Bring your own fork

October 31, 2004 - Sunday

 Halloween ’04

The trick-or-treaters have been and gone, so I guess Halloween is officially over now. Zoe went out with one of her friends and made a pretty good haul and now she’s being all greedy with it — won’t share at all. Fortunately, I have Parenthood on my side and can ground her if she doesn’t give me all the good stuff. It sucks being a kid sometimes. But it rules being a grown-up!

Another of Zoe’s friends was supposed to go out with them tonight, but that girl’s mother is in-fucking-sane. She called us at 8-fucking-30 this morning (caller ID gave her away) and I let the call go to voicemail because do NOT fucking call my house before 10 a.m. on a weekend because we’re slackathors and prefer to sleep our weekends away and what the hell is anyone doing up before 10 on a weekend if you’re not skiing or scuba diving anyway? And then the stupid bitch called AGAIN 30 minutes later! Wide awake now, I answered the phone. Surely something critically emergent was happening that required her to call us twice in one morning 30 minutes apart, something threatening Life As We Know It. And indeed it was That Fucking Important: her daughter would not be trick-or-treating with us tonight after all. Something about her attitude needing adjusting and making better choices and what-the-fuck-ever. So I grunted and hung up. Because what the fuck? You had to call me at fucking dawn to tell me that? Twice? And you couldn’t just leave a message the first time? She’d better run the next time I see her. Fast.zelv.jpg

Seriously, that kid’s mom is nuts. Her kid is a handful, there’s no getting around that. Behavioural issues, poorly socialized from previous foster care, not the sharpest tack in the drawer, and just an all-around weird kid in general just for the sake of being weird (at least that’s what I think). During one of her sleepovers here I found her sitting alone in Zoe’s room staring slack-jawed at the light on the ceiling. I asked her what she was doing. “Uhh…. Just staring at the light.” While still staring. So, seriously, the kid is a freak. But I doubt she did something so out there that it warranted banning Halloween. That’s just mean. I felt badly for her, and I half suspect there was a Mommy Dearest moment going on over there after I got off the phone.

But anyway… So Zoe did the trick or treating thing while I stayed home and handed out candy. I was Fat Elvis and Zoe was an age-appropriate not-sexy teen witch. Check out the super fantastic fabulousness of our costumes. FYI, that’s a TCB necklace I’m wearing and a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich in my bathrobe pocket. For verisimilitude, ya know. (I was going to do Dead Elvis but I couldn’t come up with a toilet I could put on the porch to sit on.)

I wished everybody Happy Halloween and thanked them for coming in my Elvis voice, and one kid made me sad when he said I sounded like Johnny Bravo. You’re wrong, kid, I told him. Johnny Bravo sounds like ME. I’m Elvis, baby, I’m the King, and don’t you forget it. Ask yer momma, she’ll know, momma-baby. This kid didn’t get the good stuff: Snickers or Reeses. No, he got the crappy Bottle Caps. Six-year olds. No frame of reference. Pitiful.

We had a little jack-o-lantern disaster out front too. This seems to happen every year, probably because Zoe and I can’t wait to get started and carve the pumpkins too soon, but our pumpkins start wilting in the heat. And getting moldy. And oozing. And collapsing. And it happened again this year. The big pumpkin held up okay, but the little one — the one we called Frankenpumpkin because it had scars extending down both sides of its face — well, the little one suffered a loss of structural integrity. Its face collapsed. It was very Nicholas Cage/John Travolta in Face/Off, only the story was believable and the acting didn’t make you cringe.

Here’s how it looked burning merrily away pre-disintegration:

And this is post-disintegration. (Zoe added the Kleenex for comic effect. It represents the pumpkin’s guts):

There was still some open space inside the spoogey mess after it collapsed and I didn’t want to see it die in vain, so I crammed a candle in there and lit it. It wasn’t much of a jack-o-lantern, but it tried, dammit:

And… That’s it for this Halloween. Now I’m going to go raid Zoe’s candy sack.

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October 30, 2004 - Saturday

 Love Ride 21

It’s that time of year again. It’s Love Ride time, the annual fundraiser I’ve participated in for the last three years, and I’m doing it again this year.

What is the Love Ride? I’ll let you follow that link that I helpfully provided there for you to get all the gory details, and instead I’ll just sum it up in a nutshell: It’s an annual motorcycle-based fundraiser here in Southern California, where 30,000+ bikers get together and ride to raise money for Reading by 9, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the City of Hope, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Los Angeles, and a host of other groups. We ride, you pay, people who need help get it. What’s not to love?

And this is the part where I hit you, my super fantastic readers, up for $$$. I’m not like all those freeloader sites you see out there, the ones with the Amazon or PayPal donate buttons: “Hi, Chuck Atkins, please support my I Love Kittens site!” No, the Pie is on me, and I’ll never panhandle you for pocket change to help support my hobby. But I will hit you up for cash for this — because it’s for a good cause, not because I want it.

So go ahead and click on the Love Ride 21 graphic over there in the right-hand column and donate a few bucks to sponsor me in the Love Ride. My entry’s already paid for (by me, thankyewverymuch); I’m just asking you to help me meet my goal of raising $500.

If I do hit that $500 goal, well… I’ll post a picture of … something me-related. Let me know when you donate and what you want a picture of and I’ll do it if we top $500. And here’s the scary part: there’s no limits on this — you name it, I’ll do it. Whatever.

Damn. Now I’m scared. Go donate, quick, before I change my mind.

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October 29, 2004 - Friday


It’s my birthday today. Woo, go me.

I was thinking about the Beatles song, Birthday. The lyrics go a little something like this:

You say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too–yeah

How hard would that suck? You’re all happy because it’s your birthday and people are probably going to be nice to you and give you stuff and it’s basically “your day” for the day — and fucking Paul McCartney comes bopping in saying “It’s my birthday too — yeah!” Great. So now you get to share “your day” with one of the most famous and beloved men in music. Great. Guess whose day it’s really gonna be now? That’s right: the Walrus’s. Goo goo g�joob.

And then Paul goes on to sing:

I would like you to dance–Birthday
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance-Birthday
I would like you to dance–Birthday

Great. So not only are you going to be overshadowed by McCartney, who all the women are going to be screaming over while you sit lonely and ignored in the corner, but now he also wants you to be his monkey too. Dance, monkeyboy, dance! Dance for my pleasure! Some birthday.

McCartney hasn’t shown up yet here, though, so mine’s been going pretty well so far. The day started at Zoe’s school with their annual Halloween parade, where the Fates finally granted my wish and brought me face to face with her. And of course I was wearing that stupid Elvis mask for the introduction, which must explain why she didn’t immediately tackle me to the ground and begin having her way with me. But that’s okay, we have a whole school year ahead of us. Stalking Love takes time.

Then I went to the movies solo, which I love to do, and saw Saw. Ha, I just like saying that:

I saw Saw.
What did you see?
Okay, what did you saw?
Nothing, I went to the movies. I saw Saw.

Ha. Anyway: Saw. Not bad. Genuinely creepy at a few points, good tension, but then it got kind of silly in the 3rd act, especially with Cary Elwes gnawing every little bit of scenery he could find. And don’t get me started on the yeah, right bad guy. But over-all: eh, not bad.

Then home again to meet up with Mom, who gave the gift that always fits: cash, then Beth and Zoe showed up with a hooded vest for diving. My wetsuit has no hood, which means my big bald noggin is hanging out there in the water scaring all the fish, and on my last dive the water temp was 62, which was pretty fuggin’ cold and which served as notice to me that it was probably my last dive of the season without a hood. When you get a spike-in-the-head headache from how cold the water is around you, it’s time to cover up. Which now I’ll be able to do, warmly.

And finally, on tap for dinner this evening is sushi at our favorite restaurant. Woo.

Not a bad way to celebrate a birthday. It’s almost enough to make you forget you’re turning 4-friggin’-2.


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October 27, 2004 - Wednesday


I have to give a virtual tip of the hat to my close personal friend Technology for its assistance during my Halloween costume shopping.

Rite Aid is pretty short on dressing rooms and display mirrors with which to check the awesomeness of your super fantastic Halloween mask, so instead I used my camera phone. I’d put each mask on, shoot a self portrait with the camera phone, then take off the mask and check out the fully-detailed 125 X 94 pixel image on the phone’s screen to judge its merit. This was obviously unnecessary once I found the Elvis mask but I went ahead and took the picture of it anyway. Consistency, you know.

Because I’m a giver, I figured I’d share those pictures with you so you could see the mask evolution that led to Halloween costume greatness. We begin with a purple mohawk, move on to the Belushi-esque “Bluesman”, continue to a generic “Burglar” (that almost won by virtue of an excellent fit), and then seized upon Elvis. So here you go. Enjoy.

Birth of a costume

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October 26, 2004 - Tuesday

 Elvis Sighting

Hey now, momma babyHalloween preparations are continuing apace. It’s pouring down rain outside, thus preventing construction of my trademark big-ass spiderweb out front, but I found my costume today at Rite-Aid. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis is in the house! ——————>

Fat Elvis, that is.

I’m thinking of setting up a toilet out front so I can sit out there Halloween night and be Just-Died Elvis as I hand out candy. I wouldn’t need the leather jumpsuit that way — just a bathrobe. Or maybe not even that. Now that would be scary.

Thankyew! Thankyewverymuch!

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 From The “Where Are My Manners” Department

Is twelve days long enough to enter Major Asshole territory, or are you still trekking through the hinterlands of Rude Jerk at that point? Perhaps right on the border? Well, where ever it is, that’s where I am because it’s been that long since I met some of the people I link to from here for dinner and I never said a word here about it. Oopsie.

The parties in question were my lovely wife Beth, El Steve and his no-question-about-it better half Viv, and the new-to-me Carol. I had a nice time seeing/meeting/having dinner with these people, and I know they checked in here expecting me to talk about it and were disappointed, so apologies are in order for not doing so. To some of them.

Now, I can get away without acknowledging Beth for obvious reasons: she didn’t write about it either, and thus is even more shameful than me. And I can get away without giving his Steveness his due because, well, he ain’t got none. But I can’t let myself off the hook for failing to mention seeing Viv again, or meeting Carol for the first time. I should have said something sooner because, well, it was worth mentioning.

Viv goes without saying. (Um, pun not intended.) She has been a longtime stealth reader of these pages, she’s very cool, betrays (outwardly, at least) absolutely no regrets at having married far beneath her station, and I hardly ever get to see her, so let me just say — belatedly, too late, and even after the fact — that I’m glad we got together and I wish we’d do it sooner.

Carol was someone I’d been looking forward to meeting, but I have to admit that I was disappointed. I’m half-deaf, you see, and the restaurant was noisy and she sat at the far end of the table from me, and Steve would not shut up, and so I didn’t get to really talk with her very much. Which was not great, because I wanted to get to know her better. But she had excellent table manners and was witty in the few moments we spoke to each other, so I have high hopes for the next time we meet. And in the meantime, I get to keep reading her blog, which I think you should all go read right now (and here’s another link to it to make things easy on you) before I say something else mean about Steve.

And then there’s Steve. Yeah. Once you trek into the desert with a complete stranger to hand up a pay phone, there’s really no going back. You’re linked to each other for life, sort of like that old American Indian thing about when someone saves your life you’re bound to them for good, only it’s not nearly that noble. But that’s sort of what Steve and I have, tempered by the anti-emotion ribbing that guys do when they like each other but pretend they don’t. So it’s always good to see him, especially since the gaps seem to be getting longer and longer.

So having dinner with them all was a nice time and I should have said so sooner. But better late than never and all that, so get off my back about it already.

And next time let’s not do Don Cuco’s. Sure, the food’s good, but it’s not that good, and I’d like to be able to friggin’ hear everybody. Instead, let’s go to Waffle House.

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October 25, 2004 - Monday

 Halloween Prep

I’m going to try something different for Halloween this year. Last year, I was in Fresno, and I was in Memphis the year before that. This year I think I’ll spend the holiday at home.

We’re all about Halloween around here. It’s probably my favorite holiday (after you rule out the good ones where people give you stuff), and Zoe is taking after her old man in that regard. Her costume has been lined up for weeks now and today we finally got around to carving the pumpkins like she’s been bugging us to do.

First, let’s talk about her costume. Here’s the picture from the package:


Let me just say Oh. My. God. Zoe looks nothing like that in it. If she did, several things would be happening: A) she would not be wearing it or anything like it, ever, B) she would be locked away in a boy-proof room somewhere in an undisclosed location, and C) I would be standing guard outside that room with a locked-and-loaded 12 gauge Mossberg. Now, all those things are going to happen anyway once she hits puberty, but this costume reminded me that I need to get started making the preparations. She is, as Beth likes to say “8 going on 16.”

Anyway, the costume’s been in hand for awhile now, and today we got started on the pumpkins. Zoe “helped” with scraping the guts out. Here she it working on one of them:


She was disturbingly fixated on the pumpkin guts. She collected them all in a bowl and then spent the next hour kneading them bare-handed until they had been reduced to a disgusting porridge of orange goo. She was quite proud of herself and insisted that I post the following picture.


Before = pre-gutting, After = post-gutting, but pre-kneading. I didn’t get a picture of the fully-kneaded goo because it was just too disgusting, even for me. Picture a frothy bowl of stringy Orange Julius with a soundtrack of squelching and Zoe muttering “Cooooooollllll!!!!” Blech!

The finished product came out looking pretty good, I think. (The jack-o-lanterns, not the goo.) Here they are in the dark:


And here they are out front, carefully positioned to strike fear into trick-or-treaters.


There’s more to do out front — I still need to build a graveyard in the entry way and set up the fog machine and put the giant spiderweb up next to the front door, but we’re officially under way now that the pumpkins are carved.

Stand by for more Halloween goodness…

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October 22, 2004 - Friday

 Life In Shaky-Town

Lablogs asks:

1) What sort of earthquake preparations do most people have?

It varies by level of paranoia, ranging from “nothing” to “I’m moving to Kansas tomorrow.” Little known fact, though: Kansas has earthquakes too. Oopsie.

2) Have you ever lived though a big quake?

Yes. And I think phrasing it as “lived through” reveals an element of fear on the part of the questioner.

3) Which ones?

The Northridge Earthquake in 1994. Our house was about four miles from the epicenter. It was quite a ride — I remember being bounced out of bed in complete darkness and stumbling across the heaving floor like a drunk, over to the bedroom doorway where I had to brace myself to keep from being thrown down, and yelling at Beth to get out of bed and come get in the doorway with me where it was safe. She rode it out where she was — nothing gets Beth out of bed, not even a big-ass earthquake.

4) Does anybody really have earthquake insurance?

Yes. That’s why you’ve heard of it.

5) Do you?

Yes, and it was a good thing we did in 1994. We had to make major repairs that we couldn’t have afforded without it.

6) How bad would things have to get for my apartment to come crashing into
the ground?

It depends on the apartment building, but click on the Northridge Earthquake link above for an example. If you’ll recall, an apartment building did come crashing down, killing 16 residents. Maybe you should move to Kansas. Or… maybe not.

7) If I don’t anchor the bookcases to the wall, are they really going to
fall over and kill me in my sleep?

Only if you A) sleep under them and B) store anvils on them.

8) Are you fearful, anticipating, or indifferent to coming quakes?

Indifferent, edging toward anticipating. They’re kind of fun when nobody gets hurt and there’s no significant damage. Dirt surfing, woo hoo!

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 Turning Up The Heat

God, I love the internet.

The heater on our central air is out (again! — it seems like it goes out every other year), so I had a repairman come out today. You know how these guys are (or maybe you don’t): they’re crooks, always looking to shoot an angle on you. He poked around for a few minutes, then came inside and announced: “It needs a new circuit board. That’s a $500 part.”

Yeah, $500. For a circuit board. I don’t think so.

So I thanked him for coming out, told him there was no way in hell we were spending $500 on a unit we put in just a few years ago, and sent him on his way. Then I came inside, sat down at my computer, and plugged the part number into Google. $98. So I’ll buy it online, pick up a six-pack at the local 7-11, and one of Beth’s engineers from work will come out and install it for me.

$500 part my ass. I’ve got a $500 computer in here with a high speed connection that’ll bitchslap you out of business every time.

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 Walk The Walk

I have a challenge for my conservative mouth-breathing brethren who are planning to vote for W on November 2nd. I want you to go take the Patriot Pledge and sign up for everything you’re voting for. If you’re going to talk the talk, then you’d damn well better walk the walk.

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