Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where oh, where...

I didn’t grow up a dog person. We had gerbils. We had a fish tank. A fish tank with snails and fish until the snail to fish ratio got so out of hand looking into the tank was not possible due to the number of snails sliming their way across the glass. They might move slowly, but they multiply faster than a Hewlett Packard 9100B.
My wife grew up a dog person. I cannot remember all the names and breeds her family had, but she can. She had a dog when we got married. Her dog didn’t like me moving into his house.
His favorite way of punishing me was to ask to go out right when I was going to bed. He particularly liked it with wind chills hovering around Tenzing Norgay levels. He was a Shih Tzu so his ancestors were from the Himalayas. This meant he was better prepared for the cold than I. It also meant he was around ten pounds so he couldn’t take me in a fair fight. He had to rely on trickery. He would get me outside then stand stock still with his muzzle pointing directly into the frigid wind. Occasionally, he would peek at me to enjoy seeing the grown man shivering in flannel pants and slippers. If I hurried him and came in from the cold sooner than he wanted to I would be rewarded with a very warm spot on my carpet.
At the moment the senior dog in the house was a pet sitting episode gone horribly wrong. When we lived in Cimarron the kids ran a pet sitting service. We would take other people’s dogs into our house and all too frequently onto my bed. Anyway, a lady asked us to watch her dog while she was out of town. That was eight years ago. The lady was not placed in the federal witness protection plan, nor did she choose the same career path as Shelley Long. She is fine and living in Cimarron. By my calculations her pet sitting bill is now $16,790 (including the 15% gratuity); leap year days are on me.
The junior dog in the house caused quite a stir recently. Alice, the middle of our three kids, has always wanted a pug or something similar. My wife told this to a friend who works with the local humane society. That is what brought Rosie into our lives about a month ago.
On the 4th of July we had friends over for dinner and didn’t want the dogs under foot while we ate. Both dogs were placed in the backyard. The backyard which Dad (a.k.a. Me) had not properly fixed to hold a small dog. So, we now have a small dog and a fence with imperfections large enough for a small dog to fit through if properly motivated. Then came the perfect motivation: fireworks.
Once we discovered her escape we all scattered in impromptu search parties. Finding a small lost dog is hard enough, but on this night it was impossible. All the explosions made it sound like Bruce Willis was filming a re-make of a Sam Peckinpah movie directed by Quentin Tarantino in Chilton Park.
The next day we marshaled the troops. Flyers were made. Phone calls were made. We visited the Animal Shelter. We wandered the streets. I went to the radio station and asked the Steves (Brown and Deno) and Keith to announce the A.P.P.B. (all points puppy bulletin). We talked to the Humane Society people. Alice called her sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Teran, and had her translate our flyer so we could have it in Spanish. The Globe will place lost dog ads for free. Everyone was great.
I don’t write suspense thrillers so I will let you know we now have the dog back. After a week of being missing Rosie and Alice are reunited and there was great rejoicing. A nice person found Rosie on the evening of July 4th and took good care of her. She eventually saw a flyer and brought her to our house.
So many people were so helpful I cannot thank them enough. Not only people I count as friends, but people who were simply empathetic to a girl and her lost pet. Shona, Barb, and Jane from the Humane Society, the radio guys, Mrs. Teran, my wife’s walking buddies (Janie and Susan), strangers we talked to as we looked, friends who walked with us to look, kind-hearted mail carriers, and even the guy on the bicycle who took the flyer offered to him as he whizzed past my wife shouting back that he would keep an eye out.

Potter, Potter everywhere, nor any drop to drink

It happened quite by accident. A friend of my wife’s recommended a book to read aloud to our girls (Emilyjane was five and Alice was three, this pre-dated our third child, George). Little did we know the impact it would have on us, much less the world. Of course, I am referring to “The Sickness Unto Death” by Soren Kierkegaard. Our 3 year old had a very interesting take on the philosopher’s assertion that people often seek to disprove the existence of a supreme being because of their own shortcomings in avoiding sin. Naaaah, only kidding. The book I’m talking about was actually “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. The book which started it all for so many people sucked my family in completely (even George as soon as he crossed from the blob-like existence of an infant into a more sentient creature).
Today marks the one-week-left point before the final book hits the shelves. My family will be at the local bookseller for the midnight release to get our copies, yes, plural. In order to avoid dissention in the ranks three children and one wife will get his or her own copy. If I had to make book (so to speak) I’d give 3 to 1 odds the oldest daughter will finish the 784 pages first. Foregoing sleep and sustenance from the moment she gets hold of it, she will read until the end. I, on the other hand, will definitely be the last one finished. I like sleep and sustenance way too much. This is why I don’t rate a copy of my own. I take too long.
I take too long, partially because, unlike the children, I have a job. Being the slowest also means I will require something of the family which is hard for them to do, silence. “Don’t tell me anything that happens! If you do I may have to drop the book, which is roughly the size of a microwave oven, on your toes…twice.” A few days after the book is released, if someone peeks into the window as my family eats dinner, it is likely they will see four people eating and having an animated conversation. The fifth person (me) will be staring longingly at his spaghetti, sitting with each index finger planted deeply into each ear whilst humming “Stars and Stripes Forever” with great enthusiasm. Who needs the South Beach Diet? I have the I-Don’t-Want-To-Find-Out-If-Snape-Is-A-Good-Guy-Or-A-Bad-Guy-Until-I-Read-It-Myself Diet.
Truth be told, I haven’t read the last three books in the series. I listened to them. I love being read to. My mother did for the majority of my youth and I always placed myself in the proper spot so I could hear her read to my little sister when I was officially to cool to have my mother read to me at bedtime.
The Potter series is available in audio formats read by Jim Dale. Jim Dale is not a well-known actor. After you star in “Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World” it is hard to find just the right movie to follow up. He does a fantastic job. He is even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of distinct characters voiced in an audio book – 134 in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” The former record holder was Rich Little reading “Pilgrim’s Progress” using the voices of every guest invited to the 1977 after Oscars party thrown by Swifty Lazar.
Mr. Dale also accomplished something a great number of fathers could not do. He kept three children still and quiet as our minivan traveled the width of two full states. I would much rather hear, “Can you turn it up a little?” as opposed to “Daaaaddd, Alice wiped her hands on me and I’m covered with cheese doodle dust!”
Something as big as the Potter phenomenon means everyone wants a piece of the action. A big chain of video stores advertised the book. Video stores are the haven of people who avoid reading. Students rent “Of Mice and Men” in order to write their book report, but show their ignorance when they keep referring to Lenny and his best friend Squiggy. Grocery stores have cardboard cut-outs of the boy wizard counting down the days to release. Pick up some milk, a loaf of bread and a pound and a half of Harry. Actually, the book may weigh more than that. This is why I feel sorry for the car hops at Sonic because with the purchase of every Potter book you receive a free side of french fries (or potato wands).

Christopher Pyle predicts Harry will survive the final book but will discover that Darth Vader is his father. If you wish to argue this point Christopher can be contacted at occasionallykeen@yahoo.com. The headline proves he occasionally listened in Mr. Knauer’s class.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Okay, it has been over a week and I haven’t seen one red cent increase in my bank account. The good people of this fair city voted for a casino. There was supposed to be this wonderful windfall of cash. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little peeved because I don’t have any money coming my way. I bet some multi-national corporation is in cahoots with the government to funnel all the money into an off-shore account to fund secret research in an attempt to develop an automobile which runs on grass clippings in order to hide it from the consumers thus lining the pockets of Exxon and Lee Iacocca.
What’s that? They haven’t even started building the casino yet?
I have been handed an article from a previous issue of the Daily Globe. Talk amongst yourselves while I catch myself up on the facts…
It seems it may be a while before anyone starts building the Las Vegas of the plains. According to the article by Mark Vierthaler (who seems to be very bright young man – probably due to the fact he had a certain newspaper columnist as his sixth grade teacher) there is an ongoing legal action which could make it a year before the Lottery people can even go ahead and make plans to build casinos. So, if we are waiting for the swift machinations of the court system and government bureaucracy, there may be casinos on Mars before there is one in Dodge City, America.
Even though it could be a year or two before the one armed bandits start eating dollars, I bet there are a lot of folks who think we got trouble right here in Its-Been-Like-Thirty-Years-Since-We-Had-Water-In-Our-River City and that starts with T and that rhymes with C and that stands for Casino. (I offer my sincerest apologies to Meredith Wilson.) Before people start calling evangelists, exorcists, and Buford Pusser to save us let’s look more closely at what a casino is.
My trusty paperback dictionary says a casino is a barrel, especially one containing alcohol. What? Sorry, I skipped a line, that’s a cask. A casino is a gambling establishment. That is seems pretty straight forward. Actually, the confusing part is the fact people keep calling it a “destination” casino. Isn’t anyplace you go your destination? But, you don’t hear McDonald’s calling itself a destination drive-thru. At the end of most days I head for my destination La-Z-Boy.
I don’t need to dissect the words. When I want to know about something I look to Hollywood. The way things are shown in the movies must be how it will be in real life. There are three different movies I know with casinos. “Ocean’s Eleven,” not the George Clooney one, I’m talking the real cool cat one with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. That was fun. Good looking guys and beautiful women laughing and having a great time. Nothing wrong with that, except our heroes are all thieves and Dean only had one song. The second one is “Dr. No” with Sean Connery. I think I’d look pretty good in a white dinner jacket playing baccarat impressing women and men alike with my savoire faire. Then there’s “Casino” with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. Joe Pesci, oh, my goodness, if Joe Pesci will be in the casino I am not going. He is the most annoying thing to appear on screen since Pia Zadora starred in “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” If our casino follws this movie there will be more planted in the fields of southwest Kansas than wheat, if you get my meaning.
I’ve been to Las Vegas. It was years ago. I saw Sinatra perform. (Unfortunatley, it was Frank Sinatra Jr. and he had the talent and charisma of my ninth grade civics teacher.) I stayed at a hotel which was later blown up in order to make room for new hotels and casinos built to resemble famous landmarks from around the world.
Maybe Dodge should do that. Vegas already has a pyramid and the Eiffel Tower. We could build the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Nope, people already think gambling is crooked. Let’s try the Great Wall of China. It would look historic and keep the Oklahomans from attacking. That’s not flashy enough to attract tourists. We need something more American. I’ve got it. Create a casino built to look like Mount Rushmore. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in a building you entered by walking through Teddy Roosevelt’s mouth?
The initiative on the ballot passed handily. But I have two words for the supporters of the casino in Dodge. These two words often accompany the lifestyle surrounding a house of gambling. They are two words which should strike fear into the heart of every right thinking person in this town. What are those two words? I hope you are sitting down…Elvis impersonators.