Sunday, October 30, 2005

Prairie Home Companions

Sunday started out like many recent Sundays have. The Monkey and I woke early to prepare for a hike at one of Central Standard's many state parks. Today we would visit Prairie Home Conservation Area.

We got our gear together and had a cup of coffee, but soon the day became auspiciously strange. I went outside and saw a pileated woodpecker in a tree in the front yard. This was really wierd. We live between a park and a golf course, so there are plenty of trees in the area, but rarely do pileated woodpeckers venture out of thick forest cover. It was amazing. They're big black birds with white wing patches and a red cockade.

I called Monkey out to see it. We watched it for a moment and went back inside to get our stuff together. When I went out to the car with some gear, a white tail was running up the middle of our street. This was also new. The deer around here usually use the hill behind our house to get from one stand of trees to the next. I have never seen them in the middle of our street. I thought that both of these sightings were good signs.

We proceeded to Prairie Home, which is much closer than some of the recent places we've visited. We arrived at about nine and hit the trail.

Our jaunt was planned for about five miles. We figured we'd be back home in time for lunch. Our first mile or two was great. The trail was wide and well-marked. We flushed two covey of bobwhite from the brush beside a clearing. We saw small toads, beautiful butterflies, crayfish in the creeks. There was a bit of rain here and there, but hardly enough to turn things sour.

As we proceeded from our first checkpoint, and walked a gravel road through some farm land, we came across a gray cat out mousing the weathered sheds and hay barns. He (or she) was kind enough to take a break and pose for a photo op. The cat meowed the whole time. Maybe it wanted us to take it with us, but I didn't think that was such a good idea.

We passed through the farm, past an abandoned home, the porch fallen in and the roof collapsing. The lightning rod, however, stood proudly atop the roof's peak. Up a hill, past a small pond, Monkey and I came to our second checkpoint. There, things started to get a little hairy...but we didn't even know it.

We turned off the road and followed a horse trail that rose to the south, passed a pond and turned north back toward the road. At the bottom of a swale, we came upon a bizarre-looking rock standing at least twenty feet high. Monkey thought for sure she could see a face in the rock. After looking at it long enough, I had to agree with her. Clearly, you can see a high forehead and a nose.

Just past this rock, the trail became overgrown and hard to follow. It was clear that few feet, hooves, or paws had trod this neck of the woods recently. We did the best we could with compass and Department of Conservation map (not great) to find our way.

We found the road again and doubled back to a clearly marked path and a known spot on the map, and off we went to the north. We followed a horse trail through a field of soybeans planted for game, and a mile or so on plunged back into the woods. Here, the trail went vamoose again.

That's what we took to be the trail passing to the right of the large tree in the middle ground and the tree some yards behind it. It went on like that for a good piece. A couple of miles at least.

We made our way, slowly reading trail or finding blaze marks in the trees. We came across some really excellent natural areas, including a creek that trickled through the rocks and fell a few feet here and there.

On we went, thinking we would soon come to our next checkpoint. We crossed a few meadows, the grasses up to our chests, eventually coming upon trail markers, and feeling confident that we were on the right track. We startled a few wild turkeys from their territories. That is one of the oddest sights in the world: a wild turkey on the wing. It's like what I imagine a flying bus might look like.

We crossed a road and headed down into another swale. Ahead, Monkey spied another strange looking rock formation.

"Is that the face rock?"

"No way," I said, "that's a different rock."

After all, this one was flat, almost monlithic.

But, as we approached and passed the monolith, the face was revealed on the other side. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, our intrepid adventurers had managed a complete cirle!

We decided to backtrack, and eventually found ourselves passing through the farm again. We passed cordialities with the farmer, who now (12:30) was out working his land.

We treked back to the car, arriving at about 2 pm. Only two hours later than we had planned.

At home, we greedily consumed a sandwich and kicked back on the couch (you know the couch, now, right?) to finish the first season of "Lost."

Now, we have six episodes from this season to catch up on. After today's bizarre experience, I can really connect to some of the things those fictional castaways have to deal with.

Until next time!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Promises Made

"If I had a million dollars,
I'd buy you furniture for your house
(maybe a nice Chesterfield or an Ottoman).
--Barenaked Ladies

Hi, everybody. The "new" sofa, here. That addle-brained, fat ass told you he would put my picture up here, but he never did. What a loser. I had to do it myself. This is me in the living room. I really brighten the place up a lot more than that raggedy, dog-smelling, burlap brown one that used to be in here. That one had to go. I kicked him to the curb. His little love seat buddy, too. They're both gone. The poor dog. Now he's stuck laying his muddy paws and stinking, hairy belly on his doggy beds on the floor. Sucks to be him.

I came here to this house by way of Eugene, OR. I spent a year out there with the Monkey. It was great, but that house was kind of cold. Come to think of it, this house is kind of cold, too, but at least here I have two butts to keep me warm instead of one. The trip from the West Coast to Central Standard was a rough one, however.

They wrapped me up in a plastic bag (which made it kind of hard to breathe), and then they made me stand on my head for a week while some yahoos drove me to Salt Lake City and Denver and who knows where else. The middle of the summer is no time to spend locked up in the back of a moving truck with no air conditioning or fan. What stale air I couldn't breathe.

When I arrived, they unwrapped me (last) and let me get my bearings in my new surroundings. It was a pleasant, yet disorienting, time. Everything is so different here. Television shows start at different times, there's thunder and lightning, tornadoes, armadillos. It is truly a Wonderland. Or is it Oz? I don't know. I have yet to see any flying monkeys or horses of a different color.

At any rate, this is me. Love me or hate me, I was only 60 bucks. I am not going anywhere any time soon. C-I-A-B-A-T-T-A. Ciabatta. Peace out!

Monday, October 24, 2005

In France, It's the First Day of the Week

"Monday, Monday
Can't trust that day."
--The Mamas and The Papas

It is full-on Fall here in Central Standard Land. Brisk walkings of the dog have occurred at Stephens Lake the past two days. The sky is that cloudy gray that true Fall always is. The air is brisk, and the oak leaves skitter across the paths on the eddying breeze. Great walking weather.

Saturday morning, as I was heading out to meet the Auduboners, I looked to the east as I travelled down Old Highway 63 and saw the sun rising over the misty Stephens Lake. It was a beautiful phot op, but I didn't have my camera. I made a mental note to come back on Sunday to snap a shot for the blog, but, as most of you may know, my mental notepad is like an Etch-a-sketch--if I shake enough, it erases itself. I must have shaken a great deal on Saturday, because I forgot to go up there yesterday. I will try to remember in the future. It really was a scene worth sharing.

After school today, we had a monthly faculty meeting. It was long, pointless and dreadful. Grades were due today, remember? Well, Fearless Leader didn't think it was too much to have a meeting immediately after we spent the day wrestling with our "new" (read "broken") grading program. How hard would it have been to have the meeting on Tuesday? But, no. We were all pretty brain dead. So brain dead, in fact, that we couldn't even muster the juice to rip on the meeting to each other. How terribly awful. To top it off, Fearless Leader wasn't even at the meeting. Boo! At 4:30, they mercifully let us go. I was supposed to play b-ball tonight, but I was pretty downtrodden. I stayed home.

After an hour, I was feeling a bit better, so I took the dog for a walk. Did I mention how nice that was?

I must say, one bright spot among many about being here in the Central Zone is that I don't often get the opportunity to watch my old home teams play ball. After suffering through the daily newspaper stories on the O's, I was glad not to have to be tempted with watching them implode this season. I am positively intrigued by the hiring of Leo Mazzone as the new pitching coach, but coaches don't play, and Angelos is STILL the owner. Most distressful (or pleasant, in that I don't have to watch it) is the miserable performance of the Ravens. God, remember the good old days of Vinny Testeverde?

It dawned on me yesterday, as I saw the score flash on the screen: Chi 10, Bal 6, that Baltimore's two Super Bowl wins came with scrub QBs: Earl Morrall and Trent Dilfer. Odd, isn't it? Johnny U never won one. He won NFL Championships, so he gets a special award for that, but no Super Bowls. Bert Jones? None. Art Schleister? Mike Pagels? Stoney Case? Chris Redmond? Well, never mind.

It's hard to be living in The Land of Pleasant Living this Monday, I'm sure.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Knee Deep

This week has really flown by for me. Grades are due on Monday for first quarter at school, so Friday was a work day. No classes, but we teacher folk had to show up. I graded all day, and I still have a stack of papers hanging over my head. They 'll get done, but today has been a wash as far as work goes. I still have time to get something done, but I am certainly not being as dilligent as I could be.
This morning, my birding buddy, The Osculator, and I met a few folks from the local Audubon Society at a university experimental farm to do some searching for Fall sparrows and such. We really had a great morning. We beat the bush, walking through shoulder-high native grasses, flushing out song sparrows, Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrows, swamp sparrows, LeConte's sparrows, Lincoln's sparrows, white-crowned sparrows and savannah sparrows (bet you had no idea there were so many different sparrows). The trip leader, whom I shall dub, Chief Purlpewort, was a most pleasant and knowledgable dude. I learned a lot from him about identifying sparrows and native grasses. I know--exciting! We identified more than forty birds as a group (there were about a dozen of us), but I only got 37. All in all, it was a great trip, but the dewy grass and swampy areas took their toll on my jeans and socks. My shoes are waterproof, but I stepped in some deep puddles. Wet wool socks are not pleasant when it's 40 degrees (F) outside.
We broke it up at noon, and The Osculator and I headed out for some lunch--hot soup, baby. We ate, checked our lists, shot the bull, and then realized that our feet were getting terribly wrinkly. We were suffering from the early stages of trench foot, for sure.
Mizzou was playing Nebraska on the tube when I got home. It was tied at 24 at halftime. I changed my clothes and sat down to watch the game.
Two years ago, the Tigers beat Nebraska 41-24 on a rainy night at Faurot Field. The Monkey and I were there, and we both agree it was the BEST football game we have ever attended. It was amazing. NU was ranked number 10 in the country at the time, and MU was unranked. The goal posts came down that night, and one unlucky MU fan got coldcocked by a Big Red player on the field after the game. It was bedlam. Monkey and I watched from the stands. We surely weren't going down there. We stayed up in the safety of the student section and had fun booing the Campus police who arrested arbitrary drunken undergrads as they spilled onto the track.
That game was so great that I paid $55. to travel to Lincoln with a couple of friends to watch the Tigers play the Huskers last year.
That was the WORST football game I may have ever attended. Both teams were miserable on offense, but Nebraska was less miserable than we were. I think we lost 24-3.
This year, today, back at MU, the Tigers again pulled out a dominating 41-24 win. Fortunately, I got to see the end of the game. Unfortunately, I dozed off on the sofa and slept through nearly all of the third quarter. Of a tie ball game! All that tromping through the wet grass really took it out of me, I guess.
So, here I am, knee deep in the vicarious thrill of victory and knee deep in papers after being knee deep in swamp, sparrows and prairie grass. Now that is a freaking good Saturday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Autumn in the Ozarks

and the trees are stripped bare
of all they wear,
but what do I care."

Sunday's dawn found the Monkey and I barrelling down US 63 looking to make a hard right out of Licking, MO. A three-hour drive spent talking about life and recent horror stories from friends about hitting deer (it is that time of year) brought us to the Paddy Creek Campground of the Mark Twain National Forest. Chilly and in high spirits, we set out to wander the trails along the Big Piney Creek. The trek was pleasantly arduous, winding up and down the hills of southern Missouri, through stands of alternating oak and pine. There were few beautiful vistas, since the trees were still relatively leaf-covered, but the poison ivy was in full fall color, and some of the trees were fall-lovely as well. It's been unseasonably warm here for a while, so the trees are not very vibrant for the most part, but I don't really appreciate the autumnal color shift, anyway.
We did come across several really interesting looking mushrooms and some intriguing rock formations, but the first part of the hike was pleasant, yet non-descript.
By 11:00, we had reached the 6.2 mile mark, and had to decide whether to hike the 2.2-mile round trip to Roby Lake and back. We had planned to lunch there (you guessed it--PB & J!), but we still had 9 miles to hoof after that, in addition to a three-hour drive back home. Sadly, we decided to skip the lake and find a place by the creek to have lunch.
As we made our way down a hillside approaching the creek bed and a spring, we saw four saddled horses picketed on the rocks on the opposite bank of the creek. This would have been a great place for lunch, but the riders were splashing about in the spring, and Monkey felt that we would be cramping their style if we layed our lunch out in plain sight of them. We couldn't see them , since the spring was around a bend behind some rocks, but I agreed with Monkey. After all, I suspected that the riders were splashing about in various states of undress, and this was something I didn't really care to see. We took the rise out of the creek bed and found a nice little overlook to lunch on where we couldn't see the riders. As we finished our lunch, the horse party trotted by. Luckily for us, they were fully clothed...and I was certain we had made the right decision. I surely didn't want to see any of them in ANY state of undress!
While the horse party was well ahead of us and moving faster than we, their presence on the trail was never far from our consciousness. Mainly due to the fact that the horse's manure was never far from our shoes. The rockiness of the trail was further complicated by the treacherous placement of the horse evidence. We danced the last 9 miles of that trail like Astaire or Baryshnikov, for sure. At the 12 mile mark (about 2pm), we were ready to have a long sit, but we still had three miles to go. We found an old homestead a little way down the trail. The only evidence was four cornerstones (maybe it used to be the spot for a trailer) and a huge grove of yucca plants. In a pine forest. It was a bit surreal.
At 2:30, we came to a nice overlook, but the view was blocked by some trees. We were about 1200 feet up, and we could see pretty far to the west between the pine branches. However, it had gotten a bit warmer (it only hit 75, but we felt hotter than that), and our dogs were barking. We didn't stay up on the ridge for long. Another hour, a treacherous descent and a stroll through some riparian woodlands and we were back at the trail head.
We had covered over fifteen miles in a little less than six hours. That's a pretty brisk pace. We were happy to be done and glad that we had come down to the Paddy Creek area, but, all in all, the trail was pretty mundane. We drank some water and ate a banana, kicked off the hiking shoes and hopped in the Ozark Traveller, and made our way back north as the sun set pinkly in the west.
By the way, Monkey saw her first armadillo. Unfortunately, it was roadkill.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Gold Standard

There are times in our lives when we work as hard as we possibly can, and, in the end, we wind up with nothing to show for it. There are times in our lives when all the work we do pays off. This Friday, at approximately 2:48 PM Central Standard, the latter occured for Coach B and me. The Gold Team convincingly beat the Purple Team, 20-6, in the 2005 Homecoming PowderPuff Football game. It was a hard-fought victory to be sure. We had some physical play (one of our girls wound up with a bit of a bloody lip), and we were accused of "playing rough" and cheating, but that seems to me like sour grapes. After all, it's football, for one, how can you not knock a few people down? Secondly, I didn't see any of their players bleeding. Lastly, there where three referees on the field, and they didn't call any penalties. So, we are either very stealthy in our ability to play dirty, or somebody can't handle being the first Purple team in eight years to lose.
To see the girls so amazingly happy after the game made every second of practice worthwhile. I was very impressed with the way they played. They were tough, athletic, dedicated, and they had fun. After presiding over an embarrassing 38-0 defeat last year, I felt terrible. The feeling this year, as you can imagine, was exactly the opposite.
In addition, the actual football team won their homecoming game 47-8, and the dance was a big success. I worked the late shift of the dance, and after a long exciting day, I was a wreck by midnight. Monkey and I were supposed to hike today, but when I got home at 12:30, I woke her up and postponed the hike until Sunday. Of course, I am supervising the Amnesty concert tonight, so I may be just as tired tonight. Regardless, I won't be postponing.
Mizzou is currently playing THEIR homecoming game this afternoon. It is a homecoming extravaganza weekend here in C-town. Both high schools and the U are celebrating at the same time. Everybody is coming home! Unfortunately, Monkey and I missed the parade this morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Songs in the Key of Life

"I'll write a book. It will be called
Life and How to Live It."

I don't know when I really decided to be a teacher. I mean, I guess one could say I decided some time after moving out here in '99 (way back in the 20th century). I remember times before then when I thought about it. There was a time in the mid-90s, when I flirted with the idea of teaching English as a Foreign Language somewhere overseas. There were times before that when I had done some workshop or presentation, and somebody said, "You should be a teacher." I thought about it. Even as a high school student, I recall always liking the opportunity to teach something in front of the class. I guess it's something I've always wanted to do; it just took the right confluence of events for it to happen. Lord knows, some think it certainly took me long enough to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
I've always thought that whatever I was doing was what I was supposed to be doing. Whether being a student, working for my dad, selling furniture, doing amateur (and some professional) theatre, whatever I was committed to was what I was supposed to be committed to at the time. What other possibility was there?
At the moment, however, there are a few things about teaching that are just driving me up the wall. Our current administration (school, district and federal) all seem to be conspiring against we teachers on a daily basis. Low pay, increased workload, little support, no seems like the most unrewarding and difficult thing I have ever done. Some days you just want to call up somebody in charge and ask them flat out: "Were you born an asshole, or do you have to work at it?"
But then, there are those moments that come frequently, even daily, when you really connect with one kid about something. Sometimes it's about scholastic stuff--they finally understand how to write a good thesis statement. Sometimes it's about something bigger--getting a kid to realize the benefits of being empathic, talking with a student about dealing with setbacks, or helping a student manage a bad mood. These moments are the one's that make it more than just some job. You realize that in some way you are a caretaker. Yes, I educate--that is my job title--but more than that I try to involve myself in the total well-being of my students. That is the part that all the talking heads and stuffed shirts just don't seem to really get. I am given more and more hoops to jump through. I am at odds with the people who employ me. I have no respect for the person who is supposed to be my boss. But when the bell rings, and the door closes, and it's just me and a mess of kiddos--that is what it is all about. And I realize that this is what I may really have been "meant" to do all along.

Sorry for the treatise. It has been a difficult week on the local political front, and I just needed to vent and give myself an affirmation. A recent development in the relationship between the district administration and we edumacators left a colleague in tears today. Real tears. That is not what the school board is supposed to do to teachers. They really are a bunch of dumb asses sometimes.
Homecoming is Friday. The big Purple-Gold Powder Puff Showdown awaits. I am confident in the girls. They will be competitive. I even think we could win. We shall see. It is a ton of fun coaching. Coach B and I certainly have a good time talking smack with the opposing coaches in the hallways and getting to know the players (many of which I didn't know before practice started--we have a school of more than 2000). I hope to have some pics to post this weekend.
I am also chaperoning the Homecoming Dance and attending the football game on Friday night AND supervising the Amnesty International concert on Saturday night. Monkey and I hope to fit in a pretty long hike on Saturday, too, so I should be pretty exhausted by Sunday (the day on which the Cardinals sweep the Astros and make it to the World Series for the second year in a row).
Ah, the commitments I make to shepherd the youth of central MO.

"And you may ask yourself,
'How did I get here?'"
--Talking Heads

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Nothing Says "Americana" Like a Painted Gourd

At 8 AM, the Robmeister and K-Dogg picked us up in the Roadmaster, and we all headed for Jeff City for the Walk/Run. Monkey and I walked the 5K. R and K ran the 10K. The morning was beautiful, clear and cold. We picked up our race packets, stretched a bit, and we were off. After strolling through our 5K walk in just over 47 minutes, Monkey and I moved over to the run finish line to cheer on our partners in ambulation as they finished their 6+ mile run. They both finished in under an hour! Way to go, Robmeister and K-Dogg!

After bananas and water, we all set off for Kemna's Dinner Bell, in Jeff City, for breakfast. The restaurant was recommended to us by James' sister, a denizen of the state capital, herself. The dinner bell scrambler was a winner, the pancakes were HUGE, and the biscuits and gravy were top notch. The coffee, unfortunately, sucked. I think they washed the dishes with it before they served it. But, all in all, I would recommend it.

One might think that after such a full morning the four of us would simply choogle on back to C-Town and nap the rest of the day away. Au contraire, mes amis. For this weekend is also the annual Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival! So, off we went to Hartsburg, MO (pop. 108). The line of traffic on Route A (the only road in to or out of Hartsburg) was slow. Parking is well supervised, but the flow is one lane and bumper to bumper. K-Dogg got impatient about two miles outside of town and got out of the Roadmaster to walk. She phoned back to the vehicle that parking was close and that we should prepare to pull off and park and walk the rest of the way. She waited for us. At the rendezvous point, however, the only spot was on the eastbound side of the street (we were west bound). Robmeister promptly made the first point in a three point turn. Unfortunately, the first point was a two foot deep ditch. The Buick was stuck, straddling Route A, THE ONLY ROAD IN TO OR OUT OF HARTSBURG. You might say we were blocking traffic. Try as we might, we could not get enough leverage to push the boat out of the ditch. Luckily for us, a pick-up with a tow rope happened to be in the front of the westbound traffic blocked by our intrepid adventurers. It wasn't pretty, but we got out. The car was parked in a safer location and we trundled down the road into Hartsburg, home of the Hitching Post and Hackman Farm, which makes the best apple butter. That, by the way, is Mr. Meister giving us his best rock and roll salute from the right side of the frame.
We also saw a few painted gourds, and sampled some other delicacies. If you are ever able to visit during the second full weekend in October, Monkey and I will surely treat you to a trip to the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival. After all, look at how much fun we could have:

K-Dogg and Monkey really wanted to get on the see-saw, but Monkey moved too slowly and they were beaten by a couple of ten-year-olds. We had to hold K-Dogg back from calling the girls out. That woman is FIERCE!

Friday, October 07, 2005

That Championship Season

Wednesday's game was at eight o'clock. The day had been sunny, warm and humid, and when I went outside at 6:30, the air was still thick. I left for the game at 7:15, and the wind started to kick up. The sky to the west and north was ominous, filled with dark clouds that shrouded the last rays of the sunset. I was pleading with Mother Nature to hold off on the rain until 9. We'd be done by then.
At the ball park, the wind was blowing steadily in from right field at about 15 miles an hour. It was getting downright chilly, and all I had on was a t-shirt and shorts. We got under way, and the rain was holding off, just like I'd hoped. The wind, however, made it hard to pitch and hard to get a good ball out of the infield. We played three innings, and the opposing team was up 3-1. The rain started about that time, and what a cold rain it was. Did I mention that I was woefully underdressed? My glasses got wet, my shirt got wet. Monkey, sitting in the stands under a borrowed umbrella, got wet. The Deadliners started hitting (the wind died down with the coming of the rain), and we took the lead 5-3. The other team came back and tied the score in the bottom of the inning, and then asked the ump if we could call the game a tie. The ump said no.
In the top of the seventh, the Deadliners finally broke out and scored five to take a 10-5 lead. All we needed to do was hold them down and we could end the wet, cold misery of this final game and finish the season undefeated. We got one out, they put runners on, we got the second out, they scored two. It was 10-7. They had two runners on; the tying run was at the plate. It was tense, we were wet. I couldn't see through my rain-spattered glasses. And we got the last out. We were undefeated! But better than that, we could go find a nice warm bar and dry out (so to speak). It was phenomenal.
Yesterday came and went, busily. Alright, not that busily. After work my colleague, JT, and Monkey and I went over to Booche's for a burger and some adult beverages. Monkey left around 8:30, but Coach B was on his way to join us, so I stayed. Eventually, Reverend Wayne and Mrs. Coomers showed up, another schoolie, BK, rolled in later, and various other folks from around town happened to drop by, too. Next thing you know, it's 11:00, and our hero needs to go to work in just a few hours. Well, long story short, I managed to have a great time and still be on top of my game today. Positive reinforcement of negative behaviors...Strindberg was only half right!
And so, it is Friday! The Monkey and I are doing our annual endangered species walk/run tomorrow. I may walk. I may run. It will be a game-time decision. The morning run/walk will be followed by the most unbelievable array of Americana the world has ever seen: The Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival. I'll be getting me some homemade apple butter and corn relish, for sure. I hear the pies are pretty good, too. The weather will be perfect. It is finally (since Wednesday) crisp and autumnal around here.
And with the mention of the corn relish and such, I have nearly completed the thread of the week. What foodstuffs will we discuss tomorrow? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Lick It Up

Because life is brief
and many are the pains
which, living and struggling, everyone sustains,

let us follow our desires,
passing and consuming the years,
because whoever deprives himself of pleasure,
to live with anguish and worries,
doesn't know the tricks
of the world, or by what ills
and by what strange happenings
all mortals are overwhelmed.
--Nicolo Machiavelli, Mandragola
translated by Mera J. Flaumenhaft

Softball tonight. Forecasted thunderstorms seem to be holding off. Last game of the season. The Tribune Deadliners are looking to go undefeated and win back-to-back Fall C League Championships. Really, the title is already in the bag, but we would like to finish 6-0. I certainly will miss playing (until next Spring), but I'm happy to see the seaon come to a successful end. Monkey even got in on the action, playing in a game two weeks ago. It was good to see her back on the field. I'll report the score when I see y'all again.
A good friend of mine, Martha V., has recently called me out for a photo placed in a recent post. She is confused about the scraggly old sofa upon which Ripken and I lay. She thought we threw that one out. She is right, we do have a new sofa. That is an old pic. Sorry, I don't have anything more recent, right now. I am charging the batteries for the digital camera. I will soon post a picture of the new sofa. I hope you like it when you see it. Monkey is very pleased with it.
Speaking of the sofa, Monkey and I have recently jumped on the Lost bandwagon. We have been slowly plowing through rented first season episodes. We are halfway through season one. We have been recording (DVR) the new season, and we don't plan to watch the new ones until we finish all of the old ones. By the third season, we should be watching in real time.
I just finished reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. Anybody ever read that one? It was the inspiration for the eighties movie Blade Runner, with Harrison Ford, but it must have been a slight inspiration, because I see very little of the movie in the book. I haven't seen the movie in a while. I plan on renting it soon to compare. The book was quite good. I don't really dig on science-fiction, but this book raised a slew of philosophical-type issues that it was fun to think about. Even better, the book raised those issues without beating me over the head. They were just a part of the book, rather than a big didactic diversion in the middle of the plot. I hate that. It's like a musical, where the story is simply humming along, only to stop dead in its tracks so some silly woman can sing a song, the words of which I just can't understand. If I wanted to see costumed people singing songs, I would pop in the video of the Kiss Halloween special from way back when. Dude, that was some scary shit, Kiss.
In order to maintain, at least for this week, the food theme that has inexplicably introduced itself to these ramblings (PB & J on Sunday, Hot Turkey Sandwiches on Monday, Chicken Nuggets on Tuesday), I made a fourteen vegetable stew last night. It was pretty good. It also has pork in it. The recipe left me with a stew, however, that had very little liquid in it. It was more like steamed vegetables. I adjusted it. It is better, but still could use more liquid. Keep that in mind if you ever make fourteen vegetable stew.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

School Lunch

Okay. From turkey to chicken. Today is Tuesday, which means that the cafeteria serves chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes and gravy. I look forward to Tuesdays. Every other day of the week, I bring lunch from home. A sandwich, yogurt, a banana. Sometimes leftovers from last night's dinner. But Tuesdays are my day of dietary indulgence. I am addicted to the warm little processed "meat" with the golden, slightly greasy "breading." I know the meat is an otherworldly texture. No chicken has flesh like that. No healthy chicken, anyway. No breading I have ever seen in my life is that faker-than-a-spray-on-tan golden brown. The mashed potatoes and gravy, too. Instant taters, for sure, with the yellowest virtual poultry-based pseudo-gravy imaginable. I know. I am typing this and thinking, "Ugh, how can I eat that?" Two seconds later, I am thinking, "I can't believe I have to wait all week for next Tuesday." I am a sad, sad dude.
Speaking of things that are not high-quality, the San Diego Padres lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of their playoff game. Currently, the Chicago White Sox are opening up a can of whoop-ass on the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees play the LA Angels (of Anaheim in California) later. I am assuredly rooting for the Cards, and I would like to see Boston get back in, so the Cards can stomp them and avenge last year's sweep. But, really, I just love playoff baseball, and without the Orioles (they used to be in the playoffs occasionally), I don't care who wins (as long as it isn't the freaking Yankees).
No fights in school today. I didn't get my adrenaline rush. I got back out on the basketball court, yesterday. I sprained my ankle about six weeks ago and didn't play. I tweaked it a little bit last night, but I made it through with no major re-injury. I will probably play again on Thursday.
I do have about a hundred papers to grade. I take about ten minutes a paper, which doesn't sound like much, until you multiply it by 100. Which is 1000. Which is nearly seventeen hours. So, maybe I should get to work, huh?
Yeah, probably. My goal is to have them graded before the next time I can treat myself (for $2.25) to chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Fat Puppy Dog

Monkey returned from the vet's on Friday with startling news. Our puppy dog of six years, Ripken Ozark, had gained seven pounds since his last annual check up! Seven pounds. That's like fifty human pounds! Clearly his age is catching up with him. And we don't walk him enough. The doctor suggested low calorie food. I think we should walk him more. I mean, I sure wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life eating low calorie food. It's bad enough I switched to low fat turkey dogs. Thank God I still have hot turkey sandwiches. I will be enjoying one tonight. Otherwise the puppy dog is healthy and happy. He's just fat. And Bachman Turner Overdrive proved that there ain't nothing wrong with that.
This morning, as I put the finishing touches on a lecture on Romantic literature (yes, I know, you can't believe the excitement that is my life), the president speechified about his newly appointerated Supreme Court nominee: Harriet Miers. Her qualifications: uh, she likes the original Law and Order, and she really prefers the law part. That, and she's a woman. Is she a hard-line conservative? Is she a bleeding heart pinko? Who the hell knows. Will she take a cue from Chief Justice Johnny-Boy Roberts and stonewall Congress? If she's smart she will. I have a feeling the Democrats will be shitheads about the whole thing just on principle. They let Roberts slide, so they'll make Miers' life hell just to compensate.
That was the big news of the day. That and the whole censorship brouhaha at my school resolved itself into nothing. We will maintain the status quo. You haven't heard the dope? Well, we have a new leader at my workplace, who seems to be the kind of leader who stands behind the curtain and controls the giant talking head and purple smoke clouds in the inner sanctum of the Wizard. You know, a "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain"- type. Well, we'll call our fearless leader Fearless Leader. Without getting into details, the possibility of real sanctions could have befallen my department. All of us were in a mess o' consternation. We lost sleep, we lost hair, we drank heavily (on the weekends). After all the sturm and drang, nothing will change. We were supposed to have a meeting with Mr. Leader today, but he didn't post. And I still haven't actually seen him in the hallways. "The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken."
One thing I have seen in the hallways is a great deal of masculine nonsense. I've had to get involved in two fights in my hallway this year. The first two of my career, and they come less than two weeks apart. What's up with that? I gotta tell you though, breaking up a fight is quite an adrenaline rush. Not one I would prefer to have regularly, but it surely does get the old heart pumping.
The day ended with a strong and productive practice from Coach B.'s and my powder puff flag football team. Homecoming is less than two weeks away, and the team is looking strong on offense...maybe needs a little help on the D.
Now, it is time for the hot turkey sandwich! Mmmmmm. I will be thinking of you, as I enjoy the hot turkey sandwich. Unfortunately, it will be without fries.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A New Dawn

Good morning! After several years in the Midwest, and several intermittent mass emails to family and friends, I have decided to try a new way to keep everyone up to date with the life that is mine here on the other side of the Mississippi. Updates will still be as entertaining as ever (I hope), but they will come far more frequently, and you can check them at your leisure. How wonderful is that?!
Since I have been thinking about doing this since September, I thought I would wait until the first of October to start the new format. Of course, the first of October came and went before I realized that it actually was the first of October! So, we'll just get down to it today and try not to concern ourselves with temporal shortcomings.
Yesterday was a great day. Monkey and I drove down south of Rolla, to a section of the Mark Twain National Forest, for a hike through Kaintuck Hollow. We left in the dark of the morning, arriving at our destination (after only missing one turn) at about 8:30 am. The day was cool, the sky was clear, the trail was dry, the pack was full of PB & J, and off we went.
Our first site destination was Wilkins Spring and Pond. Wilkins Pond, a beautiful, shallow little pond in a valley that collects water from the amazingly clear and cold spring, was a great place to munch an apple and take a little break. We spent about a half hour there, walking the shoreline and inspecting the old foundations of the mill that used to stand on the property. Then, it was off to the natural bridge.
Which we walked right past, or over.
We thought, "Gee, shouldn't we have been there by now?"
We came to a confusing mass of trail intersections which were not on the map. This was puzzling and frustrating. After determining which of the tracks was the main trail, we made a joint decision to turn left. Yet, something about turning right seemed to draw both of us away from our firm decision of seconds ago.
"Maybe," said Monkey, "I'll just go up there and check it out for a few yards."
And off she went. I followed, and within a hundred feet, we came to a cave.
"This is it," I said.
"No, it's a cave, not a bridge."
We entered the cave, which appeared to be just that. It was pretty dark only a few yards in. The cave took a right, and the turn revealed the other side of the natural bridge. It was, indeed, totally cool. We had walked right over it, and hadn't any idea.
The trek back to the car was a small, "we missed the main trail" kind of adventure. But we managed to get back safe and sound and right on schedule. Noon found us munching on our sandwiches as we contemplated a wonderful little hike. The only question: where shall we walk next?
Of course, there is much more to tell everyone about, but I think, since we're in for the long haul, I'll save it for the next time. Tomorrow? Maybe, baby.