Friday, August 31, 2007

Regarding the Significant Photo of the Week

For all those concerned: the AppleTV is still cool. But mostly because I finally get to listen to my personal library in the living room and because I had a gift card. Oh and because of the AppleTV screensaver. It is bitchen.

I've been getting a lot of queries about the Significant Photo of the Week: Glowstickman, so I thought I'd elaborate.

Okay, I admit it. No one has actually asked about it. But I know you were all wondering, huh? Of course!

A year ago, Kelly Keener ordered about fifteen hundred glowsticks from China. China's a long ways away and they didn't arrive until after we got back from camp. Kelly ended up using the blue ones for his Halloween costume. He was Tron. Or, at least he said he was Tron. He left his camera in an Altoids box in the taxicab and never saw it again, so we never saw pictures, but he brought the remainder of the glowsticks to camp this year and I thought it would make a good stickman costume. No one really got what I was talking about, and Mitch wandered in to the cabin a few minutes before the big glowstick event and said, "Hey, uh, Kelly said I'm supposed to go out and announce the game and then you're supposed to come out in some glowstick costume." He thought Kelly was joking. (You see, we never really plan these things.) I said, "Uh huh, yeah." Mitch laughed, shook his head, and left. I grabbed a handy Star Trekkin' costume and began taping the glowsticks to it. And here's how it turned out:

It was a big hit! The kids all screamed, running up to me like I was some alien movie star. It was pretty cool. Like AppleTV.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


And then I went to bed. This was an altogether painful experience. Now, I know I've tended to write about painful experiences recently, and I'm sorry, but here's another.

As previously mentioned, The Great Re-Wiring was brought on by the purchase of the HDTVFLATSCREENAWESOMENESS, and that just led to new and exciting problems in the household. Because if you're going to tear a bunch of holes in the wall to put in a new TV cable and electrical outlet, you might as well run that speaker wire and ethernet cable and really just go for it. So I did. No one in the house was amused.

I made one of my FANTASTICALLYWELLRECEIVED dvds lately for a family member (note, sarcasm, esp. in regards to last year's highly anticipated Year-In-Review dvd, and the much-touted Washington D.C. Adventure dvd, and the 9-months-long-delayed Camp Fox dvd) and was thanked graciously with a gift card to the Apple Store. (Yahoos all around!) Being a stalwart Mac addict, I'd been saving up for a new computer and figured this would help the cause, but somehow I talked myself into using it for something I wouldn't otherwise spend the money on: the new Mac Digital Picture iFrame, uh, I mean Apple TV. I figured it would go with the project of the moment.

So last night I found myself in the attic, sweating profusely, rolling around in the insulation and pulling wires through the studs, all the while inhaling hantavirus dust and with an intermittently working flashlight. You know that feeling when you're busting your butt on something and the whole time you just know it's not worth it? Last night I had that feeling. That, and the prickly sensation of microscopic fiberglass insulation fibers embedded in my skin that would last for the next 24 hours.

But I got it up and running around midnight to a Ho-Hum Fanfare, and well, I just took a shower and went to bed. Turns out the device took all night to download my music and photos, anyway. Destitute of spirit, I didn't blog.

I'd mentioned the AppleTV to the Mrs. a few times recently and was always met with: "This affects me how?" and "We need this why?" and a few others, which evidently I had not answered sufficiently on previous occasions. In explaining it to her, it occurred to me that it's really just another iPod, as if we needed one of those, but this iPod, you see, it's for the TV! Right. She saw it in it's Blazing Glory this morning and exhibited the amount of interest usually reserved for that springtime glance you give to the snail you just stepped on.

Oh well.

So, I went to work and then came home and fired up the barbecue and made myself a margarita and then went over to the infernal thing to light it up again to see what the big fuss was about. Pretty Cool. No, really! For the first time since we've lived in the house I was able to listen to my personal music library downstairs in the living room. (The Adult-Alternative station on our cable receiver is getting quite stale.) And then when the family photos came up on the screen in all their Mactastic Presentation, well... let me say, the whole family just came to a stop and stared. There was smiling and pointing! I was immediately stricken by how much better the pics look on the living room wall in full high-def color as opposed to the inert computer screen the modern age of digital cameras has relegated us to. Wonderful!

I went outside to flip the meat at sunset, favorite tunes sliding out of the (so far) one speaker on the patio, took a sip of my margarita in the August heat and thought: Worth it -and- What a life! -and- This year, the Year In Review party will be held at my place!

I'll try and get all those holes in the walls patched up for that one.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No, We Are Not There Yet

Yes, a fine weekend was had in Fish Camp, at the Monticelli Family cabin! Much wonderful company was had, and much excellent wine was drank, much of it by Massimo and myself, and the toddlers and wives were tolerant through it all. It is significant that you can find yourself sitting across a table with a few old friends and still discover new things about each other, and things that you have in common. For example, Jane and I have the same birthday (and none of this half birthday nonsense, I'm talking about the same date) and Marci and Jane were born in the same hospital in Fresno. Massimo is still looking for something unique that he has in common with us all, but for now he makes wine and we enjoy drinking it and that is pleasantly sufficient.

There is a wine cellar in the basement. Perhaps "wine cellar" and "basement" are an overstatement. There are many old, one gallon Gallo jugs that have "96" written on the cap and that contain wine. These jugs are on the garage shelf, and hidden behind them is "the good stuff" which is contained in smaller, 750 ml Gallo bottles. The date of the Good Stuff is usually marked on the old Gallo label, and it's sometimes marked twice, so just go with the more recent date. Evidently, Grandfather Monticelli stored his wine up in the Fish Camp garage because it was just too damn hot down in the valley. Evidently, he re-used the bottles.

And God bless him for it! The jugs are filled with a most drinkable wine and the Good Stuff truly is. Massimo spryly worked the kitchen and the carafes all weekend, often fashioning a Fish Camp meritage right there at the table with a bottle of his wine and a jug of his Grandfather's. Soon, the wood fired barbecue was lit and crackling, and you'd stroll out on the creaking wood deck, wine glass in hand, the sounds of the children laughing from within the cabin and cricket song from without, and you'd look up at the emerging stars in the twilight and think, whatever Grandfather Monticelli did in his life, he did it right. I pray that my legacy might be the same: that in some distant future, some blogging shmo might experience the fruit of my labours, and be as grateful.

And in that future, may mobile blogging work as intended. I guess I shouldn't be disappointed that the nation's most prized National Parks are not forested with cel towers yet, but I had high hopes for the weekend. It was not envisioned that I would have to dart up a hill and hold my mobile phone up to outer space, whilst leaning in the direction of Bakersfield and remaining perfectly still as my 65 kilobyte set of data beamed itself to the internet, but ah, well... Fun all the same. I would have posted more if I'd bought that $4000 satellite phone I had my eye on, and I'm sure the iPhone would have cleverly captioned the photos for me.

It was the Little Ditchman's first trip to Yosemite! She loved it, of course, since her Daddy and Mommy love it so much. We loaded her into the backpack and carried her up the Vernal Falls mist trail, (leaving this recent marathon runner wondering how he'd ever made it to any finish line.) Yosemite is a magical, awe-inspiring place. One spends the bulk of the day looking up, as God designed it that way. We only had time for the short (but solid) hike up the enchanting Vernal Falls. I've seen that waterfall many times in my life, but I've never seen it with a little angel whispering in my ear a new word: "waerfaa...waerfaa..." It was never so beautiful. God's glory never so radiant, never so relevent.

So, yes, there was a certain amount of giving in to modernity's pull on this trip, the least of which was the portable DVD player we bought and hung on the back of the headrest. As parents who enjoy a good road trip, we had backseated this idea, so to speak, until the pained cries of the bored child could no longer go unanswered, and now we listen to Elmo's World, which induces a certain amount of pained cries all its own. That's Parenting. You pick and choose your battles, for you just can't win them all. Grandparenting, I imagine, involves hiding the good stuff behind the jugs in the garage so the grandkids won't find it until after you've long gone on The Ultimate Road Trip -the destination of which I imagine is not unlike the Monticelli deck in Fish Camp, at twilight, your children laughing in the distance, and a nice glass of wine.

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A final morning in the Sierra, and then it's back to the things of man.

Monday, August 27, 2007

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I am a Sherpa.

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The Yosemite! The Monticellis depart, leaving the Hawkins to adventure on their own.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

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"Boy, our parents sure drink a lot of wine!"

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The river was diverted, and we stood in it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

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The Little Ditchman inspects the outhouses of the old west.

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The little Monticelli charms us all...

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Massimo fires up the grill for some filet mignon.

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The charming Monticelli Fish Camp villa. Complete with wine cellar!

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Greetings from the Sierras! Now we're living! Moticelli hospitality extends into the forest, and that's a good thing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

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Hello Bloggers! TMST on the road!

What a!

What a week! "What a!" This is what the Little Ditchman now says for lack of anything better to say. It's in reference to a page in "Curious George and the Rocket", the part where George returns from space. The page begins: "What a welcome!" As you're reading with her, she'll anticipate the page, sometimes just thumbing ahead altogether, saying "What a!" Now it's just the title of the book. She'll carry it to you: "What a!" Took us a while to figure that one out.

It's not as interesting of a phrase as "Doe doe doe" which is actually the title of the the book, "Go, Dog, Go!" She comes to you with that book and you pretty much know what she's talking about. It's an orange book. "Green Eggs and Ham" is also an orange book. It's title? "Doe doe doe".

Sometimes, she'll be standing in the kitchen and she'll reference something in her general vicinity and she'll just say aloud: "What a!" We have no idea what she's talking about. I consider it just an enthusiastic exclamation. I got home from work last night after dark (pretty late for me) had a shower, got a beer, sat on the couch, noticed it didn't hurt to swallow as much as it did yesterday. "What a!"

The kid says all sorts of phrases, many we can understand perfectly. Lots of things in conjunction with "Peass" (please) and "Uh oh" (uh oh), but then there's a lexicon of stuff that's just incomprehensible. By the look on her face, it's clearly a set of words with meaning behind it, we just can't understand her. This is how a lot of people feel about the president, I imagine. But his speech the other day, I understood perfectly. Probably the best speech since the second inaugural address. These are the words history will remember, I think, in this long, multi-generational war against fascist islamists, and Bush's consistency on this issue is why I believe history will be kind to him.

Incidentally, in the speech there is a (I don't really understand why) controversial portion comparing Iraq with Vietnam and Bush underhandedly swipes at The New York Times, which has generally been pretty hard (if not outright unfair) on him. Interestingly, when the New York Times covered the speech the other day, they just sort of skipped over that part. BTW did you know that "our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year (Applause)"? Good work, men! We'll send more bullets. Meanwhile, my flag flies 24/7 from Memorial Day to September 11th as long as we're at war. It's the least I could do.

I noticed there's a lot of flags flying on the houses on my street. Not half the houses, but quite a few. I'm not sure what it is that possesses people to do it. I know why I do, but I suspect there's a distinct reason people do. I'd like to ask them, "Why do you fly the flag?" I know there's a few people on my street who have family in Iraq or Afghanistan right now, so that's a pretty good reason, but I am also aware that there are a few reservists and veterans on my street who don't fly the flag. Makes one wonder. I've got nothing against people who don't do it. I do, however, dislike seeing faded, torn, and neglected flags flying on my street. I also dislike seeing unmowed lawns. Actually, I think mine needs to be mowed.

A while ago there was a Marine who lived across the street from me who was in Iraq a few times. Nice guy. Family man, firm handshake. Always flew his flag. I actually got up the nerve to thank him for his service once. He looked me straight in the eye, smiled, and said, "You're welcome."

I've flown the flag ever since.

You gotta respect that. You don't even have to agree that we should be in this war in Iraq in the first place. When I ran the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C. a year ago I was feeling pretty thrashed after fifteen or twenty miles and a Marine handed me a cup of water and said, "Thanks for coming out and running with us today!" When I thought about him and that his job was to take a bullet for me and here he was giving me water so I could run this stupid marathon... well, it's hard to breathe with a lump in your throat.

And I know something about that. Anyway, there's a place for people who don't respect the military and don't give them everything they need to do their job well. I think that place is France, or here.

Enough of my views! The weekend is on its way! Check in here at TMST all weekend long for roaming, curt, one pic/one line significant updates! What a!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Life's Lessons Hard To Swallow

Look folks! It's the Huge Cucumber of Dismay! I had threatened earlier to post the HCD when I'd run out of material, but the truth is there is no lack of material, I just sort of fell apart yesterday. Well, not "fell apart", but there was a certain defined unraveling. It started with my bolus. Dr. Weaver suggested that it might be a bezoar, but no, I believe it distinctly to be a bolus, and that the doctor just wanted to use the word 'bezoar' and, honestly, who can blame him?

I swallowed a pill a couple days ago, and I must have been dehydrated from the day because it looks like it scratched my throat on the way down. This causes progressive esophagal dysphagia, or something, which gives you the sensation that you are in the middle of swallowing FOR ALL ETERNITY! In Heaven, a fine meal at the end of life is a great reward. In Hell you get the same fine meal but you can't swallow it. It kept me awake the night before last, which made yesterday somewhat tiresome, and then last night I went in to say goodnight to the little girl and fell asleep on her floor. I awoke later with difficulty breathing, and moved downstairs to the couch where I could prop myself up, and sleep in the uncomfortable pillow-reenforced-sitting-up fashion of the sick and dying. I don't know what woke me more -the need for a glass of water to temper the maddening bolus, or the need to get the day's blog up. I rested intermittently as a result of it all, so here I am Thursday morning. I did some web research on the swallowing problem, only to find horror stories of people who never saw the end of it, suffering the remainder of their days. They eventually lost a lot of weight, refused to speak, and were miserable just to gaze upon. Oh, the nightmare! It would be a wonderful Abu Ghraib torture, this dysphagia, allowing us to easily defeat the terrorist scum once and for all. At this point, I'd almost prefer electrodes to the genitalia. Almost.

I understand that it will go away in a few days (LORD HAVE MERCY) but I'm distracted by the pain in my left arm from the recent cat attack.

The day before hard-swallowing the infernal scratch pill, I was brushing the old cat when he gave in to his latent feline distemper and let me have it. I expected this, The Brushing is not a pleasant experience for the family cat, but it needs to be done. I suppose if someone started yanking the hair out of the back of my head, I'd turn and sink all my teeth into their arm as well. I've experienced this before, but to the bone, Rocky? to the bone?! He got me good, too. So good, in fact, I felt compelled to use the Bactine and Neosporin on the puncture wounds, which I normally would otherwise dismiss. I think, at one point, I actually lifted him in the air, his mouth around my wrist, the full weight of the cat dangling from bone and tendon. You are hereby warned: never underestimate the power behind the fanged maw of an aged Persian. I'm pretty bruised up, and now the cat passes me in the hall like nothing ever happened. Of course, he knows what happened, and I know what happened... Fine. Keep your matted dreadlocks, see what I care.

Back to work, this morning. I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. Some days the pain of the household outweighs the pain of the workload, and you happily get in the car and head off to the career since The Good Lord in His mercy made you to be The Provider and not The Nurturer, but other days you take the pain with you to work, glom it all together under the hot August sun, and try to burn it off.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More of the Same

I survived. My solution was to hack that pine tree to death with my cordless reciprocating saw and then lean the ladder up against that. Also, I fabricated as many pieces as I was able down on the driveway, and then trucked everything up the stairs, a section at a time. It wasn't as fun as, say, cleaning the cat's litter box, but it was up there. I even rolled around on top of it for a while, which is something I've never done before. These things are stronger than I thought! The highlight of the day was when I was hanging on to the underside, leaning out [in the above picture, upper right hand section -toward the camera] to get two tiny, dull, pointless screws in.

By 5:00 I was covered in sweat and sap and caulk and pine needles and canine turd and my own blood, but I got it done. They handed me the check, "Don't cash this right away!" It don't matta, mam, it's already spent! Nice people, though! [if they're reading this.]

And tomorrow: again. This week's set of problems has to do with a cover of varying projections, varying heights, an oversized column span, and a set of stacked double headers over the middle post (with half of the rafters suspended) and not to mention the mitered fascia attachment, the fascia extension, and the as-of-yet-unsolved problem with the existing rain gutter. I hope to do a good job, too, since this is the customer who gave me half an albacore last week, odd as it seemed at the time. Nice people, though! [if they're reading this.]

Sometimes I wonder what everybody I know does at work. Sure, I know what they do, but what do they do? After reading what I just wrote, I'm not so interested in what everyone does at work now. Especially if it's going to fill me with dread, dismay, and confusion like describing my own work does.

But it's not so hard, really. You do something often enough, the solutions present themselves pretty quick. Today's tests were taken on one problem at a time. Best not to overwhelm yourself in the heat. The worst thing was the AM radio reception in Fallbrook.

I did hear that the shuttle landed okay, which was a relief. Imagine their set of problems at work. "We got to work okay, the launch went off just fine, earth looks great from here but, oh, hey, what's this? A hole in the wing? Oh. Well, we're gonna have to bring her down then... Huh? What hurricane?" and so it goes. But they've got air conditioning, I'll betcha. And disability. Sure, they probably bump their heads a lot in zero g, but that couldn't be worse than the death by a thousand aluminum cuts I suffer.

I try to look on the bright side. Their view of the whole planet couldn't beat the scenery I got from atop this baby, no sir.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Long Fall

It's 85 degrees in my house right now, and that's downstairs. I'm upstairs, of course, and it must be over 90. I just ditched all my clothes on the office floor and I'm sitting here in my underwear and I just went in to say goodnight to the significant other and she said I "was radiating heat", which is something I've heard out of her before. It's usually the last thing she says before she pushes me away and the day ends. You'd think the cold shoulder would bring some welcome relief to this suburban inferno. Actually, right now I feel like I'm radiating heat! It's hot! It's August! I was finishing last night's wine!

Oh. Lord knows how hot it was today. I've been sucking down liquid by the gallon and half the energy my body spends out there is in the sweating. I come home exhausted from it, and yet tomorrow I go back to build one more patio cover at the Fallbrook Compound. This cover's only about 10'x10' so, ordinarily, it'd go up pretty quick, but it also happens to be 10' up, which means that it will be twenty feet to the ceiling. I'm also building it on a deck that is about 10' square, with a railing, surrounded by pine trees, on a slope, and covered in dog crap. Yes, it's true: this cover is for the dogs.

I'm not really sure how I'm going to do it, actually. I don't have a ladder big enough, but there's no place to put one anyway. I've never really built a patio cover from the top down because I don't believe the aluminum would support my weight, so it'll be an interesting one. Let's hope I'm not laying on my back tomorrow afternoon in the August heat, impaled on my drill/driver, sunburned, on a pile canine excrement, and waiting for someone to find me because I can't move my extremities. Incidentally, the disability insurance guy called today wondering what the hold-up was. (Uhmm, it's the price, man.)

But that's the business. It's summer and it's hot and the sun beats down in Southern California and everyone wants a nice aluminum shade structure and in the interest of raising a family and having a nice home to live in, I will oblige. I'm in the shade business, so I work in the sun. It's funny to think that I put myself through college by doing construction work, only to find that that would end up being my career. Well, it's a good thing I went to college, otherwise I wouldn't have this reliable career to fall back on! Ah, wha?

It is the busy season for us. I always did prefer the fall, with it's warm Santa Ana winds blowing through in the evening and the brisk morning's reminder of the coming winter. I spent my twenties in a general melancholy and I always waxed that the fall was just Mother Nature's warning that things were going to get worse, and of course they always were, so we should be grateful to even be warned. When winter comes, you get blindsided by the holidays and the families and the cost of Christmas trees and you wonder if work is ever going to pick up and you thank God you didn't blow twenty-five hundred bucks on air conditioning last summer because it's frickin' freezing in here.

Now, in my middle age, I prefer the fall for different reasons. The anticipation of Christmas is often better than Christmas itself, and the only two significant holidays in the fall are dedicated to eating and dressing funny -and you can't beat that. And I just appreciate the cool weather, the leaves changing color, the humdrum cliche of it all. That, and the fact that work tends to slow down some, so Hawkins Construction takes a real vacation. Last year, Washington D.C. This year, Hawaii! Yes, I'll take a long Southern California fall any day.

Let's just hope it's not tomorrow.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Great Re-Wiring Project

It just seems to have been non-stop around here the past month or so. There was the camp, and the trip out to see the family in Vegas, the friends' baby, the wedding, and just the all-around running of the family business and then, of course, there's the family business. I was very explicit yesterday: I am going to use my day off to continue the work of The Great Re-Wiring, honey.

It all started with the purchase of the new TV. There was a certain amount of consternation over it, but if there's an antithesis to buyer's remorse, I got it within a week of this purchase. What was so wrong with me that I didn't buy this sooner? She's a beauty. And when Mrs. Ditchman saw how good football looked in HDTV, there was no going back.

So now the house needs to be re-wired. And if you're going to be putting all those holes in your walls, you may as well pull all the wires through for those other things you were planning on: outdoor speakers, additional outlets, cable, ethernet, etc. But these things take time. And they also take a certain amount of fortitude when it comes to the heat and the attic and the microscopic insulation fibers that imbed in your skin throughout the long, arduous process. I'll take it all week long, but on a Sunday? May God lash the innocents a good distance from my tongue.

So that was the plan of the day. Instead, I ended up fixing a toilet handle, a lamp, cleaning the aquarium, and changing out the kitchen sink faucet. This is no fun -on your back, head in a cabinet with a garbage disposal inches from your face. But the sink sprayer needed to be fixed, and therefore the whole thing needed to be replaced. And then we decided to have some friends over last minute, so the place needed to be tidied up, dinner needed to be prepared, the child placated.

It was a terrific day off. Great to see some friends, have a nice glass of wine, and score of all fortunes: the little Ditchman was a perfect angel, entertainment for all, the family salesman -if families could be sold. She even blew kisses as the old friends drove off. One day we are a mess, the next day we are a Mutual of Omaha commercial. Such is life.

As for the re-wiring, it is ongoing.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Father-Daughter Dance

It's bad enough to be twenty minutes late to a wedding at a Nazarene church. Scratch that -any church. But if you walk in twenty minutes late wearing a Hawaiian shirt and carrying a crabby toddler, well, people just tend to let it go. Like, if you have a friend who never curses and one afternoon in your backyard he drops the F-bomb, you think, hey. Whereas, if you meet some guy at a bus stop and every other word is F-that, F'n-this, and all that sh!t -you know that's just who he is.

Well, at least we went as a family, and that should count for something.

I like weddings. I do. When I was in my twenties and doing volunteer youth work for my church, I picked up a side job operating the sound board at the weddings. There wasn't much to it, really. I'd put the wireless microphone on the pastor, he was always good-humored about it, and then I'd turn on the board, check the levels, and that was it. Sometimes I'd get fancy and crank the volume when the bride and groom would say "I do" so the audience could hear it through the pastor's mike. And most of the time I didn't get any ear-piercing, deafen-the-angels kind of feedback from the sanctuary speakers. They'd slip me seventy-five bucks. I don't know why they needed me, really, I guess it's just good to have someone to blame if something goes wrong. Lord knows, if something had ever gone wrong with the soundboard I wouldn't have had the foggiest.

All that to say, I've seen a lot of weddings. Weddings where you don't know a soul are the most interesting, because you end up trying to ascertain who these people are by what they chose to do with such a significant day. Why did they pick these clothes, these flowers, these candles, this god-awful soloist, and so forth. But I would always say a prayer for those strangers, and maybe it was sappy and I'm old fashioned, but I happen to believe in the institution. I think it makes people better people. Like the military.

So we went in late and made a mess of the back pew, about twenty rows behind the rest of the congregation, and the little Ditchman started in on some of her noise, which I realize I'm the only one who thinks it's cute. I put my finger up to my lips and shushed her, which she thought was pretty entertaining so she put her finger to her mouth and shushed me back. This kid. Later, Mrs. Ditchman had to wrastle her out to the lobby and wait out the ceremony. And when the bride and groom finished the ceremonial kiss, were presented by the pastor (the father of the groom), and made their way glowingly down the aisle amidst the cheering ovation of loved ones, the couple departed the sanctuary of the Nazarene and into the world Out There where they were greeted immediately by... my family on the church carpet.

It was a hundred degrees outside! If you're going to have a wedding in August in Southern California, you just can't expect everyone to come in suits and ties! We made our way to the reception.

It was nice! Beautiful home. We were out on the grass, everyone looked great, and even though the Nazarene Church maintains a strong stance supporting total abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes, we ended up near a table where someone was lighting up a smokestack. Not wanting my 17 month-old anywhere near such blatantly toxic substances, I took her over near the bar where she could play with a few fifty pound bags of ice and I could get myself a drink.

And this kid's an explorer! Look the other way and she's Vasco De Gama on amphetamines and you're chasing her around the Cape Horn. She was in the street when the bride and groom pulled up to the party in the limo. Hello again! I try to be a formal guy, so I welcomed them to the reception with a beer in one hand, the kid swinging at me in the other, and me in my Hawaiian shirt.

But, no, it was nice! Saw some old friends, everyone looked good, everyone looked happy, met the bride's father (he was the one to thank for the booze), and enjoyed a fine meal -which is tough to do when you're trying to anchor down this little girl. Sometimes you just let her go, watch her from afar, and enjoy the annoyed looks of childless strangers wondering where this kid's parents are. But then she's out of sight and you have to chase after her, drag her back to the table, distract her with some ice while you get a few mouthfuls of dinner, and repeat. You figure this is how it's gonna be for a while, and then she'll be older and it'll probably be the same thing, only on a more figurative level, and then repeat. Sooner or later you're just gonna have to let her go altogether -the thought of which is just too painful to bear.

Better make damn sure there's booze at that wedding.

Friday, August 17, 2007

TMST: A Look Back

Well, it's been quite a week at TMST (that's "The Most Significant Thing", not "The Mystery Science Theater" if you were wondering). We eased into our leather recliners here at the Main Offices, not launching the site until Tuesday, which is how you handle a bad press release in the media. That's right: you release the bad news on a Tuesday and hope some other bad news overshadows it. And never on a Monday when everyone picks up the paper, after they're tired of talking all weekend about the news that came out on Friday. No, Tuesday's good. It's a quiet, sullen, non-event type day, when everyone's busy working through it to get to "hump day" where half the week will be over. Of course, this week's Tuesday was when the friends chose to have their baby, we had that lead-paint-in-the-bib incident, there was the Huge Cucumber, (which I am still threatening to post when the well runs dry) and then there was that helicopter in the street last night. Wow. What a week. [cricket sound-cricket sound]

Reviews have been good. I just Googled "the most significant thing" and out of 145,000 search results, this blog came up number one! Now, it might have something to do with me navigating to the site every other second to see if I've received any comments and perhaps the fact that Google owns Blogspot or something, but I accept! Please don't ruin it for me. And if satire and imitation is a form a flattery, it is a cruel one.

So it appears that the bandwagon is moving slow enough down the street that we can all run up behind and hop on the tailgate. But hey, there's room enough for everyone on the internet! The future is now! I'm just not sure there's room enough in the house...

But of course there is! BLOGGING RULE #1: Try not to alienate one fourth of your readership in an offhanded wry bit of thoughtless sarcasm. It will only result in a cold shoulder at bedtime and a week's worth of neglected laundry.


I did a Google Image search on "the most significant thing":

Hello Vader!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another Boring Day in the Suburbs

Well, the fever is breaking. I was so busy with work today, that I barely thought about THE NEW BLOG. But nothing was happening, anyway. Nothing was happening! It was hot, I had to work in it. So what?

Later in the day I mulled over some old blog ideas I'd had rolling around: the Great Re-Wiring of the Family TV, the huge cucumber in the backyard (Took a picture of it! You can look forward to that some boring day in the future!) and then there's always the latest cuteness of the lit'ln. And I had some footage of the new Weaver which I hadn't gotten around to editing. But no, too tired. I even made a nice red wine reduction and poured it over a few BBQ'd steaks of fresh albacore, recently given to me by a generous client, but even that was met with a certain lack of event by the missus. Put the kid to bed and moved to the couch to find there was nothing on TV. No, it was just another boring evening in the suburbs. And then a helicopter landed in my street.

I imagine the apocalypse will come in a similar manner: you're watching reruns after a lackluster summer day, wishing you'd poured less wine into the reduction sauce and more into your glass, when all of sudden your backyard is bisected by a military maneuver. Well! Now, a helicopter is a helicopter, but a large helicopter flying a hundred feet over your kiddie pool is a wee dram more intimidating. I found myself backing me and the wife off the patio and into the kitchen. Really, it was flying pretty low.

You gather your wits about you pretty quick in these situations, do a mental run-through of where you keep the flashlights, shotguns, emergency wipes, and maintain calm so as not to fill your shorts, alarming those near you. That's right about when you glance through the blinds and notice that the neighbors are in the street. See honey? I'm sure it's safe. The neighbors are in the street!

So a helicopter landed in a nearby intersection. I walked down to check it out -really, there was nothing good on- and arrived to find about 50 of us on either side of the boulevard watching a good-sized Medi-vac chopper, rotors spinning, sitting there in the number two lane. Word was someone on a bike got hit and they were airlifting him out. "Oh, you've only lived here two years? Yeah, this same thing happened five years ago and then again three years ago. Still haven't put a stoplight in that intersection, damn bureaucrats" and "Hi, I haven't seen you since the party. How's your little girl?" and "Stand back everyone, this thing kicks up a lot of dust!" So you stand back, and it flies away. Over someone else's patio.

I noticed that of all the people who had come out to investigate, it was mostly the women and their kids. The kids I can understand, but the wives? Well, this is their neighborhood, I guess. They're the ones that know what goes on around here -which kids play in the street, what days the streetcleaner is followed by the parking enforcement officer, who got their building permits for which remodel, what the house went for, and who deserves sympathy in the divorce. The men go off to work, the women run the neighborhood. Believe me, when the terrorists strike, these women will know when the bad guys last got their car washed.

I walked home. You can't help but think about the poor soul on the bike, if that's what it was. You hope it's not something that happens to you, or your kid, or your neighbor's kid, or your neighbor, or anyone. When are they going to put in that damn streetlight? Why doesn't somebody do something about that?

Earlier this evening, I got a voicemail from Mrs. Ditchman. It was unusual, it's not something she does often. She had heard there was a bad accident in the vicinity of where I was working today. I hadn't seen it, must've just missed it, and she wanted to make sure I was okay. I'd thought for a moment how nice that was, how sweetly profound to have someone check in on you on your way home, and how I often think about her out on the freeway when I hear about some deadly accident on the traffic report. And I thought about putting it in the blog. But it wasn't anything, really. I'd missed the accident, the traffic, everything entirely. I was fine. It was a hot day. There was nothing significant to report.

Thank God.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If We All Used Bibs We Wouldn't Need Those Environmentally Unsound Paper Napkins

The family left for their morning workout today and I roused myself from the morning couch, picking a few things up off the floor. As I held the kid's bib I glanced at the TV and, LO AND BEHOLD! The same bib was being recalled for lead paint content!

Lame lead paint article in New York Times

I'd been pooh-poohing the rash of toy recalls lately, writing them off to hyper-sensitive, over-attentive parenting, but when you're actually holding the bib in your hand! The very same on the screen! My god! The child just had breakfast with this! After we get back from the hospital I'll have to incinerate it, and do it six blocks away so the toxic smoke doesn't waft up the street asphyxiating every family in the neighborhood!

Of course, no one reads the paragraph hidden deep in the article that pretty much negates the entire article itself. And, of course, it wasn't mentioned on TV:

"Officials from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates children’s products, said that they would prefer that there be no elevated levels of lead in bibs. But their own recent tests of baby bibs on the market in the United States found that the lead, when present, was at levels low enough that a child chewing on or rubbing the bib would not get an unhealthy dose."

Most days we can't get the child to eat the food, much less anything else.

The article also mentions that the lead paint is generally found in recycled bib material. Attention China: you're recycling the wrong things. POISON shouldn't be one of them.

NOTE: I got a photo in! The trick is not to use Safari, the Mac web browser, which all Mac users agree is inferior to Firefox. Of course, Firefox won't show my YouTube videos. Go figure.

One Walnut and Two Good-Looking Women

Before I got married myself, weddings were just free booze-fest excuses to wear a tie, and a good place to pick up chicks. Now, of course, I recognize them for the momentous, nay, significant occasion that they are. I remember now the difference between the unmarried and the married at my wedding. It was a solemn, content nod that, yes, this New World was a green and fertile one, with a harvest unlike any you've ever seen. And the unmarried? They scamper around like sex-crazed weasels at sun-up. I doubt I'll ever skip out on another wedding the rest of my life. There are some grand days to be had in life -and they are not to be missed.

The births of children are the same. You just can't grasp the overwhelming joy that's felt with the arrival of a newborn unless it's yours. That's why we drove a hundred miles after a day working in the August heat to see this little one. Pure, unblemished joy! When our little Ditchman came into the world, it was quite nearly the happiest day of my life, rivaling only the wedding day. These are the things you want to see, over and over again. You want to see if you weren't so blasted nuts for being so giddy when she came into the world. "I'm not crazy, right? This is a miracle, right?" It is a miracle.

When you get married, you resign yourself to the fact that you will never fall in love again. When you have a child, you realize how wrong you were, and you realize it every single day, and you get down on your knees and thank the Good Lord that you were wrong all along.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Correction to Earlier post

"Holly" and "Sean D." and "Jen" added to current readers of blog.

Thank you.

Last Post Trumped by "More Significant Thing"

Blog Fever

I've got a fever! A fever for more BLOG! To paraphrase an old SNL...

I've been thinking about it all day. I saw a Dust Devil blow in over Murietta and I thought, "Whoa! Pull over! Get it on digital image! Put it on the BLOG!"

And then the swells crest and curl over, and that wave of creative energy washes over you. I've been tumbling in that wave for some time, gasping for air. Looking for some stable creative outlet, some hard floating board to prop myself up on, ride that wave into the sunset.

Pay no mind that no one, really, is reading this blog (Hi Matt! Hi Marci!) but my mind has been a slurry of (what I consider) profound dementia for years...

Driving home tonight I pondered the "Most Significant Thing" concept, which really sounds pretty pretentious. But the truth is this life is awash with THE MOST SIGNIFICANT THING on TV, billboards, radio, shallow strangers all day long. I am constantly reminding myself what the most significant things are: my wife, my child, my friends, my home, my hopes, the huge cucumber in the garden, my treasured memories of The Good Times...

It turns out that today is little Ditchman's 17 month birthday. When you have a child, you quietly celebrate these monthly events for the first couple years. Why? Because these kids change from month to month so easily, so quickly. It's true, just look in The Book! Child development is all listed by month! This is significant. Ask yourself: what's the difference between me at 34 and me at 35? Good Lord. Just yesterday the Little Ditchman said: "Uh oh, poo poo" and moments later the diaper was full. A month ago she couldn't say "Bye bye"! Significant? If you don't think so, you don't have kids. I assure you, the world has changed.

Still, there are setbacks. Blogspot won't let me post images. Perhaps it's because I have a Mac. Don't tell me I don't know what it's like to be discriminated against. I experience it every time I can't open that MIME file some PC user sent me. You'd think there'd be some congressional lobbiests for Mac users. Don't Democrats all use Macs? It would almost be enough for me to change parties. Bush has an iPod, incidentally. Good enough for me, for now.

I'd post a picture of the Huge Cucumber, but this is Blogspot and I have a Mac. I guess I could Email a pic of it to my wife's PC (yes, she has a PC) and then post it from there... Yes, this Blogging is going to be great.

Have you ever seen "Meatballs"? It's real.

This is what I did last week instead of work. I figure it probably cost the family business a couple thousand dollars.

Worth every penny.