Arrival

The Alarm going off at eleven PM felt incredibly rude and distinctly impossible and I flailed at its unfamiliar controls as I tried to get my brain wrapped around where we were and what was next.

We had been in bed for possibly three and a half hours and though Short Stack had been out cold for the majority of that, it had taken me a little while to mentally wind down and then a little longer to find peace with the bundle of knees and elbows that curled up against me in the strange bed. Little kids are notorious in their lack of bed sharing etiquette and my son, as it turns out, is no different. The mental image of sleeping with your child in your arms is just about guaranteed to turn the heart of any parent immediately into sentimental goo, but the reality of the experience is that, even in sleep, your average child possesses ten thousand times the energy of an espresso fueled chipmunk and it will need to be released in wild explosions of sleep gymnastics throughout the entire time.

They will sleep. You shall not.

Oddly enough, the next night, the same sleep deprived and lightly bruised parent will almost immediately sign up for the exact same punishment once they look down at the beautiful form of their own child curled up and alone in bed. Apparently, it’s not just our hearts that our kids can turn into goo. Our brains are fair game as well. The effect is something like Stockholm Syndrome and we willingly crawl right in, ready for another night’s micro-beating.

I fumbled about in the half light looking for pants, shirt and shoes, and eventually had myself dressed and fuzzily awake enough to consider the next step. We needed to get to the car. What I SHOULD have done was to get the car mostly packed up the night before so that, naturally, had not happened. I had realized this when the moment had arrived but it had been the exact moment that Short Stack was finally getting sleepy and we were on the downhill run to bedtime. Normally, I would have left him with my wife at that point and scooted off with the larger bags and been back to the room in five minutes. With a little kiddo in tow however, and no back up, I was tied to spot. Since he was too tired to go with me and there was no chance of me leaving him alone, even for the sprint to the vehicle, I found myself unable to “run out” and do anything. It was a slightly frustrating realization but one that would be a part of every moment of this trip. While we were here, I wasn’t letting Rocket Boy out of my sight, even for a moment. This is when I remembered the stroller.

It had seemed goofy to lug it in with us when we checked in and I had almost left it at the car. Actually, I had almost left it at home all together. My reasoning had been that Short Stack is a pretty good walker and we would be doing something that he loved. I had little fear that once we were surrounded by the objects of his adoration, he would, as my Grandfather liked to put it, turn into a Cream Puff.

Being labeled “Cream Puff” had been an epithet of my childhood to be avoided and it was the one he liked to use when you, as a young child, would wimp out on a long walk and ask to be put on his shoulders. As a kid, I had taken many a long stroll with him at the beach and to this day, I can remember the exchanges that took place after I started to whine about tired legs.

“Your not going to turn into a cream puff on me, are you?”

“No.” Plod, plod, plod. “Grumble grumble grumble”

“What’s that?”

“I’m just getting tired.”

“Cream Puff?”

“NO!”

…and I’d trudge on down the beach with renewed determination my little chin leading the way, at least for a little while longer. Some would see this as being too tough on a little kid, and I do remember complaining to my folks when I’d come home, more often than not sitting on his shoulders anyway, but I did get pretty darn good at keeping up for more of the walk than I expected. Looking back as an adult, I have a sneaking suspicion that his encouragement had more to do with saving his back and neck muscles than building any character and stamina on my part, but the effect was much the same. I’ve tried the same treatment on Short Stack but he tends to fight back with logic.

“My legs are shorter than yours, though.”

To which I’ve replied, “Yes but you weigh less.”

This argument worked well until at one point he realized that, yes, that was true, “But my feet are smaller”

This kid is way too good at logic arguments.

“Are you being a Cream Puff?”

“No. Just carry me”

Ah, the best of both worlds. And I go on with my Cream Puff on my shoulders. Who needs to go to a gym to work out? My gym finds me!

Through all this, I have developed a packhorse mentality and will take just about any load on my back and trudge for miles. This was indeed my plan for Florida too. When his little feet gave out, I could simply plunk him on my shoulders and he’d be fine. I could do that for three days… I foolishly though. During the initial packing phase for our adventure, I had seen of the stroller as being an unnecessary torture instrument that I could leave behind. Strollers are not made for men, (or woman for that matter) of any height. Though I am only six foot tall and thus, well within the average for a male of mixed European heritage, strollers make me hunch painfully with the rear wheels so close that I inevitably wind up kicking them as I stride along. Couple that with the evil, free castoring front wheels that will inevitably go off on their own unexpected expeditions, often into the inevitable trash can or unnoticed door frame, and you can see why this can quickly degrade into a litany of mumbled swears. Right now though, it was a lifesaver and awkward as it was, I was grateful that my wife had convinced me to bring the thing along. Though I was pretty sure that I could have done without it during the day, there was one flaw I hadn’t considered. For Short Stack to stay on my shoulders, he needed to be awake.

With as delicate a touch as possible, I lifted my sleeping boy from his bed, set him down in the red canvas of the seat and wrapped him up in the travel blanket his mother had thoughtfully provided in her dutiful packing the night before. He stirred briefly and then was back to dreamland in seconds. Tossing a flannel shirt over the sun shade like a bullet proof mosquito net, I hoped to keep him sheltered from the blinding hall lights just out side our room’s door.

I glanced at the clock next to our still warm bed as I gathered up the last of our belongings.

“Crap. We’ve gotta go!”

Wheeling him out before me and pulling the suitcase along after turned out to be a challenge as usual and our room’s pneumatic door tried its best to chew on us as I shoved us though and out into the hall and escaped to the elevators. Catching wheels and snagging shoulder straps, we managed to make the lobby. With all the jostling, he was starting to come around.

“What are we doing, Daddy? Is it time to go?”

“Yup! But it’s a long drive. Just go back to sleep, buddy”

I was really hoping that the dark car ride would do the trick for him and that he’d get the sleep he should, but that it wouldn’t have that same effect on me. Realizing how groggy I still was, this became more of a concern than it had been before. It’s a simple thing to say, “I’ll just drive though the night” It’s another thing entirely to do it. What I needed was coffee.

The same multi-talented young woman was still working behind the front desk when I wheeled our ungainly caravan through the lobby and she smiled brightly as I appeared in all my encumbered glory, cloaked, half sleeping child pushed before me. “Don’t worry,” she said in a whisper and waived a dismissive hand. “I’ll check you out myself. Enjoy the launch! It should be a good one.”

“Thanks! Um…” I paused and whispered back. “Coffee?”

In the end, they had no coffee and the nearest all night dad refueling depot would take us a good bit off our intended course. With time weighing me down more than the bags, I decided to opt for the syrupy gloop that passes for bottled ice tea that was available from our helpful host. I didn’t have time to fill out a comment card and I regretted that. She had been great and deserved, if not a promotion, then at least an assistant or four. I also might have mentioned to the hotel chain their need for coffee in the lobby.

By now, the transfer from the bed to the stroller had woken my boy up a bit and the lights in the hall and lobby hadn’t helped, though I had done my best to muffle both. My brief search for caffeine hadn’t helped either and by the time I was clicking him into the car seat, he was rubbing his eyes and yawing. He was up and he knew where we were going. It was rocket time! As I made ready to pull out and leave, there was none of his usual chatting coming from the back seat as he grappled with his sleep drunk body and attempted to take control. He’d start a sentence with a groggy, “Um… Daddy. Um…” and get no further than possibly, “Did we… um.” And leave it at that. Mentally, he was struggling to the surface but trying to get the machinery of his little brain going was rough. It was still clogged with the cotton batting of deep sleep and though it became quickly evident to me that there was no chance of him nodding off again, I stayed quiet too in the hopes that he’d nod off again. I punched our destination into the GPS that I had oh-so very thankfully borrowed from a friend before we flew out and pulled the car onto the highway.

At NASA, an hour away, the countdown was running…

It was actually running!

Both they and we were on schedule.

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Better Living Through History

“Your wife has something she wants to tell you.”

It was my Dad on the phone and he was heading off the island to do some errands in town. Action Girl had been at work on the ferries since early that morning and the wind had been whipping with gusts pushing thirty-five miles per hour on the water. Winter had arrived with a vengeance and the temperatures were in the teens. I’ve never been able to remember how to correctly calculate wind chill factors and to be honest, I really didn’t want to this morning. I already knew what she was about to say. It was hard to make out her every word as Dad passed her the phone, the white noise from the wind covering up her voice, but the sentiment made it through.

“Anyone who would willingly go out in this when they didn’t have to is INSANE!”

That might not be a perfect quote, but it’s in the right spirit.

“Don’t care! I’m going! You knew I was nuts when you married me!” I momentarily distracted her with a tale of something cute the kids did and then made my telephonic escape with what I hoped was a completely stable sounding, “Love you!”

What I was getting ready to do was not only go out in this Arctic weather, but also do it while standing very still out in the elements in a big, open space.

Oh, and there would be guns.
The guns make it all worth it.

It has been since October the last time I made it to the range and I badly wanted to go. The rifle range is where I can relax and do something I truly love. I find it calming, head clearing and most of all, really, really fun. It was going to be bitterly cold but I had three things pulling for me.

The first card I had was the company of good friends. I had gotten a message that an old buddy of mine was in the area and had brought his 1917 German infantry rifle with him, “just in case” we could carve out an afternoon to slip away and have some fun. Another friend who lives near by had asked about shooing just the week before. His brother wanted to come as well and that made a group of four of us.

My great uncle Don had a saying about boys and groups. His theory was that to find the group IQ, all you need to do was find the median intelligence of the members… and then divide that again by the total number of males present. This, I feel, can give good explanation of some of the stupidity of what men do when present in large numbers.

The second card I had was that not only my wife, but also both my parents tried to talk me out of it. It wasn’t cold out. It was super-nasty-bonechilling-find-you-dead-in-a-snowbank-come-March weather. Polar bears, had we any in the area, would have looked at the day, thoughtfully chewed a strip of explorer jerky, and gone right back to bed. I don’t know what a polar bear bed looks like, but I’m willing to bet that it was more inviting that what was outside. Well, maybe not if you’re an Arctic explorer. BUT, as we all know, there is nothing that can change a single, dumb idea in to a burning quest faster like having your wife tell you that you shouldn’t do it… Except perhaps having your parents say it to you too.

My last card was my secret weapon. My ace in the hole. And though to an outsider it might have just looked like coffee, it was much more than that. It was coffee in… The Thermos.

This thermos was made by the Thermos Company long, long ago. Longer ago, in fact, than I have actually existed. It is big, plaid, made of metal and glass and is proof that they most definitely don’t make ‘em like they used to. It had been gathering dust in my folk’s basement for decades when I spotted it on my last trip back home. It was sitting on a shelf, wedged amongst other bits of family memorabilia and debris and with permission, I gleefully snapped it up and brought it home. Action Girl was unimpressed with it when I got home and showed her my trophy. I explained that it was, simply put, “The best thermos ever built.” She pointed out the rust on the bottom and the spots where the lovely nineteen-sixties faux plaid painting scheme that covered its surface was blistering off from corrosion in places. Wounded, I hugged it close for a moment and reverently put it on a shelf in the kitchen.

In her defense, she had good reason to be dubious. I have a fairly reliable tendency of looking at my past through a heavy miasma of rose colored nostalgia. Something that I ate and liked when I was twelve, easily comes back to me as tasting of ambrosia and honey. Maybe I really did love what ever it was that much when I was a kid, but often in the adult re-trying… well… these things do seem to fall a bit flat. This time, the thermos was being viewed with similar skepticism. I knew better though.

The really don’t, in fact, make them like this any more. At least not that I’ve seen. Outwardly it looks like you’d expect a thermos to look. The cap doubles as a cup, it has a built in handle and carries about eight mugs worth of what ever you want to fill it with. What makes it different from its modern counterparts is the glass. The entire lining of the thermos is a heavy glass and once you seal it up, it will keep stuff hot or cold for ages. I remembered that from childhood and it’s why I wanted it so much, now as an adult. I recall both of my parents reminding me to be careful with it lest I crack the glass and ruin it forever. I was being very careful and now. Filling it up to the tiptop with high grade, freshly brewed, black coffee, I headed out the door with it in one hand and my rifle gear in the other.

My GOD, it was cold out.

Within an hour, I was at the range with three friends, several guns, a pile of ice cold ammo and numb toes. The wind was biting, our fingers numb and, as far as we could tell, we had the entire complex to ourselves. It was great! When one of us couldn’t manage to physically pick up new rounds to load our weapons, we’d run back to the car and warm up with some of the atomically hot coffee in the thermos. I think we all burned our tongues at some point that day. When all was shot and done and I was heading back home on the boat, I poured my self another cup and had to blow on the contents of the lid before it was drinkable. It was just as good as I had remembered it!

This morning I was cleaning up the kitchen and found a few ounces of coffee still in the bottom of my rusty, plaid friend. When I started to move to pour it down the drain, I stopped and decided to try it, just out of curiosity. It wasn’t hot… but it wasn’t cold either. Actually, I’ve been known to drink colder coffee than this when it’s been momentarily lost and neglected in a mug somewhere. I carried it to the bathroom where Action Girl was just exiting the shower.

“It’s still warm. It’s from yesterday.”
She looked at me, and then the thermos with doubt. “No way, Seriously? What does that thing have, its own reactor built into the cap?”

It’s not often that I’m definitively right about things like this and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to bask in being correct. Triumphantly, I returned to the kitchen, carrying it before me like a chalice to be carefully cleaned up and returned to its shelf of honor.

I know I have a habit of equating “older” with “better” and I know too, that it’s not always the case, but boy, things like this do tend to cement my faith in the items of the past. My lawn mower was made before my Grandfather was born, some of my favorite hand tools were from before my father was born and now my favorite thermos is older than anyone who lives in my own house. They’re all awesome in their own ways.

I hope that one day my grandkids can say the same of me.

But I doubt it.

*Siiiiiiip* Ahhhh! That’s some good, hot coffee!

Season to Taste…

I have no idea what makes us like the foods we like. To some degree, it must be cultural or at least, environmental. North American kids learn to love and live by the peanut butter sandwich. French kids develop a long lasting relationship with the baguette. Hawaiian kids make a staple out of Spam and British Commonwealth children somehow overcome the reaction to recoil in horror at the sight of Marmite. I have no idea how.

My son, Short Stack is, to understate things, a picky eater. He is, in fact, an epically picky eater. To some degree, I can forgive him that. When I was young, I too have an extensive “no go” list when it came to food. It was mostly what you’d expect a kid to eschew, with a few oddities tossed in. Strawberries, for instance, I could no abide. Yes, I know. It was weird.

At one point in my young adulthood, I decided that it was all just too much and I decided to wipe the slate clean and start over. The impetus for this was two fold. First, was my introduction to international travel. When I was abroad, I ate pretty much what ever there was. I was raised to be polite and didn’t turn down food when offered by a kindly resident of wherever I happened to be at the time. The second reason was a rather obvious… inconsistency in my list of foods that I would not touch. Much of what I deemed, “no thank you” food, was either unpleasant to look at or icky in texture. Something like liver? You must be joking. Not a chance.

But… I had a love of muscles. Not the kind that you flex, but the blue muscles, picked fresh that morning and served in a butter and garlic sauce. That was something simply exquisite and I’d would happily use my elbows to make room at a table that included them in its spread. How could I bring my self to eat something that essentially looks like a buttery human ear and pronounce it delicious and then turn my nose up at anything else?

muscles

So eventually, I changed. I decided to eat everything that I came across and give it a fair shake. My only hard and fast rule was that whatever it was, it needed to be dead. I don’t think that’s asking too much from a meal. As it turns out, I like almost everything.

I have become a proud omnivore.

Short Stack is getting truly maddening to feed, however. What you can get to pass his lips is a very short list of food. He’ll eat breaded, fried chicken. He’ll eat breaded fried fish sticks. He does love most fruits and vegetables, so that’s good and makes us worry less about what’s going through his tiny system but then there are the bizarre foods that make no sense.

He won’t touch macaroni and cheese, and yet with happily scarf down a home made white pizza topped with feta, caramelized onion and, anchovies. EH? There is no chance of getting him to touch noodles in any form and yet if you cube up some extra firm tofu and give him a little saucer of soy sauce, he will scarf the stuff down like it was Turkish delight. “Would you like a bite of shepard’s pie? No? Oh, but you would like to have the bratwurst and spicy mustard.” ARG!

One time when he was still eating baby food, I was having a devil of a time to get him to eat the mashed up sweet potato that Gerber Baby Foods thought he should like. He had taken a few bites but then had clamed up and steadfastly refused to touch any more of the stuff. My wife happed to pass through the kitchen and watched as I valiantly tried to squish some more past his pursed lips. With a look of, “I wonder…” she took the jar of mush from me, opened the cupboard and added a good pinch of… curry powder. As you might guess, the rest of the sweet potato was vacuumed up in no time. I looked on in disbelief.

Now that he’s pushing three years old, there are more and more inconsistencies that have shown up. In the drinks category, there is Moxie. This is a regional soda that is loved only by a select, hard-core bunch of New Englanders. The taste starts off a bit like root beer, but then quickly turns bitter in your mouth. I know it sound awful, and to many folks out there, it is, but to me, it tastes great. Naturally, Short Stack loves it and if he catches me with an open bottle, will plead share it with me. He’ll take a sip, wince, and then take another.

Then, this morning, Action Girl called me at work. She has the day off and was home with the kids. One of the things that the two of us love about being home in the morning is the ritual of coffee drinking. Luckily for our marriage, we both like the same coffee, the same way. Black, no sugar, hot and very, very strong. The brand we buy is roasted locally and is called “Blackout”. It’s the type of brew that completely obscures the bottom of your mug even if it’s just a shallow puddle. When the mug is full, it looks like ancient motor oil. It is BLACK.

The phone message started, “Our son is weird.” What she then related was how he had wondered aloud what she had in her mug. When she told him that it was coffee, he had asked if it was very hot.

“No.” she replied. “It’s gotten quite cool now.” She had almost finished her cup and the half-inch at the bottom was not only cool, but also very, very concentrated.

“Can I have a sip?”

Perhaps it was a bad idea, but his food list is so small, and he so often turns his nose up with out ever trying anything that we never turn him away when he wants something new (booze, excluded naturally). He took a drink and immediately, pronounced it delicious. Oh, crap.

So now, I have an almost three year old who wants his own mug of black coffee. Obviously, we’ll have to figure out a way out of this one, regardless of how awesome the mental picture is of him turning up for daycare with a travel mug of freshly brewed joe. Not only that, but the idea of a preschooler with a belly full of caffeine is not a pretty one, to put it mildly.

“Nap time? What nap time? LETS RUN! AAAAAAAAAAH!”

So, to the list gets a new oddity added to it. I’m preying for the day that he’ll go through the same gastronomic metamorphosis that I did and will decide that most foods are in fact, pretty darned good. Tonight though, I know that he’ll be dining on chicken nuggets and peas, just like five of the last ten nights. Either that or Action Girl might decide to make a pizza, in which case, he’ll be eating with us. I’m hoping for mushrooms, turkey sausage and oil cured, kalamata olives.

Short Stuff should love that.

Valhalla in Salzburg, part III

Now, as I have stated before, I was, repeat WAS a picky eater and though I had a very long “I no eat” list, I was also raised to be polite. I would never have turned away an offer so generously given. Especially since I had already started ingesting it. Besides, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to kill me. After all, the plumber was still alive. I was also, at this point, ¾ in the bag. Something that happens quite infrequently and it no doubt helped with my “Eh. What the hell” attitude.

I took another bite from the pile on my napkin.

*Chew, chew, chew.*

Mountain Man, knowing the normal depth of my pickiness, looked at me quizzically.
“What does it taste like?” he filially added. I pondered this between bites and finally replied, “It’s kind of like… well… It tastes like… boiled, shaved cow’s cheek I guess. Want some?”

With out a moment to consider, he reached over and took a few slices off the stack. I have no doubt in my mind that my friend would eat a live trout if presented to him. The guy is like a garbage disposal. For him, this was nothing. Someone had even killed it first and cut into bite sized pieces.

When my napkin was empty and we could see the bottom of our steins, we decided that rather than going up for a fourth pint, it might be a good idea to get some fresh air. Sloppy “Danke Schone”s were given to our plumber and we staggered off on our merry way. First to the facilities and then out to hopefully walk some of this off.

“Beer as sustenance” had some flaws. The first is the rapid deterioration of the fine motor skills. The second is that once you have made your first stop at the loo, you seem to have to go again and again every few minutes. Aren’t kidneys and livers amazing things? All I can recall for certain about the bathroom was just how amazingly full of white tile it was.

Another problem with “beer as food” is that it shuts down the majority of your higher brain functions and instead gives control over to what apparently is a five year old who lives in your head; lying dormant until the opportunity arises. Both Mountain Man and I were wowed by what was, in all honesty, 4×4 plain white tile. Then we were wowed by a stone wall, then were were wowed by streetlights. What was in that beer?

As we wobbled out in to the night, one of us had a brilliant idea. We should call home to the States! We found a phone boot standing out by its self in the center of a little garden. I was first into the booth and managed to get my pre-paid phone card into the slot.

I don’t recall the actual phone conversation I had with my folks back in New Hampshire. It was probably along the lines of “DIS ISH GREAT! WERE HASHING SCHO MUCH FON!” Though the dialogue of the call is forgotten to time, I have been assured by my parents that I seemed to be having a good time, and that the beer breath was palpable through the telephone connection. Though they didn’t approve of drinking to excess, they have both told me that they were cracking up for a good half hour after that call home.

Mountain Man was next and I remember him taking a nonchalant pose in the booth and talking. And talking. AND TALKING. Good Lord! I started to wonder if we had phoned the UN with some new ideas about a solution the Arab-Israeli problem or something. Then, the Hefeweizen started to call again…

I looked around for some place to deal with the issue but there was nothing. The only thing big enough near to hide behind was the phone booth. Even the shrubs in the garden were about knee high.

A quick aside here about my luck. I know my luck well enough to realize that the second I start to do something naughty, a policeman or nun or a Grandparent will come by and see me doing it. I don’t know if it’s karma or what, but that’s the way my luck runs and to say that it makes me a cautious person is an understatement at times. If this were not the case, I might have been “watering” the azaleas at this point, but I know my luck better than that.

As I started to get more and more urgent messages from my bladder, I watched Mountain Man for any sign of getting off the dang phone. None was forthcoming. After a few more minutes of waiting I finally pulled a wrapper out of my pocket, wrote a note on it and pressed it to the glass of the booth for him to read…

I don’t know who “some of us” were, but I can only assume I was referring to the royal “we”. Or possibly, a royal “Wee”.

After the badly needed “Pinkle Pauser”, my friend informed me of an English language movie house. near by. Without hesitation, we were off! By this point, memory starts to fail me. I can recall sitting in the almost empty theater and that the movie was “Wallace and Grommit in A Close Shave” which alone, is a great little movie and quite funny. After a trip to a beer hall and three liters, it’s difficult to stay in your seat because you’re laughing so hard. Again, it’s the five year old taking control.

I don’t remember anything after the movie. Not getting back to the hostel, not the kids staying there, not the stinky bunk room or even how I managed to get into an upper bunk that was mercifully vacant.

Epilogue.

The next morning was a little… tender. We both were moving slowly and painfully, though to our immense pleasure we found lots and lots of very hot, very black coffee in the cafeteria. The hostel was a pit to be sure, but Mountain Man did come through on one point about it. The breakfast was amazing. You ordered it by country preference.

English= toast, yoghurt, weetabix and baked tomato
German/Austrian= cold meat, bread, butter, fruit
Australian= kangaroo and muesli… or something
American=2 eggs, scrambled, toast, homefries, sausage and bottomless black coffee

It was like heaven. We ate slowly and drank enough coffee to power three city blocks. Most of the day was spent café surfing and admiring the passers by. It was a wonderful way to observe a beautiful place like Salzburg. We ate out at a restraint that night. The beer was great, if no tin smaller quantities and the food wasn’t boiled, though it might have come from a cow.

Our train left early the next morning and I slept quite deeply, my last night at Delta House, Salzburg. While Mountain Man had been getting breakfast that painful next morning, I had slipped out to the front desk… and reserved the private double on the top floor. The experience of bunkhouse had loosed me up a good bit, but I still had standards.

Ode to a Coffee Monkey,

Every morning, providing we are at home, a monkey makes the coffee for us. He’s a real good guy and though I don’t normally associate with primates, he’s always there and always dependable.

Curious, George?

Well, to be honest, he’s not a REAL monkey. Not the leaping about, screeching at passers by and flinging double handfuls of poo, kind anyway. If he were, he would be far less welcome in the kitchen. And I’d seriously consider taking the knives off the magnet bar and hiding them.

No, this monkey is only a finger puppet. Actually, it’s only a monkey head, which sounds far more grotesque than it actually looks. He’s a little brown, smiley monkey who we picked up somewhere along the line some years ago. It must have been an impulse buy in some long forgotten kitsch shop in the dusty past. Otherwise, I can’t for the life of me figure out why we would have gotten it. It predates both of our kids and since neither I nor Action Girl are the finger puppet type, I can offer no better explanation.

So, what does one do with a disembodied, monkey head, puppet? Hmmm. Well, at some point I made the discovery that he fits PERFECTLY over the knob on the percolator. Our percolator is not one of those wonderful old ones with the glass “crystal” at the top. You remember the one form the Maxwell house ad, all those years ago?


“Blip-el-blip-el Blip Blip!” Yah, we don’t have one of those. Ours sports a black plastic knob rather than that great coffee viewing dome. Booooooring. However, our monkey sits on the knob and greets us every morning as I pour my badly needed morning coffee. We now simply refer to the percolator as “the monkey”.

To the out side world, it sounds like this…

“Did you clean the monkey?” or…
“Is the monkey ready for tomorrow?” or…
“Did you remember to unplug the monkey?” or a personal favorite…
“I think the monkey’s empty.”

THAT brings up the image of fist-fulls of poo!

So, that’s our Coffee Monkey. We love him and would never consider not replacing him on his perch once the perc has been washed and reloaded. My feelings are, if a fat man in a red and white suit can bring me presents and a rabbit can bring me chocolate, then I see no problem with a monkey making my coffee every morning.

*sip* Ahhhh. That’s some good monkey juice.

Yoga and 8mm ammo.

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With only a very few days before the birth of our daughter, I’ve been trying to get things done that will be difficult, if not out right impossible, once she arrives. This will be the case for a month or so, anyway. I’ve been setting things up. I’ve been fixing this and that. I’ve been visiting clients who are some distance away; that sort of thing. The one thing I haven’t had much luck with is doing something for me. The closest I’ve gotten to “Daddy time” is sitting in my car at a scenic overlook and eating lunch off my dashboard. I don’t mind that at all and it beats the heck out of sitting at my desk, but it hardly elicits a “WOO-HOO!”. Every time I’ve said that I was going to leave work early and go do something fun, I inevitably wind up running behind on my “to do” list and more important things take over what was supposed to be my fun time.

Yesterday morning I finally did it. I just had to make a sneak attack on the day. I filled up my coffee mug, visited our local hand made doughnut shop and drove to the range. I had coffee, doughnut, my matching 1915 Oberndorf, Gewehr 98 and about 120 rounds of ammunition. In an effort to keep the local inhabitants from attacking with pitchforks, or at least going to the city to complain, there’s no shooting allowed before 8 AM , and since I was there at about a quarter ’till, it gave me a lovely chance to get all set up and enjoy my beverage and breakfast.

Our range is very well run and extensive. There are large areas for pistol, trap, skeet and, my favorite… rifle. Personally, I find pistols to be not worth it. They are very expensive to buy, easily stolen and not very accurate over any appreciable distance. For the most part, I’m a target shooter so any firearm that requires you to be close to the target, just doesn’t light my fire. And to be perfectly honest… firing a pistol just lacks something for me. The “Crack, crack, crack” of the report and this little piece of metal jumping around in your hands just doesn’t do it for me. Skeet and trap shooting is fun and I like to do it from time to time but you need other folks participate with you. We all know how easily plans with friends can fall apart at the last minute, so I don’t put a lot of energy into trap. High powered rifles though… Oh, they are fun.

The rifle I brought this morning is one of my favorites. It’s in great condition, which is a minor miracle in its self. It was likely picked up on the battle field of France sometime in 1915-18 but probably, 1918. Chances are that an American doughboy came across it during or after a battle in the Great War and later, brought home. It might have sat in a closet for decades or perhaps under the bed, wrapped in old sheets. I’ll never know for sure, but it’s mine now and I love it. It’s long and heavy and much of the gun blue has worn off.

The bore is still very nice and it functions just as well as when it rolled out of the factory in Oberndorf nearly 100 years ago. I have to sight low on the targets that I put up. The rear sight has a minimum distance setting of 200 meters. The maximum is 2000. That’s almost 1.25 miles. After about an hour, I’m out of ammo and my shoulder is a touch tender. It was such a wonderfully warm morning that I decided to clean up the rifle right there. By the time I left, I was still the only one there. I had the place all to my self and thoroughly enjoyed it.

If someone asks me why I like to shoot, I tell them, “It’s like yoga”. I usually get a smirk or an out right laugh for that, but it’s true. I love yoga but I simply don’t have the time. Shooting fills that need for me. Think about it. Controlled breathing, concentration to the point of pushing all else out of your mind, stance, staying loose and pushing your self. It’s all there. Plus, it goes “BOOM!”. I have to admit, I like the “boom”.

Oh well, back to the work-a-day grind. I’ll try to get away a few weeks after Lulu Belle is born and get a little more “Dad Time” in. Wish me luck.

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