Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Two Tales of Christmas

It is the week before Christmas and all through the house every darned thing is stirring and I wish they would calm down so I could get some sleep.   (I don’t think the poem would have become such a big part of the holiday season if it had started that way.) Even though at the writing of these words it is over 60 degrees outside it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  I take that back.  It has been beginning to look a lot like Christmas since October 15th if you count going into major chain retail establishments.  But I digress.  Christmas is nearly here and at my house much of the decorations are in place, many presents are under the tree and the bank accounts are properly depleted so let the holidays commence. 

This really is a Christmas story so stick with me to the very end.  You know how people tell the story of how Bruce Lee was such an amazing martial artist he had the ability to reach up into a person’s chest, pluck the heart from the thoracic cavity and show it to the person before their inevitable death.  (See I told you you’d have to wait until the end.)  Well, it is not just Bruce Lee who can do that.  I once had an eight-year-old do that to me. 

I was playing the part of Santa Claus.  If there any believers reading this column I was simply standing in for the jolly old elf due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict with the Macy’s in New York City.  You don’t mess with Macy’s.  There was a sizable line of hopeful children lined up to sit on my lap and make their demands, uh, requests.  After the usual number of requests for video games, electronic devices and the occasional throwback requests like dolls and BB guns, a particularly adorable girl approached me.  She perched on my knee and looked at me with brown eyes which may have been partially to blame for global warming.  She did not ask for a doll, a video game or straight cash.  She said her aunt was very sick and wondered if I could make her better.
Now, everyone who knows me knows I have no problem talking.  At this time I lost the power of speech.  I looked at her.  I then looked directly at my feet, the clock on the wall, the particularly ugly Christmas sweater worn by grandma number seven taking a few hundred pictures of the oblivious toddler in front of her and the stain on the carpet next to the exit because it is not a good idea to show dozens of small bright-eyed children that Santa can cry like a chronically depressed person watching Tommy Kirk shoot Old Yeller.
I don’t exactly remember what I said to her.  I think I tried to explain that Santa and his elves can’t handle that kind of thing.  I gave her a hug, more for my benefit than hers, and told her I would try whatever I could to help.  Then she walked away, a tiny Bruce Lee, holding my still beating heart in her adorable little hand. 
See, I told you it was a Christmas story.

As I said in my last column, I love Christmas.  Christmas has a lot of different meanings and messages.

Since I really see my role in this newspaper endeavor as more public goofball than teller of heartfelt stories, I need to end on a different note than my real life story of what is most important at Christmas. 

Every year thousands of people, if not millions, watch the 1964 animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, an endearing tale of a group of misfits finding their places in the world.  At least that is what we have been brainwashed to believe for years.  Take a minute to look more closely.  Rudolph is mocked, shunned and eventually driven to self-exile from home and family because of a simple abnormality, not because of anything he purposefully perpetrated on his Rangifer (the genus for reindeer – I looked it up) brethren.  It is only when the leader of the elfin sweatshop realizes Rudolph’s abnormality can be exploited for his own personal gain that our hero is accepted.  Isn’t that a perfect message for this season of peace on earth and goodwill towards men.  (Just not for Rangifer tarandus, the binomial name of reindeer.  Like I said, I looked it up.)

Christopher Pyle wishes all of you a wonderful Christmas season no matter your religion or your interpretation of Rudolph but he might mock you if you open presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning.  He can be mocked back at

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Powers, Both Super and Not

The following was a sign in front of chain store:  “Now Hiring Managemen”.  Now, I know full well the Kansas wind simply removed the final “T” from the last word but it made me laugh.  All I could think of was it was a whole new cadre of superheroes.   First there was The Justice League of America, The X-Men and The Avengers now the world is being protected by The Managemen.  

Their leader is Manager Man.  His powers include making at least one third of his staff unhappy no matter what decision he makes, the ability to be uncannily out when the most important things happen, and he can throw words like paradigm, proactive and brainstorm with such deadly vagueness his enemies are so confused he can, not so much stop, nefarious deeds as make the people looking to perpetrate them so crushed under protocols and bureaucracy they simply lose the will to perpetrate. 

Another member of this group of patriotic warriors is Middle Manager.  This may be the hardest working member of the team but he seems to be always behind.  The newest crime wave is thrown his way but just before it is taken care of the upper management team swoops in, finishes the task with only a tiny bit of genuine effort and takes credit for the whole thing while poor Middle Manager is given a whole new set of criminals to deal with. 

There is also Micro Manager.  This hero is able to infiltrate the criminal netherworld and get his hands into their different endeavors.  His chief power is to nitpick and annoy to the point everyone involved with the evil plot just becomes so annoyed they simply walk away. 

Finally we have Office Manager.  She is incredibly talented and gets the most accomplished in the least amount of time.  She multi-tasks with an efficiency truly terrifying to the lazy and incompetent evil doers of the world.  Her greatest nemesis is Glass Ceiling.  

I really think I am on to something.  Does anyone have Joss Whedon’s phone number?

The biggest money maker movies these days are all the gigantic scale superhero movies.  I admit I am one of the mindless movie-goers willing to plunk down my eight bucks to see good looking people in ludicrous costumes save the world from the less good looking people in less ludicrous costumes and their labyrinthine plots to take over the world. Some of these labyrinthine plots to take over the world are so convoluted the guys who actually wrote the script get lost about thirty minutes in. 

The biggest reason I go to these movies is I was a comic book kid.  I loved comic books.  Every time I walked to the convenience store or went to the grocery store with my mother I would get a comic book.  Now before the younger generation reading this column starts thinking I was some sort of Richie Rich (non-superhero comic book reference) comics didn’t cost four bucks a crack.  The very first comic books I bought were twelve cents apiece.  No, they were not painted on the walls of caves.  Those would have been a bear to store under my bunk bed.   (Also, when I bought bubble gum baseball cards there was actual bubble gum in the package.  The bubble gum and the cards tasted about the same but the bubble gum would not make the cool sound in your bicycle spokes.)

I still think comic books helped me develop the vocabulary I have to this day.  Think about it.  Would someone who only read the readers in school use the words I like to use?  The school books didn’t say things like:

This is Dick.  Dick has a ludicrous costume.
See Jane.  See Jane run.  See Jane run with her cadre of mutant companions. 
See Puff.  Puff plays with Spot.  Puff has a labyrinthine plot to kill Spot. 

I would have preferred books like that in school, especially one with Puff being an evil doer planning canicide.  (Yes, that is the real word for killing a dog.)

I think we all would like to be a superhero or at least have a super power. 

My choice would probably be the power of flight.  Let me add an extra requirement to that power.  I want to be able to fly really fast.  I would love to be able to travel around the country and still make it back to work on Monday.  See my kids at college each evening.  Fly to New York for a show.  Heck, even making a quick trip to Toledo would be great if I could fly there. 

Christopher Pyle considers his true super power to be confusing people with his words.  He can be contacted at  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Brushes with Greatness

It seems to be a common component of the human condition to be impressed by people because they are famous, even people who are famous for being as useful as Lindsey Lohan at a…at a…Lindsay Lohan pretty much anywhere.  I freely admit I am right there with all those other humans. 

The other night I was watching television.  That’s a lie.  I was watching a television show on my computer via (he says hoping the people at hulu will see I mentioned them and be grateful enough to send me a check for the unsolicited solicitation on their behalf – I am willing to lend my column out for flagrant begging).  The show had a scene which took place in a hat store.  I almost fell out of my chair when I recognized the store as the place I had visited in New York City.  The very place I went with my daughter and spent an unconscionable amount of money on two fancy hats was on TV.  I was so excited I had to tell people that one place on that one television show is a place I once stood.  How cool is that? 

Actually, not that cool at all.  It is a store in one of the most densely populated cities in the United States.  It is a store in one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country.  It is less than a block from the Empire State Building.  There have been thousands of people in that store.  I am far from special.  But I still texted people in a sad attempt to be associated with famous.  (By the way, the name of the store is J. J. Hat Center.  I am saying that in hopes they will send me a new Borsalino fedora – size seven and half – in gratitude for the plug.  See previous parenthetical for my explanation for having no shame.)

I once lived in one the epicenters of famous people, Los Angeles, California.  Really there were movie stars just walking around like they actually were people who had to eat and buy stuff and mundane things  like that.  Weird, huh? 

I worked at a bookstore and Jonathan Banks (a talented character actor in tons of things from 48 Hrs. to Breaking Bad) asked if there were any Ansel Adams calendars.  I hopped to it and went to the backroom to find what he wanted.  He was very nice and thanked me.  I responded that is it was the least I could do considering that very morning I had watched John Lithgow choke him death.  I had been watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and he had indeed been killed by Lithgow.  This started a conversation with him about how he doesn’t live through a lot of his movies.  He asked if I had seen Beverly Hills Cop and the guy behind him in line reminded him that Eddie Murphy had shot him in that one.  (Oh, yeah.)

There were two pinnacles of brushes with greatness at my bookstore job.  George Carlin came in looking for some sort of philosophy book.  I held myself together and took him to the proper place in the store and we looked.  We didn’t have it.  I said we really are just a top forty bookstore and he laughed.  George Carlin laughed at ME.  One of the first people to ever make me fall of the couch laughing released a small giggle at something I said.  I am never washing these ears again. 

The other one was Dick Van Dyke.  He stepped up to the cash register and I lost the power of speech and movement for a second.  Rob Petrie was who I wanted to be when I grew up.  Dick Van Dyke was a comedy god to me.  At first all I could muster was “That’ll be seven dollars and forty-eight cents.”  Then as he turned to go I blurted out.  “I am a huge fan of your work.”  He turned and gave me a big genuine smile saying “That is always so nice to hear.”  I think I fainted. 

I was in the store as a customer to get a friend a birthday card.  John Larroquette was there.  I approached him and asked if he would sign the card I had purchased for my friend.  He asked if I thought my friend would believe he had actually signed it.  I was too polite to say if I was going to make up someone to sign the card it would be someone more famous than him.  He refused the mere Bic I offered him and signed it with a fountain pen from his breast pocket. 

Destiny? Not so much...

People will point to major events in their lives as the turning points where destiny was fulfilled.  I think it is more often insignificant things which actually put people into the places they end up.  I love to tell this story which illustrates my point.

My father was the City Manager of McCook, Nebraska.  He had applied for the same position in Hutchinson.  McCook was celebrating some sort of centennial so most the men in town had grown beards or mustaches to look like pioneer guys.  This only worked so well as they still wore slacks and button down shirts with ties, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.  Dad had grown a mustache to be with the in crowd in McCook.

He goes down to Hutchinson a day early for his interview.  He drives around town to get the lay of the land and checks into a hotel for the night.  That evening he looks in the mirror and decides to shave off the mustache, a small decision for which even he didn’t have a real explanation for why he did it.

Flash forward several days.  My father is hired to be the City Manager of Hutchinson.  The vote to hire him was 4 to 3 by the City Commission so he was barely hired (the vote might have been 3 to 2, Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for this so I have exhausted my research capabilities).  Flash forward several more days.  There is a reception to welcome Dad to town.  One of those stand around with glasses of punch and balancing little smokies in one hand while shaking hands with people you know full well you will not remember their names even ten minutes from now because you have been unenthusiastically introduced to roughly seven thousand people in the last three hours, kind of receptions.  During this reception he mentions to one of the commissioners that he had a mustache the day before the interview but had shaved it off that night.  The commissioner tells him she would not have voted for him if he had still had the mustache at the interview.  (It was 1966, and only hippies and Dan Rowan had mustaches back the.) 

Think about it.  If my father hadn’t shaved I would not have moved to Hutchinson at a young age.  I would not have met the friends who shaped big parts of my personality.  It is because of those friends that I decided to pursue a career in the movie industry.  That is the reason I majored in film studies at KU.  That is the reason I dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles.  That is the reason I hated living in LA and moved back to Kansas.  That is the reason I returned to KU.  That is the reason I ended up with a film degree from KU.  That is the reason I worked at a bookstore in Kansas City.  That is the reason I did an open mic night at a comedy club.  That is the reason I abandoned the dream of being a comedian.  That is the reason I had to go back to college years later to get a degree which led to an actual job.  That is the reason I became a teacher.  That is the reason I pursued writing as a hobby.  That is the reason I started writing a newspaper humor column which paid roughly thirty dollars a month.  That is the reason I became a principal.  That is the reason I made enough money to send my kids to college, well, not enough money, enough to go into mind numbing debt in order to send three children to college because mind numbing is required when you sign that master promissory note.   That is the reason I still kind of hope I will be discovered and whisked away to be a comedy writer.  That is the reason I wistfully ponder being whisked.  That is the reason I am writing this particular column.  That is the reason you are reading this column right now.  So if you hate this column address your angry letter to the Gillette Corporation who made it possible for my father to shave off his mustache.  Darn those activist razor companies.

Please remember this cautionary tale when you are thinking about doing something as monumental as facial hair removal.  It may mean your child will never become the next Johnny Carson like he always dreamed of being.  That is the reason we became stuck with Jay Leno.  That is the reason for the whole Conan O’Brien debacle.  Sorry…I won’t do that to you again.

No Skills No Problem

Okay, before we start our regularly scheduled column I have to share something.

Let me set the stage.  As many of you know I live in Dodge City and out here in Dodge City we understand wind.  Chicago, Illinois claims to be the “Windy City” but that is as full of beans as the large number of mayors and governors that city and state has seen indicted.  Dodge City knows wind.  So on this past Monday when the wind was blowing a consistent thirty miles an hour and gusting to forty-five we took it in stride.  Even though most of the topsoil from Grant County had taken up residence in my hair and between my teeth I just went about my day.  Sure some of the kindergarten kids at my school had to pulled back down to earth as I guided them to the bus and sure I had used a stapler to ensure my hat stayed on my head and I grant you the birds were white knuckling it on the tree branches due to a fear of flying I soldiered onward.  Even with all that being said I saw something which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that we hardy denizens of western Kansas scoff at wind.

I was driving away from my house at about 6:30 in the evening and the wind was doing its darnedest to not only separate hats from heads but was going for the naturally sprouted hair as well.  I go past a place of business with a large lawn and the professional lawn guys were cutting and trimming their little hearts out.  One of the minions of a well manicured lawn was dutifully wielding a common tool of his trade as he moved down the sidewalk.  He was using a leaf blower.  Holy unnecessary Batman. 

Now back to our regularly scheduled column…

It is a poor musician who blames his instrument.

I am a very poor musician and I have no desire to blame the instrument.  Even with a Stradivarius in my hands if I played the violin it would sound like a schizophrenic cat arguing with itself about who used up all the catnip. 

Different tools get very different results in the hands of different people.  Don’t get me wrong I have some skills in the handy man department.  I can use a screwdriver, but there have been times I used the handle of the screwdriver as a hammer because I couldn’t find the hammer.  Hey, it worked and truthfully, I hit my thumb less frequently when I do it that way. 

Whenever I have had “do it yourself” projects they weren’t totally done by myself.  I have to rely on the kindness of friends.  Sometimes I just need to borrow the proper tools.  Sometimes I need others to act as consultants as I use the tools.  Other times I need to borrow the person to wield the tools.  I always return them, the people at least. 

Truthfully, this lack of any useful skill set makes my life easier in many ways.  Think about it.  If you can fix plumbing issues friends will call you evenings and weekends to help them out because a plumber would cost roughly the Gross National Product of Finland.  If you have computer skills people call you when they have a virus, their e-mail won’t open or their uploads and downloads are pinging over 100 milliseconds. (I don’t exactly know what that last thing means, I Googled “common computer problems” in order to finish the joke.) Even just owning a truck means people call you when they have to move big stuff.  I am left alone because I have no discernible skills and my four door sedan barely holds my family.
I am probably being too hard on myself.  I do have some skills.  I have been a school administrator for about nine years so I can threaten to take away recess really well.  I can help a kindergarten kid find his or her lunch card in under 2 seconds.  I can be totally invisible to children as I try to slow them down when they are running for the bus as if Usain Bolt riding a cheetah was chasing them. 

I have some other skills. I can play the Jeopardy “thinking about what to write on your screen for the Final Jeopardy question” music on the ukulele (just don’t ask me to answer it for you the one time I had a crack at that I messed up).  Also, I have pretty much mastered juggling the three ball cascade pattern.

Now don’t everybody call out at once for my services.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Here's your money...wait...what?

You know how you shouldn't go to the grocery store when you’re hungry.  You’ll find yourself unloading the bags at home asking why on earth you bought three packages of Fig Newtons and seven varieties of Doritos but no toilet paper or bread. 

Well, I have a similar rule; don’t write your column when you are angry…

I am now going to break that rule.

How many gentle readers out there have a child in college at this very moment?  How many gentle readers out there became less gentle thinking about the process of dealing with colleges?  I like to think I am pretty even keeled but I have spent a lot of time with the demeanor of Bruce Banner’s big green friend the last several days, all due to the world of higher education.

Both of my parents, two of my siblings and I all attended the University of Kansas.  I look back on many parts of my life in Lawrence with positive nostalgia.  I am a huge Jayhawk basketball fan.  So, it was natural for my children to approach the university with favorable thoughts.  Now, my two daughters are going there this semester.  Not only are my daughters going there but large chunks of my once and future earnings will be going there as well.  It is ungodly expensive but that is not why I am angry.  I knew that part of the deal long before either child was even out of kindergarten.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong.  If you pay me I work for you but if I pay you then… You.  Work.  For.  Me.  This is the crux of my Hulk smash attitude.

The University of Kansas may have a whole bunch of eggheads working for them.  People with advanced degrees in all sorts of intellectual pursuits but they seem not to have learned that basic equation of customer and service. 

My children are often treated like employees.  Not just any employee but the kind of employee who is on a plan of improvement because he has shown the initiative of a plate of over-cooked noodles and the intellect of the plate upon which the noodles reside.  I understand there are expectations for fulfilling requirements like which classes should be taken and then the tasks within said classes.  I have no problem with that.  That is part of the expected covenant between the parties involved. 

Let me give you examples using other employer/employee relationships to illustrate my point.

Let’s say I am the CEO of a Fortune 500 business (I do not have the temperament for such a job but, hey, this is just for the sake of illustrating a point).  It is 8 o’clock Sunday evening.  I send you an email.  It is expected you will be checking your work email at such a time of the weekend.  The content of that email requires you to write a two page memo about a segment of the business which was never part of your job description.  I pay you so that is acceptable.

Flip to college.  My daughter gets an email from an instructor at 8:00 PM Sunday night telling her she has an assignment, an assignment heretofore never mentioned in any class or syllabus, due the following day.  Wait a minute, I’m paying you to do a service for me.  This ain’t part of the deal. 

If I pay you it is acceptable for me to expect a certain level of myopic focus on your part. 

Let’s say I am paying you to paint my house.  I expect while you are at my house, you paint my house.  Not spend time pursuing your hobby of raising parakeets. 

Flip to college.  My daughter is expected to myopically focus her life on a single aspect of her college experience by her professor.  Forego all the other stuff they pounded into her during orientation that she should get involved with a myriad of activities and groups.  As well as forego the things which feed her soul between working truly hard on the regular expectations from all of her other courses.  Once again, I’m paying you.  This ain’t part of the deal. 

I still have fond of memories of attending KU.  Two of my favorite memories ever are sitting with my father watching KU win the national championship in 1988 and sitting with my daughter watching KU win the national championship in 2008.  I have a hope Bill and Young Mr. Wiggins will give us a championship in 2014.  But I have to say I no longer bleed crimson and blue.  I bleed confused and annoyed. 

Christopher Pyle apologizes for venting his spleen all over your nice clean computer screen.  He can be reached at

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Not All Matriculations are the Same

Another big jump in the lives of the Pyle family of western Kansas is happening soon.  In a bit more than a week Kid #1 will be joined for the first time by Kid #2 attending classes at the University of Kansas.  There are a lot of different things going through my mind as I see them pack all their stuff in preparation for college life.  Since my chief goal with this column is humor I will not describe many of the things going through my head because I am a great big sap and having my girls leave home brings out epic levels of sap.  I’m talking Vermont in syrup season levels of sap.   
Therefore, in order to avoid tear stains on my keyboard, we are going to push Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman to the side, climb into the Wayback Machine and visit young Christopher as he wandered the streets of Lawrence and the hallways of higher learning at KU back in the mists of antiquity known to historians and scholars as “The Early 80’s”.

I was not a highly motivated college student (and for you kids heading off to college that was a big mistake, more on that later).  My older brother actually filled out my college application forms because he was determined to broaden my horizons whether I wanted to enlarge them or not.  He also went with me to Lawrence to enroll in classes and select an apartment.  Then he left and I had to actually do everything else myself, the heartless twerp. 

I lived in what we lovingly referred to as the student slums my entire college career.  This was great for the clinical introvert Chris, because he does do better when he can recharge in solitude but is was not good for the pathological introvert Chris who would go several days in a row without talking to another human being entirely too often. 

My first apartment was actually a single room roughly the size of your average maximum security solitary confinement accommodation with access to a bathroom and a kitchen down the hall.  Since I sprung the extra ten bucks for the mini-fridge (in order to avoid the awkward forty to fifty seconds of bumping into somebody else from the building as I shuffled to the kitchen for my nightly can of Pepsi) the rent was a whopping $100 a month.  Let me tell you the price matched the level of luxury it implies.
My second year at college was the anomaly.  I shared two floors of an old house with my brother and my best friend.  That year I was borderline social.  I had a part time job which required me talking to people, even pretty girls.  We even hosted parties.  The rest of my college career I lived alone in basement apartments, one of which was at the bottom of a dead street.  The symbolism was not even lost on me at the time. 

My girls have a lot more to take with them.  Some of it is because they are girls.  Some of it is because they are young at a time in the history of the world when there a lot more gadgets.  Some of it is because they wish to live like fully evolved humans.  When I moved to KU I had a reasonable amount of clothes, a portable black and white television, a cassette tape player, two each of spoons, forks, knives, plates and cups (eventually I had many more cups - about a gross of convenience store plastic cups) and some basic school supplies, not including a calculator because I hoped to be finished with math. 

This brings us back to the lack of motivation issue.  I didn’t really know what my passion was so when I went to college I mostly just fell into a course of study.  I majored in Film Studies which at KU during this time was just a bunch of classes on film history and aesthetics, no film making at all.  This prepared me for a cracking good career in video rental stores, and we all know how well that industry thrives to this day.
Actually, I get annoyed when people look at college as nothing more than a conduit to the workforce.  My lack of passion was the reason for the lack of career, not a poor choice of major.  If I had been fully engaged I would have gone to USC and made movies.  Now I want to go back to college and become a real writer.  Timing is everything in life.

Christopher Pyle will pretend the girls are just in the basement a lot the next few months.  You can contact him at

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Children Require More Changes Than Diapers

Father’s Day is over for this year so you can rightfully accuse me of not being very timely with the content of this column.  (Honestly, you can rightfully accuse me of a lot of things in regards to the content of all of my columns:  lack of timeliness, lack of relevance, lack of seriousness, lack of long form analysis of the works of Marcel Proust, lack of data approved by institutions of higher learning and an acute lack of nutritional value.)  Even though I am a tad late I am going to write about fatherhood. 

I am currently well into my fiftieth year of life so I have seen fatherhood as a spectator for nearly that long.  I wasn’t very attentive to anything other than food, sleep and hugs for the first several months and for the next couple years Bugs Bunny and Batman overshadowed my observations on the art and practice of being a parent. 

I have also participated in the experiment as a father for twenty years.  Kid Number One showed up in 1993 and since then two more moved into the house.  So I have some experience to draw upon as I come to my various conclusions. 

There are frequent times I wish I could be more like my father.  A man who exuded integrity.  A man who had earned the respect of so many people.  A man who was not expected to go to all of his children’s music programs and ballgames and art shows because he was the dad and he was allowed to sit in his chair, watch the news, read the latest Louis L’Amour western and only be involved in the raising of children in a manner of his own choosing due to the fact that Dads of the 70’s were still using the Dads of the 50’s as their role models.  The current paradigm of being “engaged” and “present” in the lives of one’s children is exhausting. 

When the kids were very small I was amazed about many things involved with being a father.  It was stunning just how much love I could feel for what was at first nothing much more than a blob of protoplasm but a blob which could smile.  It was unbelievable how easy I found it to put selfish things down the priority chain and focus on the needs of a helpless human.  It was downright astounding the things I was not only willing to touch but unthinkingly grab hold of and put in my pocket (by “things” I mean the materials exuded from the various orifices the child had not yet learned to control on his or her own).

Ever since I moved out of the toddler stage myself I have been a rather sedentary person.  I like stillness and quiet.  Then a set of toddlers appeared in my house and still and quiet were not their preferred modes of being.  I found ways to meet them halfway.  For instance when we went to the swimming pool they would want to play games in which we each pretended to be some sort of sea dwelling creature.  One would be a clownfish, one would be a dolphin and one would be a sea horse and I would proudly announce I was a barnacle and gleefully attach myself to the side of the pool. 

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy my children very much.  Especially now that they are such complete human beings capable of driving themselves places.   I truly like them.  I’m talking not just the paternal love that is considered to be a requirement of the deal, but a genuine “I would hang out with these people even if they didn’t share a large amount of my DNA” kind of like. 

I often talk about how important it is to me to laugh.  My kids make me laugh often and with gusto.  Kid #1 is in college, engaged to be married to a fine young man and a fully capable contributor to society but she still likes to dance across the living room in a silly manner and try to engage me in a fight with her inner mongoose.  Kid #2 is heading off to college in August and has a stronger work ethic than the guys who got Apollo 11 to the moon but she spends time finding the cute and her wicked wit keeps the house lively.  Kid #3 is often ignored due to his basic hermit tendencies but he is multitalented and contributes such statements as “The Martian Manhunter is a boss.  He is the Swiss Army knife of super heroes.” 

Christopher Pyle continues to take on the role of barnacle on a regular basis.  He can be contacted at  

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Be Careful What You Chase, You Might Catch It

A long time ago, in my life, not in the grand scheme of things – I’m talking 1988, not anything which would require carbon dating processes, (believe it or not that was the first version of the Star Wars prologue) I was fascinated with the television series of interviews Bill Moyers did with Joseph Campbell entitled “The Power of Myth”.  It described so many things I found interesting in such an accessible way I actually internalized many of them.  The basic story components Mr. Campbell described found their way into things I have written.  There was a phrase he espoused which I kind of glossed over at the time but now that I have children who are just about to push through the threshold into the adventure of their lives it has taken on a greater level of importance.  That phrase was “Follow your bliss”. 

I do not think a learned man like Mr. Campbell (Wikipedia actually lists his occupation as “Scholar”.  How cool is that?) would be telling people to follow a truly hedonistic lifestyle including such things as unlimited supplies of doughnuts and two naps a day (obviously my ideas of reckless self-indulgence isn’t on par with grown up child actors and there will be no “reality” show about my life).  My interpretation of the phrase is people should pursue a life which allows them to do the things they truly like.  A friend of mine stated a similar sentiment when she said kids should look into careers they truly like doing if for no other reason than they will be doing it a lot, the sheer volume of time needs to enter into the thought process.  Think about it.  Most people spend more than 40 hours a week at work and it would make for a much happier life if those hours were spent doing things you at least kind of liked doing. 

So, I took that bit of sage advice and then started thinking how does one decide just which bliss to follow.  (Doughnuts or naps, probably can’t figure out a way to do both.)

Another learned person, Susan Cain, the author of the book Quiet, gave advice about a way to figure out what one should pursue in life.  She suggests looking at what we envy in others and see if that is a direction we should go.  Now, I know what some of you are saying.  Envy is not supposed to be a positive state of mind.  It is actually in the Top Seven No-no’s list as compiled by some religious scholars.  But, it makes sense.  If you wish you could be like someone than maybe you should actually try to be like someone.  (I wish to add a caveat.  If you envy Justin Bieber, anyone named Kardashian or the person whose job it was to talk Will Smith into doing After Earth – stop, stop right now.) 

If I think back to my early days and who I envied and then extrapolate from that what I should have pursued as a career I come to a very different skill set than the one I use in my real job.  I loved comedians. 

I have a very distinct memory of seeing Red Skelton do his famous Guzzlers Gin sketch on The Merv Griffin Show.  Of course, hundreds of thousands of people probably saw that show and enjoyed Mr. Skelton’s hilarious skill but I bet there weren’t many kids who went into the backyard when the show was over and used the garden hose as their water supply to practice doing the “spit takes” he had just done.  I did…until I was called in for dinner. 

Now, as an educator I do have to get the attention of an audience and keep it but true comic skills aren’t always the best choice.  One day I was teaching some simple addition skills to a classroom of 1st graders and decided to use some Charlie Callas (give yourself 250 bonus points if you remember him) style sound effects as part of my presentation.  Let’s just say we weren’t able to remain focused on place value concepts after that choice. 

I have to admit there are times I very much wish I had followed my envy to my bliss and into a different career.  Just last week I went down a YouTube rabbit hole and watched Bill Irwin do his unique performance skills with envy, but wearing baggy pants and a top hat to school would make discipline an uphill battle.

Christopher Pyle has recently been dedicating 30 minutes a day to practicing his ukulele and juggling, knowing full well they are not school administrator skills.  He can be reached at  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Generation Graduation Gap

This past week was graduation week in various places throughout the region.  My own personal Kid #2 (in birth order, not in any other ranking or judgment, all of my kids are equal in my eyes at least that is my story and I am sticking to it) graduated from high school.  Alice truly used high school as a place to grow and prepare for the life ahead of her.  Not everybody does that.  I know I didn’t. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I value the education I received at Hutchinson High School, but I didn’t actively pursue it.  It just sort of happened around me and because I was blessed with good genes I was able to absorb much of it by simply being present.  Like so many people who were in Mr. Knauer’s senior English class I can still recite much of the first eighteen lines of The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English (which is only useful when trying to annoy people with your pseudo-intellectual persona at parties).  I remember I wrote a research paper for Ms. Lisman’s junior English class about chivalry and knighthood (which introduced me to my all time favorite name for a king, Pepin the Short).  I remember learning the scientific names (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) of a metric ton of different animals for Mr. Harris’s biology class.  I remember not paying attention in Mr. Dixon’s geometry class because my friend, Mitch, and I were way too busy making up strings of puns to put any effort into the quadratic equation.  (Was the quadratic equation even part of the geometry curriculum?  I wouldn’t know, but I can supply a couple dozen puns related to having a cold.)

The chief memories of my high school days revolve around my friends.  People who knew me then will be surprised that I think of my high school days as a social time because I was not a very outgoing person.  Part of being shy was my natural inclination towards introversion and the other part was being chronically ridiculed by a number of my more athletically inclined classmates.  I did have a circle of friends who were quite important to me and I think of them often. 

The aforementioned Mitch was a ringleader for my group.  The parties were most often in his basement.  He arranged trips to Wichita to see movies and the occasional concert and when I went it was almost always in his Toyota Celica that I made the trip. 

I remember one trip in particular.  We were going to a concert and I was wedged into the back seat between a couple of pretty girls (which was as close to a date as I ever got in high school).  We were riding along when a song came on the radio and one of the pretty girls said she liked the song and I should remember it.  Mitch said I probably would remember it because I had a wicked memory.  For the duration of the ride she added to the list of songs she liked that I should remember.  The list got up to six.  Those songs were:  Head Games (Foreigner), Show Me the Way (Peter Frampton), Heartache Tonight (Eagles), Cold as Ice (Foreigner, again), You’ve Got a Friend (James Taylor), and Daniel (Elton John).  I do solemnly swear those were the songs, the whole list of songs, and nothing but the songs so help me Casey Kasem. 

We now jump some 30 years to return to present day.

Alice worked way harder than I did in high school.  She was in four high school musicals (zero for me).  She was in marching band for four years (I marched once in 9th grade and we played the song Feelings and the theme to The Bob Newhart Show).  She was a drum major two of those years putting her in a position of leadership (I sat in the front row of a couple of classes).  She got a 32 on her ACT (I vaguely remember taking the ACT).  She was well liked and respected by a great number of her peers (many of my classmates probably would have been able to identify my body if I’d turned up dead in the quad). 

Alice did high school right and many of her friends did as well.  When I look at them, this is going to sound a little sappy, I actually have a greater degree of hope for the future.  Unfortunately, much of that hope is squashed when I see anything having to do with Congress.

Christopher Pyle is very proud of each of his children, but wishes to point out his wife did most of the hard work.  He can be reached at   

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Epiphany of Fear

As is so often the case something in my real life brought to mind something from a cartoon. 

Remember the Charlie Brown Christmas special?  There is the scene where Charlie Brown goes to Lucy at her psychiatric stand to seek answers.  Lucy rattles off a list of phobias, everything from cats to crossing bridges.  When she gets to pantophobia, the fear of everything, Charlie Brown yells, “That’s it!” sending Lucy spinning into a snow bank.  I found my “That’s it!” phobia the other day, katagelophobia.  Luckily I was alone at the time so I did not send anyone spinning into a snow bank. 

Katagelophobia is the fear of being ridiculed or embarrassed.  Now at first glance people who know me might be a little confused by this notion.  I have, quite on purpose, done things that would embarrass many people.  I have performed in plays as characters with pretty embarrassing attributes.  I did stand-up comedy at an open mic night at a real comedy club (not even filling my allotted three minutes and apologizing at the end of my truncated set).  I have been the mascot for a minor league basketball team wearing basketball shorts and cowboy boots, at the same time.  I have been a parent of teenage girls which means I was an embarrassment to them by doing things like breathing and being in the same room in which they were currently residing. 

The thing about the above mentioned situations which made them not embarrassing for me had to do with the fact that I was in control of what was happening.  If I choose to do something which might lead to embarrassment I can handle it better than a situation that comes up more organically from circumstances.  For example, I truly hate going into big city style delicatessens.  I have an abject fear of ordering something stupid which compels the sandwich aficionados behind the counter to mock me.  “He wants mayonnaise on that! What an idiot.”  This doesn’t come into play when I go to Subway.  Those “sandwich artists” are as interested in their work as a septuagenarian is interested in the latest musical release from Lil Wayne (I had to look up the name of rap artist for that last joke). 

Way too much of my self-image is wrapped up in being smart.  This also works into the katagelophobia.  There have been times when I hold forth with some sort of pontification (now, gentle reader, don’t be too shocked by this) then I find out I am horribly and irretrievably wrong.  I’m not talking just a little bit wrong but “Dewey Defeats Truman” wrong, Snape is a bad guy wrong, there’s a viable reason Kim Kardashian is famous wrong.  The embarrassment I feel when it dawns on me that I was so very wrong is entirely too debilitating, especially considering just how often there is “wrongness” put forth into the world – just ask CNN. 

Really, it is ridiculous.  The other day I was having a simple conversation with some co-workers and we were discussing a set of television commercials we found funny.  We then talked about the fact we couldn’t remember what the commercials were plugging.  Anyway, I was rather determined to contradict one person’s statement about what company was being advertised.  Fast forward to the next day when I saw one of the commercials and it turned out I was patently wrong.  I couldn’t get to sleep that night.  I can pretty much guarantee none of the other people in the conversation remembered or even remotely cared that I had arrogantly disagreed, but that didn’t stop me from e-mailing the person I had disagreed with and admitting my mistake.  It is easier to admit mistakes than put up with others pointing them out when you are katagelophobic.  (That is a self-diagnosis.  I have not, as of yet, sought professional help for my problem.)

Another manifestation of how this phobia impacts my life is I have become less and less able to do things I have not done before, simple things, for fear of showing ignorance and being mocked because of it.  Being a Kansas boy I took my first ever taxi cab ride last summer in New York.  I spent the entire ride in a half panicked state worrying about what I was supposed to tip the guy, oblivious to the fact he almost got me killed by ignoring the septic cleaning service van hurtling toward us.  (That would have been one heck of an obituary.)

Christopher Pyle is more likely to do another horrific stand-up comedy performance than he is to try ordering food from the new sushi kiosk at Dillon’s.  You can mock him at  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Not everything needs to be enhanced

Since paying attention to the important news of the world often creates a sense of…a sense of (what is the phrase I’m looking for?) a sense of utter despair (yeah, that’s it) there are times I only allow myself to look at the fluff news items which pop up on the internet.  
The other day I saw an article about a man who purchased what he was told, and his eyes believed, was a pair of toy poodles.  When he took his new fluffy doggy friends to the vet for a checkup he found out he had something other than canine companionship.  He was now the proud owner of two ferrets. (What does one call that? Ferretine companionship?)   Not just any ferrets, but two ferrets that had been raised from birth on a steady diet of steroids to increase their general size and hair teasing and blow drying to increase their general fluffiness.  
Ferrets on steroids?  Who comes up with this nefarious plan?  Is some guy actually sitting around his living room one afternoon thinking:   “Hey, I know what I’ll do. I’ll get a couple of newborn weasel-like creatures and pump them full of steroids so they grow to abnormal size.  Oh, oh, then I’ll wash their hair over and over but never use any conditioner whatsoever so they have split ends all over their bodies.  This will mean I will have two giant frizzy ferrets. Oh, boy!  Then I will sell them to some unsuspecting rube at the local bazaar by convincing him they are actually toy poodles.  Yep, that makes perfect sense. I am totally doing that.”
Maybe having steroid-ridden ferrets for pets is better than toy poodles.  Can a toy poodle chase rats, mice and rabbits out of their burrows?  Can a toy poodle perform the weasel war dance? What’s a weasel war dance and will it replace the Harlem Shake?  A weasel war dance is described by Wikipedia as “a frenzied series of sideways hops and bumping into things” which serves as an invitation to play and almost anything would be better than the Harlem Shake.  Are toy poodles crepuscular?  Wait, what in the name of William F. Buckley is crepuscular?  Well, besides being darned fun to say crepuscular means ferrets sleep 14 - 18 hours a day and are only active around the hours of dusk and dawn.  There are frequent days I myself longs to be crepuscular.  
This could be the beginning of a whole new industry in pet services. In sports the press often refers to steroids and the like as performance enhancing drugs or PEDs (or sometimes Tour de France Juice). PEDs could now be pet enhancing drugs. Think about it. Gerbils the size of Rottweilers would be cool. However, you would need one of those plastic tube habitat things as big as the tubes at Chuck E. Cheese's to accommodate your cute not-so-little Gerbzilla.  A canary on steroids might be neat.  If nothing else you could scare the kitty litter out of the neighbor’s cat who keeps waking you up in the middle of the night yowling on your backyard fence like Pavarotti with an ingrown toenail.  
Why stop at sports and pets? Let's look at getting performance enhancement into more walks of life. First we need to decide just what performance enhancement would look like in different fields. Would the PED heighten what the person was supposed to be doing or would it enhance what they typically do? That is a genuine danger.
For example, let's look at insurance salesmen. A PED could make it so the salesman clearly and concisely explains the different plans available and kindly matches your needs and budget with the proper product. Or, he could become the most insufferably insistent and preternaturally boring person who ever plunked himself down on your couch, drank your coffee and proved as likely to leave as the odor of a skunk which died in the crawlspace under your kitchen.  
If PEDs were used simply to enhance what we already do they probably need to be controlled more stringently than other drugs currently outlawed.  Sure they can help a baseball player who already has amazing hand-eye coordination and strength enough to send a nine and a quarter inch spheroid 390 feet onto Waveland Avenue send even more balls out of the park but used in other situations the results could be catastrophic. Just think what would happen if we enhanced the current skill set shown on a regular basis by politicians.  We are back to the phrase utter despair.
Christopher Pyle thinks if he used PEDs he would definitely become crepuscular.  He can be reached during the hours around dusk and dawn at  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This is Only a Test

It was about six months ago I turned 50 years old.  At the time I took it in stride. It barely made a ripple in my psyche.  Now I am starting to worry I may be having an issue and turning a half century old could be at the root of my current malaise.  I don’t want to be a stereotypical gray-haired, pot-bellied father of nearly grown children who steps out of normal everyday life into a mid-life crisis but that may be where I am headed.

OK, even if I am going down that path “crisis” is way too strong a word.  I am thinking I may be suffering from a mid-life truly-inconvenient-stage-of-life-in-which-I-use-words-like-malaise-to-describe-myself phase.
The first problem I face if I am going to fully jump in and have a mid-life crisis is I still love my wife.  This makes it very difficult to chase young women in an attempt to recapture my youth.  This brings us immediately to the second problem.  If I were to recapture my youth in regards to chasing young women it would mean I would spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the phone with the particular object of my affection’s phone number clearly written on a scrap of paper in plain sight yet my finger is unable to dial the number because my brain has ground to a halt of epic proportion making it so I cannot read numbers or form coherent thoughts much less words capable of wooing.  (That is probably another contributing factor to not being successful with the ladies. I use words like wooing.)

I’m sure those of you who have been reading my musings for the last few years find it unbelievable this silver-tongued wordsmith did not have any woman he wanted eating out of his hand, au contraire my mon petit chou.

My very first slow dance with a girl was like many other boys, in the gym of a junior high school.  Everyone knows how that setting is just dripping with romance.  If junior high school gyms had been around in Shakespeare’s time his greatest love scenes would have surely taken place with a basketball goal hanging dreamily over the heads of the starry-eyed youths.  Also, like many of the boys of my generation that first slow dance with a girl…I probably ought to stop saying it that way, it implies my previous slow dances were with a boy…anyway, that dance occurred while the Bees Gees played over the tinny sound system and since it was a slow dance it was “How Deep is Your Love?”  To this day whenever that song comes on the radio I am immediately whisked back to that spring night at Liberty Junior High and I have to fight the sudden and dramatic urge to jerk the steering wheel hard to the right and drive into the nearest tree.  You see that dance didn’t end so well for me.  We were silent for the first three minutes and 40 seconds.  I was concentrating on at least approximating smooth steps and arduously avoiding direct eye contact for fear of…for fear of …just plain fear.   Therefore I didn’t talk.  Then she broke the silence by uttering these words which will forever live in my memory and dreams: “Boy, this is a long song.”  My next slow dance was about six years later and the Bee Gees were nowhere to be found.

So, my mid-life crisis will not involve dancing.

Fine, what is the next best thing?  Most men who start feeling that life has passed them by look to get into a racy sports car and drive as fast as they can to see if they can catch up with it.  I am far too cheap to do that.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think it would be fun to have a cherry red convertible which goes from zero to fifty a heck of lot faster than I did.  Then I think again and realize a convertible is only really a good idea in southwestern Kansas about seven hours a year.  If the temperature isn’t arctic blast or oven hot the wind is blowing like it needs to get to Nebraska before dinner.  There is sometimes an afternoon in late April when it would be perfect to put the top down and go bombing around town.  I repeat, sometimes. 

Well, it appears I do not have the makings of man willing to fully commit to a mid-life crisis.  I guess I will have to be content with buying a new hat and moving forward with a fabulous wife and a sensible sedan. 

Christopher Pyle will entertain other suggestions for how he could pursue a jolt to his current life at  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Frozen Snack Foods of Joy

The other day a podcast I listen to (WNYC’s Radiolab) shared something truly cool. 

A story about Aleksander Gamme.  He is a Norwegian, uh, he’d probably say “adventurer”, where I’m more likely to say “person-who-clearly-hates-being-comfortable”.  He went on a trip all by himself to Antarctica in order to walk to the South Pole.  The hosts of Radiolab are talking to him because of a video he posted to Youtube. 

It is near the end of his trek, day 86.  He is tired and he is well beyond hungry.  He comes across a stash of supplies he buried in the snow towards the beginning of his trip.  He has no real memory of what is buried there.  He pulls out the bag of stuff and starts to go through it.  At first it is just stuff, Vaseline, zinc oxide, some rope but then comes the Holy Grail and the Golden Fleece rolled into one, a bag of Cheez Doodles.  He yells out to the miles of snow with such energy and enthusiasm I very much felt genuine happiness myself. 
Do yourself a favor and find the video on Youtube.  The reaction is priceless, unadulterated joy.  It is also really entertaining to hear a string of blissful Norwegian words with the undeniably English words “Cheez Doodles” wedged in the middle. 

Watching the video and listening to the podcast guys talk to Mr. Gamme got me to thinking about just what causes happiness. 

If you ask someone what was the happiest day of their life they usually respond with the day they got married or the birth of their children.  I don’t think so.  Now before you jump to any conclusions, gentle reader, I am happily married (more so than most I’d wager) and I believe my children to be the best parts of my life.  The problem is getting married and the process of childbirth isn’t really happy.

Think about it.  The day you got married may have been a great day and there may have been many fabulous moments but there were also moments of stress or even abject terror.  When my wife and I got married it was not an extravagant affair.  It was at the Reno County Courthouse.  The judge was late and then we had to use a substitute judge.  No stress there.  To be totally honest I just remember snapshots of the day, pleasant snapshots mostly, but really the happiness of the marriage is in the bigger picture, over time, because I chose wisely.  The day of marriage was not a giddiness sandwich served on two slices of delight. 

The three days in which I experienced the birth of my children were better characterized by anxiety and a sense of being superfluous than a feeling of bliss.  All of them were c-section deliveries so I didn’t even get the role of Lamaze coach.  My jobs were to distract my 65% numb wife and make sure not to look. 

Really, having a tiny person forcibly removed from the midsection of the person I like best is not a day at the beach.  For Kid #2 they had to completely knock my wife out.  Tell me it is fun to be in the room with your betrothed when she has her eyes taped shut and various medical professionals looking for the prize in the cereal box that is her abdomen and I will tell you you are wrong.  The majority of the time I was staring at the doorknob.  Then I heard the newly minted Alice start to cry.  In my mind that meant she was now separate from her mother and it would be safe to look.  Bad choice.  Her head and shoulders were “out” and she was angry.  I went back to examining the doorknob. 

Now, back to the yelling at the sky happiness Mr. Gamme felt about his Cheez Doodles.  Most of us don’t get to that level of happy but we do have little moments of giddy.  The other day I opened my desk drawer at work and inside were two, count ‘em, two, fun size Milky Ways.  If the ladies in the office hadn’t been nearby I would have cried out with joy.  The other day one of my imaginary friends (I use that term for people I only know via the internet – don’t worry, no stalkers) remarked about her great happiness about getting a brand new sponge for working in the kitchen (“It is just so clean!”). 

It really is those little things which we need to stop and truly enjoy, and maybe even whoop to the sky about.  People will mock you, but who cares, you’re happy.

Christopher Pyle wishes you and yours a wonderful week of whooping.  He can be contacted at  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Taking a Drive-In Down Memory Lane

Nothing like several inches of snow to make one wax nostalgic for the carefree days of summer.  One of the things I think about when casting back to hot temperatures and extended sunshine is drive-in movies.  Yes, I am that old. 

Truthfully, my family didn’t go to drive-ins as a summer time treat.  Dad would watch movies every once in a while but they didn’t make movies like Red River anymore so he wasn’t all that interested.  Mom could tell you where she sat and what she was wearing when she saw Ben Hur in the theater but she didn’t want to go.  My experience with the bygone movie presentation was as a worker. 

At the end of my sophomore year in high school a friend invited me to work with him at the Airport Drive-In (give yourself 50 bonus points if you ever went to a movie there).  At that time there were two drive-ins in the area, the Airport and the South Hutch.  The South Hutch played movies you could take the whole family to for a wholesome evening of entertainment.  The Airport….didn’t. 

Our specialties were four movie marathons featuring one of two things, crazed men wielding chainsaws, knives, machetes, or really pointy sticks (not all of them were very bright) or women wearing short shorts, tiny bikinis, spandex or cheerleader outfits (at least until they changed into the tiny bikinis).  Now don’t worry, I was safely sheltered from these films which could poison the young innocence of a bright eyed high school boy because I worked in the concession stand.  (On second thought you don’t get 50 bonus points if you ever went to a movie there. You should probably have points deducted, or simply think better of admitting it to anyone.)

It really was a great job.  The manager was an older lady who would mother all of the high school aged workers.  We all got along.  Most of us were friends before and after the job and my cousin Kevin even met his future and still current wife working there. 

There were three basic roles at the theater.  The box office:  This was almost always a girl who sat out in the tiny little “house” at the entry gate selling tickets to the degener…uh, customers.  The concession staff:  These were the hard-working stiffs popping popcorn, frying up burgers and shilling the sodas.  The ramp man:  This was the guy who was charged with walking the ramps, that is the inside vernacular for where all the cars parked to tilt ever so slightly upwards to look at the screen, in order to keep order and catch people who tried to drive in via the exit and charge them for admission. 

Now for a peek behind the curtain of that mysterious and mostly extinct exotic workplace the drive in.

The concession stand had its standards for the food it served.  These standards may or may not have been the ones suggested by the health department.  We would bag up any leftover popcorn in a big trash bag to be used the next night.  The rule of thumb was if you carefully took a single popped kernel of corn and gently bit down on it with just the maxillary and mandibular central incisors and heard a squeaking sound the popcorn was officially too old to sell.  Also, yesterday’s hamburgers became today’s cheeseburgers, the cheese covered up the bits of bun which had stuck to the hamburger patty as we prepped them for cryogenic preservation (stuck them in the freezer) for the next day. 

In our defense the clientele was not possessing of highly discerning palates.  We would often laugh at the people who would purchase popcorn tubs big enough to transport a defecting family of Cubans to Key West with extra buttery flavored oil (that is what we were required to offer the customers – why there was a pang of remorse on the part of the company asking us to exercise some truth in advertising on this matter while doing all the other stuff we did was beyond me) multiple hot dogs and hamburgers, a package of Twizzlers, a package of Corn Nuts (the loudest foodstuff ever devised by man) a package of Milk Dud (it was not a package of Milk Duds because the air conditioning didn’t work so well in the storage room and the individual candies had coagulated into one giant Dud) and then yell at us because we didn’t carry any diet soda. 

Christopher Pyle will be checking with his lawyer about the statute of limitations on certain actions and possibly share more drive-in information in his next column.  He can be reached at  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another Opening Another Show

It’s show week! 

Dodge City High School is presenting its yearly musical theater extravaganza and the two younger Pyle children are rather prominently featured.  This means for them a week of excitement, a week of costumes and hair styles, a week of dancing, a week of singing, a week of very little sleep, a week of becoming a bit snappish with the father who asks too many questions about how it is going and a week that will live in their memories for a long time.
It wasn’t intentional that we would become a family of performers, just sort of happened. 

I did a couple of plays in high school but that was only because the Inimitable Rob talked me into it.  My lovely wife, Claudia, was a singing and dancing Molly Brown, you know, the one who proved to be incredibly buoyant, at her high school but neither of us did any performing again for several years.  Our kids, however, have been much more involved in shows in their younger lives as well as high school. 

Daughter #1, Emilyjane, was born with a theatrical bend.  She would emote at the drop of a hat.  She loved to dance even before she could walk (this mostly consisted of rocking back and forth on her bottom in an emphatically rhythmic manner).  As she got older she danced as often as she walked.  If she needed to go to the refrigerator to get the milk, she danced, if she was going out to the car, she danced, if she was traveling through the aisles of the grocery store, she danced.  For some reason whenever her mother or I decided we would dance in the grocery store it was mortifying to her, wicked double standard if you ask me.  She would later become a singer as well and burst into song more frequently than a hyperactive canary. 

Daughter #2, Alice, didn’t seek the spotlight as often as her sister but she never shied away from it either.  There was one time in a performance of the children’s choir at church she was handed a solo the morning of the performance because another child was sick.  She kind of muffed the opening of it.  The choir stopped for a second, the kind-hearted young boy standing next to her called out to the congregation that she had just got it today, and then she proceeded to nail it. 

Only Son, George, takes after his father with very strong hermit tendencies.  He will spend hours by himself but he always had a very strong imagination and in his younger days his pretend play was pretty elaborate.   He was oddly without stage fright at a very young age.  Even as a toddler he was given a costume to resemble the outfit his old man wore as the mascot for the Dodge City Legend Basketball team and was willing to be silly in front of several hundred folks as Mini Marshal Hoops. 

I am a pathetically proud papa. 

Emilyjane was in middle school and I drove her to a music contest.  Anyone who has ever been to a school music contest knows it is two to four hours of driving in order to have six to seven hours of sitting around with a very intense three or four minutes of performance.  She sang “Shenandoah” while I sat in the back of the room trying lot to let anyone see that I was crying like a menopausal woman watching “The Notebook”. 

Alice was given one of the featured roles in Seussical when the Depot Theater Company did the show a few years back.  Since she was not as prone to perform around the house I have to say I was genuinely surprised and blown away when she truly opened up her pipes and sang her big song, luckily it was dinner theater and I had a napkin handy. 

George was in a show I directed for the Depot Theater group.  We had added a couple of kids for extras.  I was surprised when the musical director gave him a couple of short solos in some of the big chorus numbers.  The result was ten different performance nights with the director/dad at the back of the house smiling like an idiot. 

When Alice takes the stage as Sandy (wearing a wig because her hair is too short to be a fifties teenage heartbreaker) and George stands up there as Kenickie (with his hair slicked back like a BP pelican) I will be very glad the lights are on them and not on me. 

Christopher Pyle is glad his children enjoy the arts, but regrets this means none of them can support him in his old age.  He can be reached at

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another Milestone around my Neck

There are times it is actually pretty hard to come up with what to write about in these columns.  I know the gentle reader is shocked to find out the bon mots and Algonquin Round Table style wit which flows from my brain through my fingers onto the keyboard and into your hearts and minds every other week requires a strain of my creative abilities.  The preceding load of Grade A plant food was brought to you by the good folks at Ferti-lome. 

This was one of those weeks.  So, I sat myself down at the dinner table and announced I was brain dead and had nothing to write about.  Here are the suggestions which followed.

The Lovely Wife said I could write about how I was now old enough to have a daughter who had gotten engaged.  Uff-dah. 

Yes, my oldest child is wearing a ring on her finger capable of cutting through glass or at least through her boyfriend’s life savings.  It was not a shock.  The two of them have been together for quite a while now and they had been talking about their future like it was a fait accompli marriage was going to happen.  But still it makes a father pause when the little girl he helped teach to walk and talk, the little girl who crawled into his bed at night and promptly used her feet and elbows to lacerate his spleen and kidneys, the little girl who used her big brown eyes to talk him into getting dogs and cats who then ruined carpet and furniture, the little girl who needed prom dresses which cost more than all the clothes hanging in his closet, the little girl who now goes to college and will probably not come home as often as he would like, the little girl who looks too much like him, the little girl who laughs at his lame jokes, the little girl who still wedges herself between him and his wife when they try to hug and says “baby sandwich” is getting married.  I never should have let her mother talk me into teaching her how to walk and talk.
The young man really is a good guy.  He even came to me at my place of business to ask for her hand in a very old fashioned and respectful manner.  I told him my concerns, which were not many, and he acknowledged and addressed all of them.  I felt like I was then beholden to list the dowry he would receive.  I almost didn’t have enough goats to seal the deal.
He really did surprise her when he popped the question.  For the last few years my wife and kids (I am too socially inept) have hosted a caroling party a few days before Christmas.  My daughter’s soon to be fiancĂ© decided he would ask her when the group was at his aunt and uncle’s house during the caroling.  Everyone had sung a couple of songs when he announced he had something to say.  The cell phone cameras of all the people who had been clued in all sprung into action.  He got down on one knee and she started crying.  I was standing at the back of the throng with the boyfriend’s father.  After the original hubbub subsided he called out he hadn’t heard the question.  I then chimed in that I hadn’t heard the answer.  She said yes. 

All those cell phones recorded the moment for posterity.  Which will be great for so many reasons.  Not the least of which is my daughter was wearing what she considers to be a hideous Christmas sweater. Her sister and some of her friends who knew what was going to happen tried to figure out a way for getting her to change.  Everything from a friend thinking about spilling something on it to her sister throwing herself on the fashion grenade and claiming she wanted to wear it.

The wedding is two years away but that doesn’t mean the last few weeks have not been filled with planning and discussing and planning some more.  I, being the voice of reason, or wet blanket, depending on your point of view, keep reminding people the wedding is two years away and people might change their mind.  Oh, not about getting married, but rather what songs they will want played at the wedding.  They just look at me funny and go on.  That happens a lot in my house.
My suggestion on what to write about for this week’s column was how much I like ketchup.

Christopher Pyle approves of the boyfriend, approves of the marriage and very much approves of the two year waiting period.  He can be contacted at