life.

"So," she said. "He was violent. He liked to shoot people. He killed people to protect women and kids. He's Batman." 

Then she tried to throw in John Wayne Gacy. "He killed people, too. Was John Wayne a serial killer?"

I told her to get out of the car. By then we were at school, so it was time for her to get out of the car. But really: she had to go.

In other news, another birthday has come and gone, and it was a pretty crazy day. We overspent our birthday budget with an amazing night of champagne and food at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse downtown. Kimberly Reed alerted us to the event and even though we spent more than we generally do on dinner, it was amazing. It was great catching up, meeting her friend and sipping champagne with Dom and Veuve on the label. 

I followed it up with a physical, so I'm looking at zero  point soup for every meal from now until Christmas, but it was worth it. That means I have to avoid 
Alison's creations, which may rival that of Ruth's Chris. She made coconut cream puffs this week. All from scratch. They're amazing.

Summer is winding down and were going to the last Indianapolis Indians game of the season today. And we had a fire last night. I'm not ready for summer to end.

Although, I do have a challenge ahead of me. My birthday dinner fell on the night of my fantasy football draft. My friend Tina Noel made my picks for my team, Squirrel Gravy, is so named because I'd just been gifted a tee-shirt that says "Squirrel: the other white meat," and I thought it was fun. Megan's boys think I'm weird.

The Squirrel actually won the league last year, and more than a few of my Showgirls FF League owners are bitter, bitter people. I think it was actually the commish -- Megan Garver -- who came up with this gem. I might have to get John Wayne "Batman" Gacy after them....

For those of you anxiously awaiting Book 2 of the Heartland Saga, I'm getting very close. I'm happy with most of what's going on down in Claymont. Things are heating up, but there's a new bad guy in the area and he's B.A.D...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A little more this; a little less that

It's pretty easy to get depressed these days. Nazis and the Klan out in the open like we've forgotten the definition of atrocity. Kids shot by police. Shootings and other acts of terror everywhere you look. Hate blowing in the wind like the dead, dry leaves of early fall.

It's awful. It's not my America, and I don't think it's yours. I bet yours (even you, my red-state, conservative friends) is more like mine.

See the photo below? It was taken around 9 a.m. today. That's 60 yards of mulch in front of our neighborhood park and a bunch of our neighbors who came with shovels and pitchforks and rakes and wheelbarrows to tackle it.

Some of them don't have kids. Some do. Some, like us, have kids who don't play at the park much anymore. We don't know everyone's name but we can usually match them to their kids or their dogs.

A lot of the people you see in that picture also help plant flowers and clean up in the spring or do other things to make our neighborhood a place where everyone is welcome. Your sexual orientation is your business. We welcome all colors, cultures, religions, and political persuasions. 

We just want you to be friendly, pick up after your pets and be kind to those you encounter.  You don't even have to help spread the mulch. Do the former and we'll still like you.

Here's what that pile looked like a couple hours, a few gallons of sweat and a few dozen blisters later.

Here's where some of it went.

Even as my back aches and my fingers are wrapped in Band-Aids, I like this America better than the one I see on TV or online lately. Maybe if we can spread a little more neighborhood park mulch and a little less hate, we'll all have more of this and less of the other.

As long as I'm on my soapbox, here's another one: I was in Louisville last weekend with my Book Club and we were sharing the hotel pool with a bachelorette party for two lovely young women whose wedding is a few weeks away; a couple who live states apart but are dating and met in the middle; and a family -- mom, dad, two kids. It was an amazing, happy, silly, wonderful afternoon.

I chatted a bit with the brides' moms. One of them was all-in for the relationship from Day 1. The other was worried. Her daughter had been in a relationship with a man prior to meeting the woman who she'd fallen hard for. That mom had sent her daughter to therapy -- even went with her. "I had to be sure," she said, adding that she was all-in now as well.

The whole wedding party, of course, knew the saga, and they were all sitting around with us. Some in the water, some on the deck. Some paying attention to the conversation, some not.

That second mom, the doubtful one, had to learn that her new daughter-in-law would make her daughter happy before she could support the marriage. Some might think that's a terrible thing. Why couldn't she just accept her daughter's wishes?

But moms aren't built that way. They need to know their kids are going to be happy; that they have partners and friends who'll support them, love them, be there for good times and bad.

It's too early to say if that marriage is going to be one for the ages, but I'm cheering for them. And for the moms. Both of them. I'm an unconditional kind of mom, but I also would go to the ends of the Earth (even therapy) if that's what it took to make Ali happy. I respect the hell out of both of those women -- and the entire bridal party.

Theirs was a situation that could have wrecked a family. I'm glad Mom 2 was open to evolving and trusting her daughter. It's easy to fall back on "that's how I was raised" when push comes to shove in the culture wars. It's harder to be open to understanding something new, whether that's sexual orientation or culture or something else.
Why do we have to keep learning that love is always better than hate?

If you need a reminder, go to a park where the kids are too young to separate by color or to know what hate is. (Unless we're talking beets. It's OK to hate beets.)

Soaring in a swing or zooming down a slide brings the same joy to a boy that it does to a girl; that it does to black kids, white kids, Hispanic, African-American or mixed race kids.

That's the America I love. Let's get more of that one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

And the prize for dumbassery goes to....

I may have to get a job that takes me outside my home. That, or start working at Starbucks or Panera where all the other freelancers apparently hang out.

It's not that I need companionship. I have WFMS for that. It's not that I need a bottomless coffee or ice tea cup. I can do that here. It's because I'm a dumbass. A focused dumbass. But a dumbass nontheless.

Jeff and Ali shot off to school this morning, much like every morning. He, urging her to get ready so they could leave only to come back in the house three times because he'd forgotten something while she was already in the car waiting on him. I'd said my goodbyes and set up my work station out on my back porch. I generally work there until the heat sends me inside.

Today I had a noon meeting and then dentist appointments so I knew I had only the morning to get some work done for my favorite client and check in on what's happening down in Claymont. (Turns out quite a lot is happening in Book 2. More steam; fewer batons.)

Anyway, I was deep into work when it occurred to me that I hadn't eaten. I'm on a diet kick so I four eggs in a pan of water, set the timer and went back to work. An hour or so later, I went back into the kitchen to refill my water glass.

That's when I remembered the eggs. The smoke, the beeping of the timer and the shriek of the smoke alarm were my clues. I had not just boiled the eggs dry; I'd calcified the little ovals. The smell was worse than the time I'd made mustard gas in Alison's toilet bowl, but the fumes weren't as deadly.

It's past 8 o'clock now and it still stinks in my house. In every room. I'm going to be scrubbing that All-Clad saucepan for the rest of my life. I'd warned Ali on the way home, but told her I'd been running fans and it might have dissipated.

"Nope," she said, walking into the house. Then she spied the pan. "You used my Ramen pot? Mom!"

I've promised to bring it back to its shiny silver. (If anyone wants to remember my birthday, this might be a good gift...)

"You know I love you, right?" my darling daughter said to me as I sprayed air freshener and dug out the scented candles.

"Yes," I said suspiciously.

"I love you more when you're not in the kitchen," she said. "There's a reason Dad cooks."

It's hard to argue when you can barely breathe.

As for the Captain's reaction, I'm kind of staying away from him. He has a box of beer to prepare and because the upstairs has all the doors and windows open (thus no a/c) he's mostly been in the always-chilly downstairs since he got home. I'm taking my punishment by staying upstairs and breathing though my mouth.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

40 Goats and a Tesla

When Jeff suggested Ali and I tag along with him on a trip to Oregon to visit the much-lauded-but-never-met Sami Khawaja, we kind of rolled our eyes.
  1. We don't know this Sami guy.
  2. Oregon is a long way away.
  3. And all Jeff could talk about was the craft beer this far-off state had to offer, not really the kind of thing that requires, or allows in Ali's case, our participation.
So we sort of bided our time and waited to see if this trip would actually come to pass. Jeff and Sami met through work and Jeff would always go out to some nice dinner with him and other utility colleagues when he was in town. Jeff would come home raving about the dinner, the conversation and how much fun this Sami guy is.

Sure. Fine. Ali and I have fun when we're out with our friends, too.
But a trip across the country to stay with a stranger? Seemed like a long-shot to the women of Team Reed Indiana. But we'd never been to Oregon. And I'm involved in a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Indianapolis that will focus on wines of the Pacific Northwest, and Sami is a wine guy. So, sure, we agreed to go.

It just so happened that we had a chance to meet this Sami guy just before the trip. And once we met him, we had an inkling of why Jeff liked him so much. Suddenly the idea of a trip to spend some time with him didn't seem so bad.

We got there, just before midnight Wednesday their time, 3 a.m. our time. Not usually my finest hour, but I managed to stay upright for a little while. Thursday began a whirlwind of activities that made us all fall in love with Oregon -- and maybe even with Sami.

Sami was born in Jerusalem, was raised in Jordan and has spent the past 35 years or so as Oregon's best ambassador. Someone should tell the governor. He's amazing. He's also super smart, has his doctorate in statistics, is an expert in energy efficiency, which is how he came to know the Captain. Did I already say he loves wine?

He's so smart he has a super cool girlfriend, Miriam, who spent a large part of her life in Alaska and takes no grief from anyone, least of all Sami.

Fed by tales of Alison over the years, Sami had decided a while ago that if she were to be offered up in marriage, she'd be worth at least 40 goats.

Then he met her and created a goat index to track her worth. Within 12 hours, he had upped her value to 56 goats. Then she got comfortable with him and her value dropped to 26 goats.

Much of her drop had to do with her confusing his Model S P90D Tesla with a Toyota Corolla of a similar color. Goats dropped like flies at that and it was tough climbing back.

 In between, we:
  • Met his sons, Jake and Joe, who were delightful, 
  • Drove to see and hike among amazing waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge
  • Drove to Mount Hood, which is awesome
  • Took an Alpine Slide that resulted in Jeff getting an elbow abrasion that looks disturbingly like a penis (He got little sympathy because he violated the rules and was shooting video when he nearly wiped out and left a fair amount of DNA behind
  • Visited some fun wineries, including the Hip Chicks, which is run by one highly assertive woman named Renee who had a high goat index for Ali and me but no so much for Jeff and Sami.
  • Listened to some amazing jazz at Vino Veritas (Sami and a partner own it) courtesy of the Jake Khawaja Trio
  • Drove along the coast and stopped to let Ali have a dip while the older folks strolled on the sand
  • Had amazing dinners and beers and wines and breakfasts and lunches in between
  • Visited Powell's, the world's largest bookstore where I would still be had it not been for that annoying flight home already planned
  • Were having breakfast when a woman overheard our conversation and turned out to be an expat Hoosier who had a lot to say about where we should go next. She even followed us out to the car because she'd remembered something else we needed to know
  • Wandered around downtown Portland while Jeff visited every craft beer site he could find and
  • Saw the Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum -- it's really there, along with a bunch of other airplanes.
At one point during our drive along the coast, Miriam was playing around with music and four of us ended up belting out bad 1970s music, including "Muskrat Love" which was determined to be the worst song ever. Ali had tried to tune us out with her own headphones after awhile and perhaps because of the Captain and Tennille. Neil Diamond's "You'll be a Woman Soon" was a contender as well.

On the way back from Mount Hood, Ali picked lunch and we were searching for sushi, which led us to Happy Valley and a quick hello to my cousin Christopher Lehman, who just happened to be on duty at the Peet's Coffee Shop near the sushi place we found thru Nikki (the Tesla's voice) and Ali's Googling. Fate led us there, I'm sure, though Nikki was good for the assist.

It was an amazing trip with incredible vistas, but the most fun was hanging out with this guy Sami who was every bit as fun and amazing as billed.

By the end of our trip, Ali's final value was back at 40 goats, though I'm not sure how. Personally, I think she's worth a lot of goats. But it's nice to have an expert opinion on it.

My advice to you if you want to visit Portland, OR (and you do...): make friends with Sami.

Ali takes on the Pacific