Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

No me today, just our president's Memorial Day speech.

So I'm not here, I'm blogging all this week at Annabelle's Circle!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Yesterday: HAIL!


Tomorrow: ?

Have a fine weekend!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

This is the day the Lord hath made.

This is also the day that hath made a mess of my schedule! So no big blog today. Sorry. We're still in mourning over the demise of the Crown City Brewery, anyway. And, wow, look at those winds outside! The Forces of Darkness, ever hard at work, always get up before the sun, don't you know.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Blessing of your heart, ye brew good ale!"

Two Gentlemen of Verona Act III, Scene 1

Even when I didn't have a family, a business, a niche carved out of the suburbs, I had a routine. I'm not sure I would have recognized it as such, however. I always considered myself something of a free spirit, ready to leap up out of the seat in the coffee shop and jump into life, but I pretty regularly found myself in the coffee shop. After work I would pretty regularly find myself in the brewery, too, even though sitting there with a draft night after night I would wait for the opportunity to leave town. Leave it all. Something you only do once, and takes years to rouse the courage.

Specifically, the Crown City Brewery in Pasadena. When I was nineteen or so a friend of mine (older, of age) came around one night raving about a bar that served beer from a tap that was connected directly to the conditioning/storage tanks -they brewed it right there! I didn't start getting into beer until years later, but I was fascinated by the concept. It was the first I'd heard of it. Ten years later there would be a microbrewery at cat-swinging distance from every street corner in Southern California.

As the serendipity of life played out, I ended up living a block from the Old Town, brick-studded Crown City Brewery for a few years. I would go because the beer was good, and because they all recognized me when I came in. None of them knew my name, as the song goes, which was fine with me. If the bartender knows your name you most likely have a drinking problem (and if everyone else in the bar knows your name you excel at it.) At the coffee shop I would write, but at the brewery I would talk. And drink. It was a fun place. Friends would exchange stories until closing, all the while sampling exotic brews. You were rewarded for drinking an extensive selection of beer at the place -they would ring the bell, announce your name, and put it on a plaque. Waiters and waitresses there met and were married. When flat screen TVs were invented, they hung ten of them around the place. "Beers from around the world!" boasted the menu, which listed a finely greased pub grub that no bachelor could ever be ungrateful for.

I was there on September 14th, 2001. It was the Friday after 9/11 and the impact of those events were sinking in around the country. On my way down to the brewery I saw people holding candles and waving flags on every street corner. The TVs in the place were tuned to the news and it was a loud, bustling, packed house, like any ordinary Friday night. I remember a guy walking in with a set of bagpipes. I saw him lean over to the bartender, who nodded and rang the bell. The place went quiet and listened intently as the guy huffed and squeezed out The Star Spangled Banner. No one spoke. Some people put their right hands over their hearts. Some people cried. It was that kind of place.

I moved away after that and kept some distance. Though I love good beer to this day, (you can take the man out of the microbrewery, but not the microbrews out of the man) I think everyone in the place was becoming much too familiar and the routine was becoming insistently pathetic, I mean, can't we all just move on? Do we have to? A year later I told my buddies to meet me at the place and I announced my engagement to Mrs. Ditchman. She showed up. I showed everyone the ring I bought her, worth nearly as much as the amount of cash I dropped on hearty brews there over the years. (A lot!) I told the guys they would be in the wedding, and then I never went back.

Okay, I went back. Last summer I was in Pasadena and convinced some friends to go there for dinner for old time's sake. It was like returning to your old high school: everything seemed smaller, and without the energy of your youth. Filled with strangers who treated me as one, the place had fallen on hard times. The brewing vats and fermenting tanks were gone, as they had succumbed to disrepair and were consigned to kingdom come in some far off Raiders of the Lost Ark-type warehouse, I imagined. They were moved to make more room for patrons, but the patrons didn't come, I guess, and the placed now looked rather threadbare. The menus were the same old menus that had been there when I had last seen the place, but they were now a cracked laminate on old ketchup stains and with the grimy patina from the fingers of a thousand beer swillers. The brass had gone unpolished. The smell of recently cooked hops had been replaced with the ugly stench of spilled lager on concrete, dried and perpetually stood on. The food had taken on a similar miasma, and it may have just been me who changed, with my newly refined taste for a home-cooked meal from my wife. It was a sad scene. Mrs. Ditchman said the place was always like that, and she may be right, I did change, but if so, why then has it come to this?

I believe that when they gave up brewing beer at the place they got out the nails to hammer the coffin shut. For all the BJs and Karl Strausses and Yardhouses and Gordon Bierschs in the world, it's those down-home, unfranchised breweries that make the good beer and have a nifty label that are charmed for a lifetime. An obituary for an alehouse begins with "the brewing equipment broke down, and because it was too expensive to replace..."

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well... a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy."

Hamlet Act V, Scene 1


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Do we all have distant, nagging migraine symptoms, or is it just me? Do I have a headache from all of the stuff piled around the house, or is all this stuff piled about because I couldn't take the headache from where it was stowed before? Try not to trip. Stuff piled on other stuff! You could hit your head, and start all over.

The Little Ditchman has a new phrase. She will walk into the room and approach you, look you in the eye and say, "Once upon a time..." whereupon you hang there -waiting. She doesn't know where to go from there. Sometimes, with prodding, we get a "There was a booootiful princess..." but it still hangs there. You can't blame her. For eons those have been challenging words to follow, especially if you're trying to keep someone's attention. Anyway, God bless her for giving it a shot. I think she's really just trying to gently tell me to get off the computer and read her a story, dammit! You can see the demands on her face: I'm trying to be nice about it here! Lately, if you mention the word "work" her lip starts to quiver and she reminds you of the other word she recently learned: "sad".

Which is awful. Then I rush off to work and try not to think about it, remind myself that we had a quality few days together, just me and her, last weekend. It's when mommy has to work that it gets really tough. You think maybe that if you work harder it will help, but that's not really a solution. Children don't want you to work harder. They don't want anything you're working for. They want you.

"Once upon a time" it made perfect sense to have one working parent and one nurturing one. How'd it all end up this way? Because of the stuff, that's why. But we don't need all the stuff. What we need is each other.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Ahhh, the unexpected houseguest! I had just sat down at the computer yesterday afternoon when I caught the Email: "I'm in your neighborhood! I don't have your phone number! I may just stop by!" And then, moments later, a reunion of sorts. She left after a few minutes, wanted to go to the Catholic church down the street, and then returned a couple hours after that, grocery bags in hand, cooked us dinner and ended up staying the night. Some houseguest!

Personally, I like an unexpected houseguest. If your life is in balance, you can handle dropping everything for a night to enjoy some surprise company. I never really thought my life was in balance, actually, so I must be doing better than I thought.

She's been living in Japan. Her husband flies F16s and is coming up on his second deployment. She's an artist, and will be doing the chalk drawings at the I Madonnari Street Painting Festival at the Santa Barbara Mission this weekend. We fired up the barbeque, uncorked some wine, threw some shrimp on some skewers and let all those hanging obligations just fall off for the night. What a pleasure, on a warm summery night, to hear stories from a long lost friend. And of those, stories of art and faith, war and peace.

This morning the beck and call of ignored responsibilities has reached into the higher decibels. I must be on my way.


Friday, May 16, 2008

So much for this week. It wasn't what I had originally planned! No, really! Sunday night I caught myself flipping through the channels with nothing to watch and I stopped on Back the the Future and got sucked right in to the space-time continuum. What can I say? I like movies about the space-time continuum! It's a near-perfect film. I resolved to blog some about it the next day. I didn't.

I could give a lecture on BTTF! I won't. (It's Friday.) But I am a huge fan. The screenplay is an exemplary one. Nothing is wasted in it and nothing is superfluous. If you took out a single line of dialogue, the film's tight, well-honed structure would just fall apart. It is a perfectly paced, perfectly balanced family film -which are few and far between nowadays. Disney originally turned down the script, incidentally, because they thought the mother-son relationship was too risque, which is funny when you consider what they put out now. Robert Zemeckis directed it and co-wrote it, going on to become one of the most successful directors in Hollywood. (Forrest Gump was his biggie.) The score by Alan Silvestri is truly great (largest orchestra ever assembled on the Universal lot) and the photography is colorful, nostalgic, and energetic without over-reaching (Dean Cundey, the Director of Photography, was my host for Career Day in high school. I got to hang with him for a day on the set of that Patrick Sawyze classic, Roadhouse.) And, of course, Michael J. Fox nails the part.

Did you know that the movie was half-finished with Eric Stoltz in the lead, but Spielberg (the executive producer) fired him because he was playing Marty McFly too seriously? It's true. Everyone had to start over, but they used some of the footage with the other actors, who were actually acting with Stoltz in the scenes, in the final cut. But I know what you're really wondering: why was Claudia Wells, who played Marty's girlfriend in the first one, replaced with Elizabeth Shue in the sequels?

The story is her mother got sick with cancer and she wanted to be at her side, so she ditched the opportunity. BTTF was a huge hit and that was quite a sacrifice, and one of those untold good-guy stories from Tinseltown. Elizabeth Shue went on to superstardom after the two sequels. Claudia Wells left acting and opened her own men's apparel store in Studio City. So it goes.

I'd like to say I made similar sacrifices, leaving the glory of a Hollywood career by the wayside, but, ahh, no. The closest I ever came to the greatness of Back to the Future is this:

And that's the real time machine, there, not the mock-up from the Universal Studios Amusement Park. You can see the dust on the hood from when they rolled it out of the studio backlot retired prop warehouse. Also, that's my real hair. I was about 21.

A friend of mine was working on a commercial for the "Back to the Future Ride" that was at Universal Studios for years (it closed last summer.) They had the original cars for the shoot, and he invited me down to the set -which was awesome! There were three DeLoreans: one for long shots that they could drive at high speeds, one that didn't move but had all the blinking lights and interior details for close-ups, and one that was a bit of both for medium shots. I believe that's me in the middle one, and I remember it being really cool to sit in it. After the shoot, when no one was looking, my friend ripped off a little panel piece from the dashboard of the detail vehicle and gave it to me for my birthday -at which point I think I soiled my armor. I put it on the dash of my old Honda Civic where it got all dusty and scratched up after years of traveling the continent. I always pointed it out to my passengers, and no one ever believed me that it was really from the actual Back to the Future DeLorean. I was always telling stories, you see.

Incidentally, [NAME EXCISED BY TMST LEGAL] was going to steal the flux capacitor for me but he didn't think he could get away with it. He needed a screwdriver and his backpack wasn't big enough.

Watching the film the other night I realized that the movie is over twenty years old now, and takes place thirty years after 1955, which in 1985 seemed so distant and other-worldly. I wonder if teenagers nowadays look at 1985 like that. (It was a kick to see Marty pop a cassette tape into his Walkman!) I suppose we'll have to wait another ten years for the full effect of time passing. If it means getting flying cars, I'll wait, but if you want your very own flux capacitor, you can buy it here for $250.

[Note: See how the PM and HOUR stickers overlap? That's how I was able to determine that it was actually the same piece that was used in the films -I paused the videotape! Unfortunately it was only used in the BTTF 2 and 3 but not 1. Suck!]

P.S. What happens to aged film geeks who don't make it in Hollywood and end up in the suburbs? Check it out. This dad is way more cool than I am:


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gotta run today. I got 60 gallons of gas to burn. I offer you this:

Obama can't be beat! Not with a campaign strategy like that! 57 states! Man, what a political powerhouse. One halfway expects Hillary to come out and claim she's been to all sixty states!

Something tells me that if Bush had made the gaffe, we'd be laughing about how stupid he is all over the network news hours. And if McCain had said it, well, we all know he's senile. It's a good thing we have THE BLOGS to get this kind of important info out there!

I think it's pretty funny, actually, but there is something kind of disturbing about how you can see him think it through here, without realizing how wrong he is on the face of it. Let's hope this is not a common misplacement for the man. Unless, of course, we recently annexed ten territories that I'm unaware of. It's possible. Someone, please let me know.

Anyway, leave the guy alone. And don't bother him with those pesky questions about ex-presidents meeting with terrorists. He just wants to eat his waffle.

Oh, the irony...


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Me in a cafe in Amsterdam -April, 1997. And, no, I'm not smoking pot.

I had bought the cigarettes in Paris. Everyone smokes in Paris (or so it seemed) so I wanted to when-in-Rome it. I remember not being able to find anyplace that sold cigarettes, which I thought was odd for Paris. I finally did, and the pack lasted me a month. As a matter of fact, I think I chucked most of the pack in a waste bin in Scotland.

I don't know why I posted that pic. Thought it was funny. Found it at the top of the box of old photos next to my bed -one of many that is looking for a final resting place. What do you do with old photos? Me, I want to scan them all, put them on a DVD, play it back for my kids years from now. I'm already planning the Dad Lecture Series: "Here's me being stupid again. Don't do this. I was lucky and got away with it. They should have put me in jail." And so forth.

Like I have time to scan all those old pictures. There are countless thousands of them, but I may just dive in one day. I know I always complain about the weight of tasks I have hanging over my head, but I do it to myself on purpose. Keeps the mind occupied lest the imagination becomes a stomping ground for my demons. As a result of all the projects, I haven't been bored in years. There was about 5 minutes of boredom one Sunday afternoon in August of '06, I think. I remember just opening a beer and sitting outside for a while. It occurred to me that it wasn't boredom at all, but relaxation. It was great! Now, sometimes, when I get home from a hard day of work, I get a beer and I just wander around the garden and check how the plants are growing. Look for bugs in the suburbs.

It's a far cry from Amsterdam.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I regret yesterday's post. No, no, don't read it. It was really a downer, and I think I let the bad news and burdens get the better of me. I want to apologize specifically for putting that image in your head of the Little Einsteins shooting themselves in the chests. That kind of South Park humor has no place here, and I'm sorry. Suicide is not particularly funny to me anymore. It used to be. I changed.

And I want to clarify that I do think Van Gogh was brilliant, let there be no mistake about it. I think what was really getting to me was the irritating predilection that my generation (the so-called Generation X) has with depression. I admit having been public enemy #1 throughout most of the nineties, but I can see now how unhealthy it all is. No really. I may need to meditate on the idea some more, but this generation (and the art world in general) has a melancholy fetish. I have been in so many art galleries and to so many movies where the lost and forlorn are utterly glorified and I believe it does little or nothing to benefit our children, advance our society, or cure our ills.

Did you see Garden State? Good movie, right? Pretty entertaining. Lost in Translation is another good one. American Beauty. I could list more. Yes, they were professionally made, solid stories with more or less cohesive structures, cogent characterization, and a lens that kept in focus. But what did they say about marriage? Family? Commitment? That though they've been around for eons they are predominantly failed endeavors. Inherently flawed institutions. That if you ever find happiness there you're either lucky or crazy.

I happen to not agree with such notions, of course. Fine. If sociologists, scientists, and artists have an alternative to a satisfying healthy family life, I'd like to hear it. Meanwhile they offer up some sort of this-is-as-good-as-it-gets syndrome with a side of antidepressants. This melancholy fetish is everywhere and I found it tempting and encouraging as I softshoed my way to the edge of the abyss in my twenties, but from the vantage point of fatherhood in the suburbs I find it dangerous and sickening.

The thing is children have long been told life is hard (which it is) but we seem to be in an age where children are told life is miserable. Well, I imagine it is miserable if you were told it was going to be easy and then found out the opposite was true. Now, I don't think anyone actually raises their kids with "life is easy" as their mantra, but our culture does seem to sell it that way. This younger generation has actually been named the "Garden State Generation" which I find frightening. If you don't know what I'm referring to, you'll have to see the movie. It's a good movie. It's the movie I would have made at age 27, too. It's a nice flick. It also lacks the wisdom of the ages.

So there, I've done it again. And look, the sun is out and a solid day of work is unfolding, which I am thankful for. I've been reading Mark Steyn's America Alone so it's got me worried about future generations. The book goes into how western populations are on the decline because of a lack of family values. He could be wrong. But if he's right, there's a certain doom on the horizon -which I can't bear for the Little Ditchman. And the whole "It would be so selfish to bring a child into this awful world" mentality that I hear, sometimes as another mantra, is utterly contrary to our nature. So what of it? Well, we've got to make the world a better place. Sounds crazy, I know, but you can make the world of the person next to you a better place, and he can for the person next to him. From there it takes faith. Faith in a God who designed it all this way for a reason.

All right, I've said my piece. You can get on with your day, now. When someone gave me such advice ten years ago, I would laugh it off as utterly simple-minded and naive, but now I find it sincerely profound. Given the circumstances of the world, isn't happiness more profound than apathy, ennui, and nihilism? In this world, in this day and age, those things are expected, and most current intellectuals seem to indulge -writing off "happiness" as a sappy, fleeting, temporary mood, dependent on material pleasure, instead of the lasting, positive, and influential force that it is. I believe it should be pursued and I believe that the Founding Fathers were right to mention it in the constitution. They didn't just put it there for appearances.

Okay, now I've said my piece. But seriously, try and make someone's day today. Pick up your trash. Tell a simple joke. Make a small beautiful thing for the world around you to see. And try not to let it bug you when that jerk doesn't let you into his lane. It hurts no one to tell your wife you love her every day, but the hurt goes unhealed if you don't. Do what you can while you're thinking about it, because tomorrow you may have a day like this, followed by a day like this -and when that happens you're gonna really need all those people who happened to take my advice.


Monday, May 12, 2008

(Has anyone noticed that Quincy is always relegated to the back seat of Rocket? Poor little black kid...)

Turned on the news this morning: tornado, wildfire, cyclone, earthquake, flood, politicians. Weather report: sullen, gray overcast. Plus, they're on the brink of war in Lebanon. Famine, anyone?

So I was forced to view Little Einsteins with my daughter. She made me sit there with her this time. It wouldn't be so bad EXCEPT THAT I'VE SEEN EVERY EPISODE A BAJILLION TIMES. Oh well. She got scared last week when the kids climbed a tall bean stalk into the clouds where they entered a castle painted in the manner of Van Gogh (to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth, no less.) They had to rescue a musical golden goose from the "Forte Giant", who is an extracted element from one of Vincent's paintings. The Little Ditchman is afraid of the Forte Giant, and who can blame her? A children's program based on images culled from an epileptic Dutch post-impressionist who went insane, hacked off his ear, and committed suicide? Are you kidding me? It keeps me up at night, too, sometimes. And then add the music: dun dun dun DUNNNNNN, dun dun dun DUNNNNNN...

Horrifying. Really. I looked up the Van Gogh paintings to find the Forte Giant. (The show uses cutouts of the artwork sometimes, and then manipulates them in paper-puppet fashion.) I found it.


The painting is "Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity)". Not exactly kids' faire, if you ask me. The Forte Giant spends most of the episode stomping around the house and holding his head in his hands. (And I wonder why she screams every time she seems him.) Anyway, here's the set of the castle on that episode:

Look familiar? Of course, it's a Van Gogh classic! It's a giant's castle in the show, so to make the whole thing more terrifying, Rocket is tiny and is hiding under the chair along with a trembling Annie, June, Quincy, and Leo. Don't worry, they make it out without shooting themselves in the chest (like Vincent did.)

When I was in my twenties, I really loved Van Gogh, which puts me in the company of most everyone else who likes art, but it's all so depressing. It could be the most beautiful thing in the world but if it's depressing... ? What of it? I mean, it doesn't exactly elevate the human condition, it merely reflects a negative one (however brilliantly.) When I was in Amsterdam I went to the Van Gogh Museum and wandered slowly from painting to painting one morning, appreciating it thoroughly and totally mesmerized. Picture me with long curly hair, worn leather boots, my grandfather's dark coat, scribbling notes to myself and talking to no one -a typical young American in the Netherlands. By noon I had arrived at the end of the exhibit and found myself transfixed, standing before "Wheat Field with Crows". It knocked me down onto the gallery bench, the weight of its despair so totally overwhelming. It's no wonder he committed suicide. Paint stuff like that and you're just bringing it on yourself. (Yes, I know, his art reflects his emotions. Well, it doesn't help to dwell.)

Incidentally, I left the museum utterly depressed and walked down the street to the Heineken Brewery where I was five minutes too late for the last tour of the day. It's a popular tour because you get all the beer you can drink for free in twenty minutes. The guy locked the doors right in front of me. Now, that was when I really wanted to kill myself.

Have a nice day!


Friday, May 9, 2008

And another thing: alligators and crocodiles. They look the same to me. Mrs. Ditchman claims she can tell the difference right off the bat. "It's in the snout," she says. It may well be. Fine. I pride myself in that I can see the subtle difference between "Sonora Beige" and "Desert Sand" on the aluminum a half hour before sundown. Beat that!

I'm sure the knowledge will save lives one day. So it's Friday, and that means sudden, full dedication to all the things I didn't get finished in the first five days of the week. I would like very much to come to the end of the list of tasks before me, but no. It would be swell to get that back fence finished, but no. It would be nice to sit and read, but no. It would be good to take the boat out for a change, but... no. There seems to be a lot of stuff stacked about the house. Not sure how it came to that.

For your weekend reading pleasure, I offer you the monthly essay from Hillsdale College. If you have even the least bit of interest in the United Nations, I urge you to take a look. I found it fascinating and revealing. It's by John Bolton, who was a Bush appointee, so if you have BDS you might not make it through the first few paragraphs. I suggest you try to give it a shot anyway. I've heard Bolton in a lot of interviews and have always thought him to be a clearheaded, intelligent, straightforward, no BS sort of guy -which is why he never really fit in at the UN. Anyway, he points out how the UN is nicely democratic, except for the fact that the majority of the countries in it are not. Makes for sort of a bum world vote in the end, doesn't it?

The death toll in Myanmar may rise to 100,000 in the next few days. Oh, you haven't heard? Fascinating that this story isn't getting covered. The Myanmar government refused our offer of swift help, and the UN tried to send biscuits, but the junta seized them, so all UN help has been suspended until further notice. There's talk in the Pentagon of violating the country's airspace and dropping food and supplies in anyway, which would amount to an act of war.

So what would you do? It's another one of those sea lion stories, folks, only this is one big sea lion. Seems sometimes you have to break the rules to do the right thing. Oh, we could sit around and debate it -just soundproof the doors because there's people dying outside. I know some people who wouldn't break the speed limit on the way to the hospital if their passengers were bleeding to death. (A side note about the sea lion story: did you see how the rescuer mentioned that "my wife let me go"? I agree. My wife's permission trump's federal authority every day of the week. "Break the law? Sure! Oh wait, let me check with my wife and see if it's okay...")

There's the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. May God grant us the wisdom to negotiate the difference.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

This just in: the sea lions in yesterday's story were not actually shot. I'm not sure why everyone jumped to conclusions there. Anyway, it seems ripe suspicious to me. Poor sea lions.

Also, I seem to confuse seals and sea lions a lot. My utmost apologies. I've done this all my life and still can't get it right with the pinnipeds. Stalactites and stalagmites I know, because the stalactites hold "tight" to the ceiling. Tortoises and turtles I can do, because turtles are water creatures like the "sea turtle" and tortoises are land creatures like the "desert tortoise". But seals and sea lions? I look at the graphic above and I'm still at a loss. They look the same to me.

Anyway, that's life. It should be the least of my worries. Yesterday I went to pick up the parts for a customer's nice new patio cover and guess what? Wrong color. Guess whose fault? Mine. This could not have come at a worse time. Someone is going to have to pay. That'd be me.

So I'm at home again on this gray day, and the sitter gets it off. A few weeks ago I had commented about how we were having a heat wave in April, and how odd it was because it was really that time of year for the gray to descend. Like I said, June Gloom comes mid-May and lifts around mid-July. Well, it's here. All the color is sapped from a world without sunshine, which makes yesterday's mistake more understandable. One glance at the weather calendar and it's 66 degrees and CLOUD as far as the boxes show. Man, it really depresses the street. I would much prefer incessant rain, but no. You get CLOUD. But hey, that's the way it is in California. Spring takes a vacation. It's a well-deserved one, since it did Fall and Winter's work for months.

Stopped in at an odd, off-the-beaten path Target yesterday just to see if they had something in stock. Leo. Yes, Leo, from the Little Einsteins Leo. You see, there are these cute nine-dollar little dolls, and the Little Ditchman has the other three, but no Leo. Every time we go to Target, all they seem to have is the Quincys, which is interesting because he's the black kid. What can you say about that? I'll leave it alone.

But it's funny how the white boy dolls are always sold out, and yet there's always an overstock on the black boy dolls. There's no black girls in the show, and the Junes and Annies seem to sell next. So at this Target they had a Leo! The last one, flipped upside, way in the back behind the Quincys! Clearly the little Quincys had had it with the know-it-all and his baton-waving, and took him out behind the Doras and roughed him up a bit! (Okay, sorry- really, I couldn't resist!)

I brought him home and there was much rejoicing. The superfecta was complete. The Little Ditchman can barely carry them all down the stairs at once. "I NEED HELLLLLLPPPPP!" she cries from the hallway. It's cute as ever. I did something right yesterday. And your seals are safe with me. Sea lions. Whatever.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Welcome. It's Super-link Wednesday!

A month or so ago I wrote about the Children's Pool in La Jolla and the problem with the cute seals there. Evidently there's a baby seal on the beach now that's wrapped in a fishing net. But it's not the fishing net that's killing the seal, it's the red tape. Environmentalists passed a Federal law stating that you can only go within so many feet of a protected species, so the law has to be broken in order to save the seal's life. Too many laws, people, too many laws. Seriously. Sometimes I think the world and all the creatures in it would be better off if the lawmakers took more vacation time. Anyway, the word is now that someone snuck down there in the middle of the night and got the damn net off the baby seal's neck. Criminal! Prosecute!

In further seal news... here's a good one: "Endangered Seals Eating Endangered Salmon"! Well, the headline says it all. Evidently the seals didn't get the memo from the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Of course, the real problem here is the dam which provides a veritable buffet for the seals as the salmon are funneled into a small area. It's like shooting fish in a barrel for the seals! Or shooting seals, since the story is further complicated by the fact that some idiot went down there and shot a few of the seals dead, presumably to protect the salmon in a preemptive strike. I guess the authorities catch the seals and truck them away, but the dam things keep coming back. Those are smart seals! Clearly the problem is the dam, which should be removed entirely, even though that would drive up local energy prices. And in a flagrant display of bias in the media, note how "dam" is spelled "damn" a few paragraphs into it! I love the last line, Brian Gorman of the National Marine Fisheries Service: "We need to look at all the problems and try to fix all of the problems." Do we have a strategy for that? It's like telling everyone on a soccer team to go kick the ball into the net. One suspects we'll just pass more laws.

I don't know about that "National Marine Fisheries Service". In that first linked article a spokesperson for the NMFS says it doesn't believe the little seal pup is in imminent danger. Look at the photo! Oh yeah, he's fine!

But, oh well. Any simple solution would have been imagined and enacted years ago, so there isn't one, really, and I don't have the answers, but a guy should be able to go down and help a poor little seal stuck in a gill net if he wants to and not be worried about being prosecuted.

In the end, the little harbor seal freed from the net may find a fate such as this. But only Canadian Harp seals see this fate. That's good news for the salmon!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

You know your wife is mad at you when you wake up to her taking a shower and then, as you flop down on the couch to rouse yourself with that first cup of coffee, she kisses the child and heads out the door. Hmmm, you think to yourself, I wonder when she will return? ...then you look over at the little one and she is in her pajamas. "Did you have breakfast, kid?" you ask, curious. "No."

It might have something to do with this:

It's the ceiling to the guest bedroom. Yesterday I was able to remove it and fit it into these two neat boxes, which I find to be a profound brainteaser -one that presses the boundaries of inter-dimensional physics. Anyway, I did it. It took most of the day and the sum of our house is the better for it, though it irritated Mrs. Ditchman. Seems we had a miscommunication. This was nearly resolved at my admittance of having my priorities out of whack. Perhaps I do. But in the end the garbage man will haul off the ceiling in the two boxes and the guest room won't have that vague smell of some now-distant former occupant who was never able to cure his chronic body odor.

My apologies to all my guests in the past few years who thought they noticed a smell, but didn't say anything. Bless you. I believe the smell was hiding in the ceiling, or perhaps the carpet. Anyway, both the floor and the ceiling are gone now and all that remains is the musty aroma of damp joint compound. An improvement, I say, as now it smells more like the vast hidden potential that lies within those walls.

It would be wrong of me to expound on the fine tunings of the Ditchman marriage here on this blog (especially when I have the other blog where I detail our sex life) but I will say how I would be a decrepit wretch without her. I know exactly where I would be, right now, too: I'd be in some coffee shop reading the newspaper stopping only to check out the next girl who walked in. I'd be full of strong opinions about things that really didn't matter, and I'd be writing them in my notebook -honing my verbiage with a vocabulary that cut like... ahh, forget it. Oh yeah?! Well, where would she be without me?

She'd be a successful business woman, no doubt. (I would have waited a few more years to marry her, but I knew she wouldn't have!)

So I scraped the ceiling and am pretty sore as a result. My wife returned an hour or so later and everyone had eaten and gotten dressed for the day, the dishes were done and the trash was out. I'm sure she had told me that she had some early appointment somewhere, but I think I'm still in Daddy mode from last week, and not back in my aluma-mode as usual. I'll bounce back. We have a bunch of heavy-duty jobs in the coming weeks and I am charged with blowing through them at full speed. I can't be stopped! Why, I'm remodeling the guest bedroom on the side!

I love you, honey!

P.S. Shame on all of you for clicking on that link.


Monday, May 5, 2008

I know, I know. You detected a slight bitterness in my postings of late. My humblest apologies. We've kinda had our hands full recently and a good deal of it we keep within the family. Oh sure, our secrets are safe on the Internet and all, but I was looking over some recent posts and noticed the stress was seeping through. I assure you the dam shall not burst! Just hold with me, friends, and we'll get through this together! (Meanwhile, inflate those rafts a little faster, son.)

The flowers are nice. I think I'll keep posting notes and pics about the garden. I imagine that will offend far less people. I received a lot of welcome compliments from some friendly folks yesterday who were over at the place. We hosted a meeting of the fine people who plan the annual summer camp out on Catalina, and actually got a few things done, without letting the basic enjoyment of one another altogether get in the way.

The camp is where Mrs. Ditchman and I first met some twenty-odd years or so ago. I was the director out there in the late nineties, took a few years off to get married, settle down, and in the past few have been invited back as the techie video guy -which was my dream position all along! It's all volunteer work, and I only do High School camp nowadays (though in years past I led several camps all over SoCal in one capacity or another with just about every other age group.) Our group of leaders is a pretty laid back one, thoroughly professional *smirk*, and can find a good time in just about any setting. These are really the best people you want to find yourself surrounded by if stuck at an isolated cove on an island in the Pacific with a hundred and fifty teenagers staring you down. Good senses of humor, the lot of them!

It's a hoot. We filmed our director meeting and posted it on YouTube to stoke the honest flames of excitement in the kiddies:

You can just tell it's going to be a life-changing week.

Camp is so much easier today with all this modern technology. Why, back in my day it was all ring binders, clothespins, and laminated pouches! Now it's all on the iPod! It's also easier because I'm an adult, and not one of them, vying for the attentions of this cute counselor or that one. Wise in the ways of the world, I am now, with no agenda but to make it back home alive to the counselor of my dreams.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Okay, so I did it, I shaved the cat's butt. You would, too, if you owned an aged Persian and he was bringing poo danglers into your bed every night and spreading used kitty litter around the living room, up and down the stairs, onto the coffee table, on the couch. We've all just about had enough. He didn't much like it, by the way, I got pretty scratched up. Can't say that I blame him.

Actually, he doesn't make it up onto the bed much lately. It might be that he's too old and frail, but it also might be that the fur is so matted between his legs that he can't make the leap without yanking himself. It's all small hops nowadays, and fewer leaps and bounds than the days of his youth. This is why he's up on the coffee table. It's a stepping stone to the couch.

So there's cat litter everywhere and it's awful. And when that stuff gets wet, it gets gooey. And then he steps in it, or near it, with that thick fur. And then he leaves paw prints. Gooey, wet, cat-urine and litter paw prints up and down the stairs, across the hardwood floor. I had to shave between his toes on his paws. And I shaved his butt. You would too.

Woke up this morning at 4 AM. The Little Ditchman was just up. "Hi Daddy. Sit on the floor." No, kid. Is that all? Go back to sleep. And then I woke up a few hours later with the sparrow banging on the window. I kid you not.

I don't know why this little bird does this. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Yesterday he got sick of me in the afternoon and moved to the guest room window. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Today he's back. Oy, these animals. They're all cute and cuddly for a time, until you realize just how wild and unrefined they are -if Rocky licked his butt like a normal cat, I wouldn't have to shave it! And there's bird crap all over my windowsill!

The Little Ditchman is into Curious George. We watch George in the mornings now after that other animal infatuation show, Zoboomafoo. Today on Curious George, George got locked in a zoo. A monkey! Locked in a zoo! He inadvertently let all the animals out. Stupid monkey! I mean, seriously, get that thing back home in the city where he belongs! We have a book, too, Curious George Visits the Zoo. The plot is that a little boy loses his balloon when it is stolen by a bunch of monkeys in the monkey cage. George saves the day by stealing bananas from the zookeeper and distracting the monkeys with them, while he grabs the boy's balloon back. Huh? What are we teaching our kids here? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Curious George and the Rocket I can handle. There's at least a kernel of truth in there. But the truth about monkeys is that at the zoo they often throw their poop at you. I doubt we'll be seeing that on a cartoon anytime soon, but in this day and age you never know. Look for it in Shrek 4.

No, seriously, I love animals. They're cute, funny, wacky little creatures. Some of them are beautiful, some of them can be trained to do entertaining things, and some of them taste good. But are we teaching kids the right stuff, here? I'm just asking. At the end of Zoboomafoo there's a kid that comes on and says something like how you shouldn't go messing with animals unless an adult says it's okay. Thank you. And at the end of Curious George, there's always a message from another kid that says "George is a monkey so he can do things that kids shouldn't do." Disclaimers! On kid's shows! I'm going to try this parenting method. Next time I do something stupid or bad, I'm just going to turn to my kid and say, "Don't do this."

Just look at the smile on that little monkey's face. Ha ha ha, how cute! Silly monkey! Now, stop huffing the ether!


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Good Morning.

Ahhh, springtime... Everything's growing, including the hair in my nose. This is utterly infuriating. You see, the little hairs in my nose they grow so long that they tickle the opposite wall of my nostril every time I breathe. Seriously, I would prefer cockroaches burrowing into my skull to lay their eggs. I am constantly picking my nose, disgusting all around me.

That cute sparrow on my windowsill I am getting ready to mutilate. It turns and taps on the glass every 29 seconds or so, just to remind me that it's spring, and he's there. Evidently, his mate has built a nest just below the window and he is guarding it. He sees me at my desk and goes apesh!t. I've been trying to get video of him, but he jets off every time I pull out the camera. The Little Ditchman seems to like him, though, so I'll have to wait till naptime to ring his little avian neck.

Please send links to reliable nose hair trimmers.

Sorry. I fear it may be one of those days. The highlight of which will be when I shave the cat's butt.