Saturday, July 26, 2008

When Bedtime Stories Go Horribly Wrong

Took my wife's family out for a drive to Mt. Rainier National Park for a picnic and a quick hike around Paradise, Washington, at the foot of the mountain. It really is truly breathtaking out there. We saw a few deer but, thankfully, no mountain lions or bears.

During lunch I briefly entertained the kids with a made up story about the "Monkey Bear" that is rumored to live in the woods around Mt. Rainier. I'm not sure where the inspiration came from. I think perhaps it was something Jay might have mentioned in one of his posts as a story he told Harper once, like the third eye on her forehead. I believe Chuck may have told such a story, too. Fact is, any of my friends could have told this story--great minds think alike.

Anyhoo, it was just a silly story about how a monkey had escaped from the zoo to the woods and married a bear. Next thing you know there's a bear with a monkey face and hands with a long prehensile tail stalking campsites looking for Doritos. My older boys chuckled and immediately dismissed the story. My 8-year-old played along, perhaps hoping beyond hope that there really was a monkey bear and that he'd get to see something he's never seen before. My daughter nervously laughed...I know she believed it.

Skip ahead to bedtime that night. I just finished a bedtime story for the younger kids. It was a pretty poor effort and not filled with my usual fare of silliness, farts, and general mayhem. By the way, I've learned that the secret to a good bedtime story is to throw a fart or two in--gets them every time. Again, I realized from the looks on there faces that I would get no peace until I satisfied the masses. When one of my nieces asked if the monkey bear story was true, I took the opportunity to modify my previous story a bit. I said that it was actually a gorilla with a taste for human flesh that killed it's keeper and escaped into the woods. I went on to talk about how it trapped a carload of teenage girls and was closing in for the kill (they were eating this up by this point and all smiles and screams) when it grabbed a banana and ran off. The masses were appeased and I went back downstairs.

My daughter (age 6), while initially pleased with my second offering, had a little time to think about it and decided the story was too scary. I had to talk her down with promises of a chapter story spread out over many nights with lots of ponies and princesses. It's hard to include farts in a story like that, but I'll do my best.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Good to be Back Home Again

Back home now after my recent trip. Last half of the trip was pretty exciting. We left Turkey and flew to Baghdad to upload some helicopters. While there we saw Barak Obama land for his visit to Iraq. I told him that I knew a couple of Democrats in SC (one budding, one hard core) that were probably going to vote for him. He said he appreciated that, though he was surprised they would with all of his recent flip-flops. Just kidding. Just trying to get a rise out of Rick and George. I really did see him land, though it was across the runway from where we were parked.
We flew from Baghdad to Rota NAS, Spain, where we spent the night. We were all pretty ragged out with the long, hot day, so we kept the festivities that night to a mere dinner on the beach. Life is tough. The tuna steak I had that night, however, was not. Spain is nice, by the way. Nice, balmy temps with a cool breeze blowing off the ocean. We were put right into crew rest for the next day, so we didn't get to enjoy some sangria.
We flew from Rota to Savannah, Georgia to drop off the helos. We flew right past lakes Marion and Moultrie (named after Martha's famous great-great grandfather, Tom "Fatback" Moultrie of the revolutionary war era--I think that's true, but I can't back it up). I just starred out the window as the SC/GA lowcountry passed underneath our wing. Absolutely beautiful.
We quick turned at Savannah and pressed on to Travis AFB, CA to finish up our mission. Just passing Atlanta, and in the middle of a system of thunderstorms, our weather radar crapped out. We spent the next 3 hours dodging storms with the help of air traffic control and using the old mark 1 eyeball. Pretty hairy.
It was nice getting home yesterday. My wife's family has converged on our new house, so it's like a zoo right now. Kids are running around everywhere. My mother-in-law's RV is parked in the front yard. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy 17th anniversary to George and Jennifer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Would I Do Different?

Todd had a very thought-provoking post about what he would do if he could go back 25 years and do it all over knowing what he knows now. I realize that our mistakes/regrets help make us who we are, but I'm going to operate under the assumption that we can keep the experiences gained from the bad choices after we fixed them. I realize that this flies in the face of all Science Fiction stories, but please bear with me:

Let's see, 25 years. That would make me...what, 15? Let's begin there:

- I would have listened to my folks a lot more; they're really smart, having been around the proverbial block a time or two more than I have
- I would have started my term papers for HARP sooner than the week prior to them being due, with the goal being to have them finished several days prior to the due date. Many late nights were spent typing those suckers out the night before.
- I would have told many of my teachers how much I enjoyed learning from them.
- I would have taken Martha to the Senior Prom instead of the girl from Pelion I ended up taking. I'm convinced that I would have had much more fun going with a friend like Martha than being crushed THE NIGHT OF THE PROM by someone I was kidding myself thinking she liked me. There, I feel better...
- I would start jogging at a younger age.
- I would have been a better roommate to Jay.
- I would have kept in better touch with my High School friends. These blogs have really been a blessing--getting back in touch with lifelong friends again.
- I would never have tried to sneak into a movie while Chuck was on shift at Bush River Cinemas. We put you in a bad spot, Chuck, and you handled it with grace and style.
- Suspenders with shorts...would never have worn them.
- Would never have dated my friend Steve's sister from Atlanta. She was a little nutty (as I found out later). She tracked me down years later at MY MOTHER-IN-LAW's house in San Antonio. Little freaky.
- I would be much more patient with my oldest boy growing up.
- I would have called my wife much sooner than I did. I had her number for two months before I called her and asked her out. It took a call from Steve's nutty sister (another stalking incident) to get me to look for a "fresh perspective." The rest is history.

That's about it for now. This was kind of a cathartic experience. I may have to continue this in a later post. I just got down from flying and am sitting in Turkey. We fly through Iraq tomorrow and back to Germany to begin the homeward trek.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Pilot Looks at Forty

Small tribute to a classic Jimmy Buffet tune as I leave the land of the thirties behind and join many of my friends in the exciting world of the forties.

I hit the road on 14 July on my first offstation mission since returning from the squadron's deployment in March. We flew 4 1/2 hours to Dover, Delaware and spent the night, the crew enjoying some Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner that night. The next day we took off for Spangdahlem AB, Germany. We turned our jet over to another crew and went to our off base hotel to await the next mission.
I must say that I miss certain aspects of the crew dog life. The middle-of-the-night alerts are for the birds, but it's the times when the crew gets together and explores some local culture and takes in the sights...that's when the fun begins. We have a couple of days before our next mission (a rare occurance in these days and times) and were blessed with the use of a "Blue Steely" AF van, so we took in a little historical culture. The crew hopped over to nearby Bastogne, Belgium, to walk the ground where the "Band of Brothers" of 101st Airborne fame made their famous stand during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Great museum there at the historical center. Afterwards, we drove down to Luxembourg City in the Duchy of Luxembourg. Dinner was Pizza Napoleatana washed down with bubbly mineral water--tres European! We ate in an open square with a brass band playing in a nearby gazeebo. Of course it was a bit chilly and drizzly, and we all stuck out like sore thumbs with our shorts and t-shirts.
Today is much less "cultural." We're staying on base and I'm blogging while my clothes finish drying.

I guess there's worse places in the world to be when you turn 40...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Search is Over


We moved into our new house in Puyallup on Wednesday. The balance of our household goods showed up on Friday. Most everything made it and only a few things broken/dinged/scratched/scuffed. It was like Christmas for the kids as they opened boxes of toys they'd not played with in months.

There was one scary moment as the movers unpacked the crates. The one in the crate remarked on a "funny smell" as he handed out boxes. The "funny" smell turned into a "horrible smell." I think he may have gagged a time or two. One of the other movers screamed and pointed at his feet once. It was nothing, of course, and we all thought the box man's moment of terror was pretty funny. Everyone thought that perhaps something crawled into the box and died. I made a half-hearted joke about our cat being missing. The movers, to a man, didn't laugh. "Dude, that's happened before." Something about a cat crawling up into a couch. Our couch was cat-free, thank God. We never did figure out what the smell was. Said one mover to box man, "Dude, it was probably you."

Anyway, normalcy is returning just in time for me to head out on a trip Monday. I'm headed over to Germany and on to parts unknown. Iraq or Afghanistan, probably. Much apologies to James for my failure to call lately. Now that I've got some digs, I owe the Kirk clan a much-deserved steak dinner at Das Ritterhaus in Puyallup.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Catching Running Water in My Hand

The housing saga continues, but the end is in sight.

The Fox Island house fell through. Yes, Jay, I've seen the footage of the first Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse (hopefully the ONLY collapse). Don't think that doesn't go through my mind every time I go over that bridge. Anyhoo, we thought we had an "in" with the owner. He's a German ex-pat living in San Diego. We just came from Germany. I like Jagerschnitzel. We'd both like to invade France. What's the problem? His current tenant, apparently tired of the endless line of prospective renters, went with a kindly elderly couple with two small dachsunds. I told him that he should not be taken in so quickly with older folk. They seem nice but have years of experience to draw from and are quite crafty. "Don't get between them and an all-you-can-eat buffet, either."

"Vas ist der all-you-ken-eet-buffet?"

I sighed and hung up the phone, resolved to continue my endless search for a home to rent much like Caine wandering the West on "Kung Fu."

We have the inside track on a house in Puyallup which, I believe, means "Land of Boundless Cookie Cutter Homes" in native Indian. Our house is not very "cookie cutter-ish," though. We're going tomorrow to lock it in with a deposit. The search is almost over, Grasshopper.