Monday, June 14, 2004

Just a Barrel of Manque
Solutions to problems pop into a kid's noggin from a variety of disjointed sources. Comics (videos, these days I guess), movies, friend's patter, why... even your uncle's tall tales. When I was 5 or so and vacationing at my cousin's farm perched on the Una River in (what is today) Croatia, my mom came down from the big city of Zagreb for an unexpected visit. My sister was back in the city, so my mother's purpose in coming to the farm was a mystery to me. My father had gone to the States for land & opportunity and was promising to be back with both shortly. How he was going to cart them both back was a puzzle, but hey, he spoke 5 languages and was a chemical engineer, so every&any/thing was possible in that world across the water, or so I'd pictured. It'd been over 3 years since he'd left and we were still waiting for that returning ship carrying him and that promised land & opportunity.
I'd always thought what he had needed and what he had wanted was to be brought back home to us; there was no need nor any desire on our part to go over "there", since he was coming back to where we all lived happily in Tito's Garden of Socialized Fun. Well, it turned out my mom had come down to pick me up for a trip...a very long trip. We were going to the States right away. "And what of my friends, my cousins, my routines?", I asked. "All to be left behind, at least for a short while" was the response. What to do? Well comic books had always made barrels to be a surefire answer to impending doom. Since the farm had a lot of barrels, my choices were plentiful. But not plentiful enough. After 4 hours of searching, my mother and her sisters discovered me asleep in a barrel in the barn. One of the cows ratted me out; she mooed with a laugh as I was dragged out of the container.

Many years (and barrels) later, I find myself married and the delighted father of two unique kids. Curious as to what life was for me when I was their age, I regaled them with stories, mostly true, of those ancient times. The barrel episode was an oft repeated story. Not so much by me, as by them. Any attempt on moving out of the tightly knit neighborhood where their friends and their entire life had been spent resulted in a reminder by way of "Want us to get into a barrel?". Where they would find one large enough and how they thought we wouldn't just load that barrel into the moving van were not possibilities they had explored. They didn't have to; they knew how close that barrel was to my ownership of my own childhood neighborhood. So here we stay in a house too small to hold our family's energy, but fatally ensconced in the continuity of their particular world's comfort.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Urban Myth # 1,095: "Yeah...I CAN hold down the mattress on the car roof, while I'm driving!

Combine a man with a car and you will definitely be making a visit to your own version of the carnival side-show. You may not see the bearded lady, but the Strong Man routine will make an appearance at least once in your life. If the thick-headedness gene is a dominant strain in your side of the family, those appearances will be many, so make sure your car insurance premiums are fully paid. In fact, you should strongly consider being on the automatic hit-your-checking-account system, to assure you and your family a minimum of accident-related monetary issues (because you will definitely be busy dealing with other issues).
While automobile companies are very careful about providing full information of constraint limits regarding your vehicle's performance in their owner manuals, these books are rarely referred to "before" an incident. Perusing these legally "clear" tomes usually is done after the car fails to perform in the manner the (male) owner felt the car should operate. With the advent of electronic ignition, maintenance-free batteries, and factory installed 25 speaker surround sound audio systems, areas where a driver can "improve" their vehicles in a DIY manner have been almost eliminated. The manufacturers may as well weld the hood of a car shut, since "popping" your hood has been made obsolete. With the overlaying of pipes, metal, converters, and tubes on top of, on the side of, and through the motor, it is a special individual who can even identify the engine without resorting to just a general wave in the direction of the opened compartment.
So what's left for a guy to do? Luckily, the roof of the car is still available for the Male Adventure. It still offers the spice to the driving adventure; the last part of the car that allows you to ask, "How did you get from point A to point B?".
Recently, a "home improvement" project came up that brought that little-asked question back to mind. A previous "home improvement" project, a backyard fence, had aged, though not gracefully, from brightly new, to weathered, to quaintly aged, to decrepit and dangerous. As usual, the judgment of age is governed by the eye of the beholder and, while my eyes saw the beauty of Nature in its systematic destruction of my Sisyphean attempts to hold Nature back, my beholden saw an eyesore severely damaging our reputation as responsible homeowners. The resolution of the debate was short and and it was over before my first attempt at persuading the ever-loving spouse of Nature's onward march could even be launched. So, together with da Son, it was off to the nearest lumber/hardware emporium to pick up the necessary components needed to salvage our home maintenance reputation. Ever one vigilant in making an experience a "learning experience" for my son, I sugar-coated the pick-up trip as a chance to shatter the "Mattress on the Roof" myth. Ever a sponge for knowledge, he quickly joined me on the trek. A promise of hotdogs at the store clinched his agreeement to come along.
A previous expedition (that being the original home improvement on the same project) convinced me to minimize the roof load to only 2 8'x6' stockade sections. After placing the sections on the Subaru roof with a minimum of finger splinterage, a modicum of shouting & yelling, and a maximum of string tying to secure the load, we headed for home. Not being a firm believer in the scientific methodology employed to predict the weather, I was not aware that gail force winds were promised to buffet us that morning. As we pulled out on the highway, I noticed that the front-wheel drive of the Outback was..., well was not driving...frontward. Peaking out the side window, after struggling to get my head out in the high winds, I was entranced to see that my front tires were getting minimal wear & usage as the wheels were off the ground. Looking up, I noticed the stockade fencing was imitating the vast flocks of Canada geese flapping and churning in circles round us. This seemed like the opportune time to disprove the "Mattress on roof" legend. Howling at my son, who was luckily seat-belted in so as not to be blown out the window by the cross-winds, I signalled with my left arm to assume the position. Sharing similar genes, the arm jerks were enough of a clue to him. So, in another father-son bonding adventure, he, with his right arm, and I, with my left arm, clamped onto the top of the fencing. And so, with my intentions leaning one way, and my wishes another, the theory was proven to be ...correct. The stockade fence stopped flapping, the front wheels hit the pavement, and we were moving forward. Da son looked at me quizically; "Weren't we on this escapade to dis-prove the theory?" Obviously, not only is youth lost on the young but hearing as well! I immediately reversed my disproval position on the theory, before his synapses locked on my initial point, and swerved, just like our Subaru around that stockade fence falling off the car in front of us, back to the acceptance of Urban Myth # 1,095.

Next on the vehicular nonsense road trip will be the invstigation of Urban Myth # 2,017 "A flood is the best time to test the engine seals". I'll be borrowing the ever-loving wife's car for this legend proof. She may come along as well. Two birds with one stone.

New Look..(I hope)

Well, it's felt like prom night in Iowa lately. Still haven't figured out what happened to my old look, except that it's disappeared into the muted silence of Blogoslavia. So, borrowing another template from a different source,(Thanks
toGreat Templates 'R Us) and tweaking it a bit, here's the look that will hopefully be stable for a while. Comments are welcome of course, as well as idioinstructions for hose of us still taking baby steps in the miasma of HTML coding.

Friday, June 04, 2004

For the regular visitors...I must have done something truly terrible. I referenced a gorgeous picture of the sky over Colorado, taken from around 15,000 ft. Well, as soon as I closed out my blog editing, my template got smoked. So, I must have done something to really tick off the BloGods, who then proceded to waste my old template. So, until I customize what you're looking at, my apologies. It should get better. I know some of the folks I had linked to my site have been going through their own elective site surgery. I wish I could say I wanted to go through this pain; it seems to have been self-inflicted.

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