All Done Up Like The Dog’s Dinner

You know you’re getting old and stodgy when your daughter’s dog looks better in his Sunday best than you do in yours ….

Roland2

Of course it could be worse – we could be mistaken for each other.  As long as, I don’t develope jowls like those I should be alright.

Advertisements

Today I Am A Duck

Yes, in honour of my late ex-wife who passed away surrounded by family and friends a week ago, today I am a Duck.  Usually I am a proud Cougar (although I am not so sure the football team is) and even a proud Viking.  But on this day of days, I will be wearing green and yellow in celbration on my late partner, and at the very end, friend.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Love Always

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

You’ve been gone for four years now and I miss you more than ever.  I would give anything for just one more conversation. I love you very much and just wish to be half the man you were.

Love always,

L

 

And The Band Played On …..

“There was too much brag and not enough seaworthy construction.”  Sir James Bisset, on Olympic and Titanic.

I really am not a person who covets things (even though I managed to convey that in my previous post) as I grow older.  This lack of desire should not be confused with a lack of interest though.  As my mum has gotten older, she has constantly asked me what “things” do I want her to put my name on to inherit when she is gone.

Inevitably the items that I most want are family treasures – but not of the material type.  I would love to have things like my granny’s air raid warden helmet and gas mask.  I would love to have my granddad Fred’s swagger stick.  I already have my other granddad George’s fire helmet and his whistle.

But, as this is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sailing from Southampton, the item that I would love to have more than anything else are my great-grandfather’s papers to work as a baker on the ship.  My mum has these in a safe and they do have my name on them.

After he signed on to be a baker, my great-granny had a premonition of disaster and she refused to let him go.  I bet he never doubted her inner voice again.  This same granddad also made it through four years of trench warfare in Belgium in the First World War:  some people just live charmed lives.

Karl Marx Said “Democracy Is The Road To Socialism.” And I Say “Socialism Is The Road To Bad Car Design.”

Looking back now at growing up in the socialist paradise that was the Democratic People’s Republic of Great Britain (and its beloved and revered leader Harold Wilson) I can only marvel at the fact that we, as a nation, managed to go any place.  You see if there is one demonstrable problem with socialism, it is the fact that socialist automotive design specialists were absolutely fucking useless. 

Pretty much every commumobile looks like Mr. Magoo’s car and is slightly less powerful than the donkeys that the liberated peasants used to use to pull their wagons.  This was quite alright with my dad as he was a trade unionist from the Nye Bevan mold and remained so for his whole life. 

He voted Labour and supported the miners.  He hated Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill and Ted Heath.  Quite possibly, he even knows what happened to Arthur Scargill (sort of a UK mining version of Jimmy Hoffa) and which Yorkshire pit is the location of where he is buried. 

I can hear him now “brothers and sisters of the Proletariat, Comrades, throw off the shackles of the corporate task masters ….”  If he was still alive, he would have been downtown delivering a fire and brimstone oratory to the citizens of the tent city of Occupy PDX that would have had them ready to storm the Bastille, let alone any banks in the area. 

It would have been biblical (or I suppose if one is a true Socialist, Das Kapital-al).  But I digress …  Over the period of years we shall call “my childhood” and also known as the Great Indoctrination, my dad has some truly awful cars.  My mum, on the other hand, always had a Mini, which although it was also functional and rather proletarian, she was able to drive it at the upper limits of its engineering capabilities along the country roads that surrounded where we lived. 

I learned early in life that hitting a cattle grid at 70mph resulted in being airborne for about fifty feet.  It was truly impressive rally car race driving.  My mum taught me to drift a car, counter steer and double clutch – not my dad.  The reason for this was that my dad had cars like the Hillman Imp or the Ford Anglia; or best (worst) or all, a Morris Oxford.  I can hear everyone now “Morris Oxford, wasn’t he one of the Pips, riding that midnight trainGeorgia(whoo, whoo)?” 

Actually, I thought it was a Soddin’ Morris Fuckin’ Oxford Chunk O’ Shite for quite a long time after he bought it (probably from some gyppo used car dealer) as that phrase always seemed to be coming from underneath the car or from inside the bonnet (English cars have bonnets, American cars have hoods) as he hammered away at something or other on it. 

As I recall it chewed up starters on a regular basis and had other assorted electrical ills – in other words, it was everything bad about English vehicular design.Now it wasn’t like these vehicles were forced upon him either.  I can remember, and this is back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that we were the first family on our street to have a telephone (with a party line of course) and we also had the first colour television. 

 Top Cat was the first programme I ever saw in color.  We had more money than most since my mum worked full time which was rather rare in the UK at that time.  But she did it because it was intellectually stimulating for her; the good things my sister and I got out of it were secondary.  And lest one get the impression that my dad was a combination of Trotsky, Lenin and Marx, he had a heart of gold and embraced the much more savoury side of socialism and one world / one family far earlier than many. 

My dad chose to play cricket for a team that consisted mainly of West Indians at a time when Caribbean immigrants were seen as a direct threat.  I always went with him and was exposed in depth to their culture and politics much earlier in life than most.  To understand what was going on with West Indian cricket in the ‘70s check out Fire In Babylon:  a most brilliant and absorbing documentary.

I want to thank you Russell (opening batsman with my dad and all around brilliant chap) for introducing me to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff.   To this day I revere their music and their message as do both of my daughters.   I would like to thank the man who became one of his closest friends, Charlie, for teaching me to sign so that I could say “please” and “thank you” when his deaf wife was on the tea crew because it just seemed important to me at the time to be able to say that to her. 

There was also a Sikh spin bowler (sort of a cliché, really) and a Pakistani seamer who could do all kinds of evil (and, looking back, illegal) things with a cricket ball.  Their wives used to feed me samosas and papadums and chapattis and various and sundry curries since I had a reputation (deservedly, I admit) of being somewhat of a Billy goat.  Even now, Indian food is my favourite food to eat and cook.

I also remember that the Sikh drove a rather beautiful Rolls Royce which he carefully parked well away from where any stray cricket balls hit for six could dent it:  that man did not drive a Prolechariot.  My dad delighted in parking whatever POS he was driving next to it as often as possible.  This was laughed at by one and all, though.  But there was always real concern if my dad settled in for a long slog as he could really hit the ball a long way. 

Getting back though to the subject on hand, take a look at some of the vehicles my dad had us ride around in – such as the Ford Anglia.  If it seems somewhat familiar, it is because it was the type of car that Ron and Harry “borrowed” from Mr. Weasley and used to return to Hogwarts.  In the film it was beaten soundly by the Whomping Willow and as memory serves me, this would be a suitable end for any Ford Anglia. 

My dad’s Ford Anglia was even the same blue colour as the one used in the movie.  People were probably wondering why I stood and cheered every time that vehicle got it arse kicked ….  And speaking of arse kickings, my dad would not ever drive the much more cool Ford Cortina since that was what the police drove.  No way would he ride around in the same vehicle as the “oppressors of the People”.

And should you think that I am conversing from the nether regions (talking out of my arse) on the matter of socialist inspired vehicles, then look long and hard at such wonderful automotive creations as the Lada and the Trabant.  Face it, cardboard is not a material suited for high speed driving, probably the reason that the East Germans used an engine slightly less powerful than a wet fart to power their cardboard Trabant.  So while Socialists might be perfectly nice people, their automotive creations are not.

Just Waiting For An Epiphany …

Which of course is the twelfth night of Christmas and the day the three wise men arrived at the stable after taking a wrong turn at Babylon and getting caught up in Jerusalem traffic. (“Did you ever see so many chariots in all your life?”)  And my youngest daughter stated, with just the right sniff of feminist disdain, that if it had been the three wise women, Epihany would be on the sixth night of Christmas as they would have planned ahead and stopped and asked for directions as needed. (“If you come to some pyramids, love, you went to far”).

Anyway, Christmas was good – no Christmas this year was great.  My original plan was to head back to the UK for Christmas but that trip has been put off to next September.  Both of my daughters were here with me as well as my oldest daughter’s fiance.  It seemed that this year the emphasis was on quality (in terms of what people really wanted) rather than quantity.  I got a Rose City Portland Timbers shirt (the uber-cool red model).

So here, in short is a summary of my Christmas Day

O’er the twelve hours of Christmas, my daughters gave to me …

Twelve year old scotch whiskey (12 year old is good – but 20 year old is gooderer)

Eleven hours of cooking (“You plonker, you complete fuckin’ plonker”)

Ten pound braided fish line (gonna git me the big wun this year)

Nine cardinal tetras (because the 27 I have is just not enough)

Eight new video games (man down – carpal tunnel, I repeat, carpal tunnel)

Seven different cheeses (never ever gonna shit again)

Six repeats of A Christmas Story (“Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.”)

Five fugly sweaters (thanks mum, I really, really, like it)

Four bags of garbage (“has anyone seen my $200 bracelet” said the youngest daughter)

Three loads of dishes (look at my pruney hands)   

           

Two mystery stains (I don’t think it’s blood, but …)

And a hangover that makes me want to die. (“Someone get Dad a fuckin’ Bloody Mary —NOW!”)

Now that Christmas is done and the New Year is over, all of the decorations (and for a single guy there is a lot of stuff) have been put away in the various nooks and crannies that they inhabit for the bulk of the year.  I have purchased more ornaments for next year (75% off is really good).  The tree has been collapsed and folded and coaxed and teased and, finally, brute foreced back in to its teensy weensy box and the place seems very empty now.  It is great.  Now onto the business at hand …………….. and finding gainful employment.

Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra

Greetings from the North Pole – also known as the left side seat of my sofa and the well worn arse indent that I have spent twenty years creating.  I always look forward to putting up the Christmas decorations; just as I can say that I look forward to putting them away as well. There is a time and a place in my heart for them, but that space is very limited and the decorations wear out their welcome rather quickly.

Since I live in Oregon, the state that supplies most of this nation’s (and many other nation’s) Christmas trees, one would think that I would be itching to load up the wagon and high tail it up to the mountains, saw in hand, a la Clark Griswold in search of the perfect festive tree with seasonal tunes trailing out of the side windows and pine sap slathered everywhere.

But I am a person who enjoys most living things (that are not people) and someone who understands their place in nature, my life and (in the case of fish, deer and elk) on my plate. So it seems rather common sensical of me to say that I prefer my trees to remain living in the mountains rather than dying in my front room for nothing more than my personal pleasure (and displeasure since  the clean-up, as we all know, is an absolute bastard.)

The result of such core, rather walley-ish, beliefs, is that I am the proud possessor of the rattiest, tattiest, skankiest looking artificial Christmas tree in the western hemisphere. It resides in the hole that masquerades as “outdoor storage” for my apartment. The tree has a “box” that is less cardboard held together by duct tape, but more a twelve year accumulation of duct tape combined with random pieces of packaging.

Yet somehow, this vessel which measures 42” x 12” x 10” (yes, I ran outside into the arctic chill just now with my manly, heavy duty Stanley tape measure and obtained the dimensions) is expected to, laughably, contain a six and a half foot tall, forty inch wide configuration of wire and polyester that comes in three pieces plus stand. Given that this is the original packaging, and said tree was indeed birthed from this box, it has never managed to quite re-fit back into it: even with copious amounts of profanity, leverage and the judicious application of duct tape.

So after a little vodka bracer, I ran out to the cubby hole and fetched my genuine, 100% artificial, life like, polyester pine tree and its box. Much like a fat German in a Speedo (or that trailer park floozy in her hip huggers and midriff bearing t-shirt) there are strange ripples and bumps and protrusions to this box: which makes carrying said box quite difficult. I damn near ripped a hole in my nut sack portaging the box. One of the wires sticking out of the box managed to find itself into a vulnerable spot.

This resulted in what looked like Wee Hamish McF tossing the caber (complete with a mighty, barbarian “yawp” or it could have been the family war cry of “you fuckin’ bastard”. And a mighty toss it was too: but I did not check to see if it was close to north!  Once the box was in the house, a new series of challenges awaited me. Remember that I am the proud possessor of a seasonal item that has been packed into a box that is seemingly inadequate to contain it. So poised with razor blade in hand (and safety glasses on: remember kiddies, always wear the correct PPE; you can never be too safe) I prepared to begin cutting the duct tape strapping.

There are several approaches that one can use. There is the “Danger UXB” approach where the tape is cut carefully and the tree is removed as if it was made of high explosive: and one hopes and prays that all goes well and the box doesn’t blow up in your face (hence the safety glasses).

Then there is the Band-Aid style rapid removal method: my personal favorite. It’s a combination SWAT team tactic/ judo front roll move where you rush in and cut all the duct tape in one slash while moving through the debris field fast enough not to become collateral damage. Again, the release of packaging staples and wire branches under high pressure can take an eye or testicle out so there is a need for the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

What immediately followed was an evergreen explosion in the middle of the living room. The noise was like a cheap bottle of champagne being opened (or what I imagine it sounds like when an extra thick butt plug is removed from a dry, extra small arsehole). Little green polyester fragments (wannabe pine needles) floated all around me. All but impaled into the ceiling were the three component parts of the tree.

My tree has seen better days, believe it or not, so I was prepared for what had to be done next. I had my favourite pair of vice grips ready (yes, Ce, every guy has a favourite tool (not that one) that he loves to break out on festive occasions ‒ for me, it is my vice grips). Due to the extreme stresses involved with packaging the tree five times (for the tree, not for me) the branches are loose. So I then sat for twenty minutes and tightened up every hinge on the damn tree.

Once that was done, I noticed that the stand was broken. Hallelujah, I get to go to my buddy’s house and go into his garage and weld: fire, fire, fire. Real men love to weld. I even have my own welding apron ‒ it kind of looks like something you see worn in a fetish club (or so I have heard). This took about an hour to complete: 5 minutes of prep, 5 minutes of welding and 50 minutes of beer drinking and bullshit.

So fortified now, not only with a vodka bracer, but with two beers, I was ready for the “easy” assembly. After staring at the first piece of the three part assembly that I had put into the stand for a few minutes through an alcohol haze, I saw nothing amiss and inserted piece two. Big problem: the second piece was considerably wider than the first piece. Even looking at this through my beer goggles, I knew that it was wrong. So I disassembled the tree: or so I thought.

Piece number one (that was really piece number two) was stuck in the stand. Again the cry of “hallelujah” rang out. This was a red letter day: first I got to use my vice grips, then I got to weld, and now I had to BFH something.  I rushed back outside to get the all important “big fuckin’ hammer”. Fortunately I have an orange dead blow hammer so I could BFH to my heart’s content and not damage the stand.  It’s really quite therapeutic.  I do not think I could have handled having to re-weld the stand again (and drink more beers) and still get the assembly assembled.

Once the tree was locked and loaded and in the fully upright position, it was time to artfully “shape” the fucking thing. This, of course, involves bending the little wire “twigs” that are attached to the larger branches so that the tree looks “life-like”. Never, in all the time that I have notched up fishing in the mountains, have I found a tree that resembles my poly-pine.

The one smart decision that I did make when I selected my tree from Target was to get a pre-lit tree. And so far, these lights have worked for me. However, somewhere there is a little problem brewing. One of the wires is a little hinky and depending how I artistically arranged the twigs in the top section, the lights either worked or they didn’t. I personally preferred that they worked so I stayed with the positive arrangement.

Now most people would be happy with a six foot something or other tree with 500 clear lights on it, merrily gleaming away: but not Martha F. “Nosiree Bob”, this tree needs to have 600 multi coloured lights added to it in order to achieve the correct artistic expression.

My oldest daughter took the multi coloured lights off of the iron maiden last year. And she managed, through and amazing feat of prestidigitation, to convert six 100 light strings into one 600 light string that fit comfortably into one of the small USPS mailing boxes. I immediately called her and gave her a good bollixing.But she was not overly sympathetic to my plight.

Two hours later, I had all of the coloured lights on the tree and it looks like something off of the Vegas strip. Blackpool’s lights are nowhere near as naff as my tree. But there was a section that still did not have any coloured lights. So, since I run a fully integrated tree, I had to rush over to Fred Meyer’s at lunch the next day and pick up another string of coloured lights for the tree.

And while I love to bitch and moan and whine and complain (and poke a lot of fun at myself too) the reason for all of this advanced engineering and interior design and hazardous duty involving flame was the fact that this crappy looking wire tree (called “son of astro-turf” by my oldest daughter) is the epicenter of everything good that my girls and I, and I suppose my future son-in-law, do at Christmas.

The season truly begins at my house when my girls have watched Rudolph, drank hot chocolate and have put the huge collection of ornaments on the tree while singing carols. And it is “our” collection, not mine, as it consists of ornaments that we have made together, ornaments obtained in the annual family ornament swap, and ornaments that have taken the fancy of one of us and have been obtained for the collection. Every ornament has a story and its place on the tree.

We accomplished the annual decorating of the tree last Sunday afternoon and it looks amazing. It is the kick off of our holiday season.  The only theme for our tree is “things that we like”, and it sits in the living room and dining room both and its message to me is that, yes, I do have a family.