Jul 272008
  • My road warriors continue to impress. They turned in a single leg of 261 miles today—from I-10 to Gardendale. Understand, I’m not a hard-ass on this; if someone has to go to the restroom, or wants to stretch legs, or whatever, we stop. They just don’t need to. Awesome!
  • I’ve mentioned before that I run 77 on the interstate. It’s fast enough to please my make-good-time circuit, and slow enough to avoid the attention of law enforcement. I don’t even deactivate the cruise control when I see a trooper in the median. 77 in a 70 just isn’t going to get you stopped. So I don’t worry too much about unmarked cars and the like except as an amused spectator, and wow, was I ever amused today. Guess what sprouted blue lights and a siren behind me about 30 miles south of Montgomery this morning? A silver Infiniti G35:

He glided by at 95 or so and got a gold Lexus in front of me. As a public service, I used to try to keep a list of unmarked makes and models I’d seen Alabama state troopers using, but if they’re using a G35 now, what’s the point? Quoting Lea: “Oh, that’s not even fair.” Heh.

  • I’m slowly dropping pieces of technology for vacation. This year I left my GPS receiver and my scanner at home. I took a little shortwave radio, but didn’t turn it on the whole time we were there, so I could have left it at home too. Up next are the PDA and the laptop. I love my toys, but I’m beginning to ask frank questions about what they do for me when.
  • Lea and I talked a bit in the car about how we vacation, and we’ve observed that we’ve retained a long weekend mentality, which is probably a holdover from the not-so-long-ago day when it was all we could afford. We’re going to make our next beach trip at least six nights.
  • It was fun, and now we’re glad to be home.
 Posted by at 4:41 pm
Jul 272008

As I publish this, we’re headed home from three nights in Gulf Shores. It’s been a good trip. The weather has smiled on us, and we’ve gotten a lot of high-quality beach time in:

Lea is such a babe:

We stayed at Gulf Shores Plantation, which is our go-to down here. It’s two-thirds of the way to Fort Morgan down 180, which puts us far enough away from the touristy stuff in Gulf Shores proper to enjoy our beach time, but close enough to restaurants and so forth to be there when we want to be.

It’s been an unusual trip, in some regards. This is the second trip in a row that we haven’t been to Lambert’s. We didn’t go to Mellow Mushroom either, because we’re about to get one at home. We didn’t hit the Foley outlets at all this time. We did go to Mikee’s, the Original Oyster House, Tacky Jack’s, and Gulf Shores Steamer. (More to follow below on the latter two.) No new beer discoveries this time; the trip was fueled by Road Dog and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Some further highlights:

Our Hyper-Securing Owners
Gulf Shores Plantation contains privately-owned condominiums, so it’s usual to find a locked closet or cabinet in each unit. Folks want to keep some personal stuff on hand, of course. However, this is the first trip (out of six or seven times down) that we’ve found such a substantial percentage of space locked. Check this out:

Stack after stack of $100s? Brick after brick of a potent Peruvian cocaine hybrid? Trilateral Commission meeting minutes? Who knows?

Unsettling as all of that is, check this one out:

Now this is in the master bathroom, which makes it at least moderately disturbing. All the hell we need is to wind up on fattourists.com, for you $19.95/month sickos out there to peruse. I found that the door would open enough for me to have a decent look inside with a flashlight, and best I can tell, they’re locking up an extra towel bar, some linens, and a board game or two. I found no evidence of cameras. Still, if you see me, let me know. And I apologize.

My Inner Redneck
We had lunch at Tacky Jack’s on Saturday, and everything was lovely, but my mostly-suppressed inner redneck did show himself at one point. (I really am ashamed to tell this part of the story, but that’s what makes it good blogging fodder, I suppose. Oprahfication of the country, blah, blah, blah).

Nathan had to go to the restroom. It’s a single-seater. I sent him by himself, because I could see him, and knew he would be in there by himself, so no problem. Follow? OK.

So he tries the door. It’s locked. He turns back to me and gives me a shoulder shrug, and in that time, the door behind him opens, and this surfer dude-type hurries in there. This second guy saw my kid try the door. Follow? OK.

I’m a bit irritated, but I think no big deal; short-term problem. Then the minutes start ticking by, with Nathan standing at the door. I’m pretty even-keel up to five. The anger begins building at six. At eight I’m mad. At nine I’m furious. At ten I am a man possessed.

I walk the twenty feet to the door, pound on it three times hard enough to shake it in the frame, and yell “HEY, MY SIX-YEAR-OLD HAS TO PISS! ARE YOU ALMOST DONE?” He mutters something through the door, it opens 20 seconds later, and Nathan goes in. I walk back to my seat, vaguely aware that the entire restaurant is silent and watching me do so.

The din slowly comes back online. Nathan comes back from the restroom. The manager walks over and asks “Do you have a problem?” I answer “No sir.” He steps back to the bar. We’re there for another ten minutes as everyone at the table finishes lunch. I pay the check, and we leave. Lea and the boys are first through the exit; as I’m leaving, I hear a single person applauding.

Yeah, I deserved it. Cool? Oh, certainly not. There was an injustice being done—I don’t know what the hell that kid was doing in the bathroom for ten minutes, but I didn’t smell anything, dig?—but that was not the way to handle it.

In the first place, it’s rude. I am acutely aware that I am setting a continuous example for the boys, and this was not anything approaching reasonable conflict resolution. As George Costanza remarked more than once: “you know, we’re living in a society here!” I didn’t make a big deal of it after the fact, and I don’t think either one of the boys noticed. I did apologize to Lea later.

In the second place, it’s a good way to get my ass kicked. I have a commanding voice and (unfortunately) an imposing size about me, but I don’t have the horsepower to back up a would-you-like-to-step-outside, okay? I was not challenged this day, but I easily could have been, because I was that guy. It’s unlikely the end result would have been positive, had it come to something beyond the verbal.

I did get this cool microcosm-of-society photo on the way out:

Gulf Shores Steamer
The day recovered nicely. Jim, Amy, and their two boys happened to be in Gulf Shores at the same time we were, so we met them for dinner at Gulf Shores Steamer, where nothing is fried. It’s their favorite place, but it was a new place for us, and it’s definitely in our regular rotation now. Here is the steamer plate for two:

That’s an imposing $35.95 pile of red royal shrimp, crab legs, oysters, mussels, new potatoes, and corn. Lea and I shared it, and it was outstanding.

Here is Amy with me after dinner:

I love Amy to bits, and cherish her friendship. We have huge circuits of similar wiring, to the point that she and I were slam-dunk boyfriend-girlfriend under different circumstances. As it happened, we met with each of us already happily married, which is the only way we could have possibly been friends forever. Had we met single, we’d have had an intense couple of months followed by a thoroughly caustic breakup. So God bless circumstance.

So we had some engaging beach times, great food, familiar friends in unfamiliar locales, and some societal (re-)education, and it’s all good, but I don’t think any of us will complain about hitting our own pillows tonight.

 Posted by at 6:24 am
Jul 262008

For some time now, in varying degrees of seriousness (but almost never completely lightheartedly), I have periodically heard things from male friends and acquaintances like “my wife’s just kind of bitchy a lot of the time now,” or, of course, “she’s just not that into sex.” To these troubled men, my first question is always the same.

“When was the last time you unloaded the dishwasher?”

Ah, look! Here is a handy study that validates the question nicely.

The study presents a few other tidbits, like men are only up to 30% of total housework, and women more often handle “emotional labor” like Christmas cards, and blah, blah, blah. Some of these may be interesting some of the time, but they’re all ancillary to the central point.

Men, I promise you: if you take a serious interest in keeping the house in shape, your wife is not going to keep a punch chart noting that you only did 29% this week and 35% the week before, or anything similar. She will simply be delighted that you are helping—really helping. Now if you truly want to try to carry half the weight, then obviously, so much the better. But I promise, she’ll take your sustained commitment, even if it’s less.

Let the mattress polo commence.

 Posted by at 2:41 pm
Jul 252008

What was your leisure time like at nine years old?  If you were born before 1975 or so, chances are excellent that it was nothing like a nine-year-old’s life today.  Ever thought about that?

Pretty much, I was turned loose on my bicycle during the summer and on weekends.  I had a lot of autonomy, but I had to check in periodically.  If I was at or near a friend’s house, this could be a telephone call.  If I was close to my house, it meant a drop-in visit.

In either case, if dinner wasn’t imminent, I almost always got an extension.  Essentially, we played all day unsupervised, up to a mile or so from my house.  The only thing I had to do was confirm my continued consciousness every two hours.

I picked up several years of divorce-generated potholes shortly after I turned 11, but by and large, I had an idyllic and independent boyhood.  It was full of sun, mud, BMX bicycles, ramps, creeks, dams, snakes, turtles, crawdads, trails, rope swings, forts, sticks, fences, drainage ditches, pocket knives, pine cones, and old man Draper’s ’49 Chevrolet rotting in the woods.

I’m heartbroken that my boys won’t ever have it like I did. They can’t even have pockets of it, really.  It’s the wide-openness of it that bestows its charm, and that world is gone.  I think early- to mid-Generation X contained the last children who experienced it.

I wonder sometimes whether “things” (bad guys, accidents, what have you) are any worse now than they’ve ever been.  Couldn’t instant reporting be creating an illusion that the world is a much worse place now?  What if it isn’t true?

But I’m not going to risk it, and neither are you.  That makes us either the first sane or first insane generation of parents ever.

 Posted by at 8:21 pm
Jul 242008

Of all of the professionals with whom I regularly and predictably interact, I think the most of my dental hygienist.  I’ll call her Kate.  I saw her this morning.

I’m not afraid of going to the dentist, but even an uneventful visit isn’t exactly pleasant.  Of course my top priority is a good cleaning, but a close second is that I don’t want to be there any longer than I have to be.

Kate is a wizard.  She does a marvelous job, she doesn’t hurt me gratuitously, and she’s very fast.  (Part of the reason for that is that we’ve done this enough together that most all of our communication is nonverbal, i.e. no explicit calls to open, close slightly, and the like are necessary.)  In fact, Kate has spoiled me to the point that there is a note on my chart that says if she isn’t available when I’m scheduled to come in, then please call me for a reschedule.

Now I would gleefully take this high-quality dental service even delivered by a one-eyed warthog, but as it happens, Kate is also quite cute.  She has pretty red hair, a splash of freckles, and expressive eyes.  Odds are good she’d be the cutest woman you saw in a day, out and going about your business.

Superficially, there is plenty to like about this.  Life doesn’t present many legitimate opportunities for a guy to be reclined in a comfortable chair with an extremely attractive woman pretty much right on top of him, complete with frequent body contact that is incidental, yet still occasionally substantial.  I mean, if anything’s going to start a salacious movie in your head—the sort that runs in every man’s head every day he’s alive and postpubescent—then that is.

Or so it would seem.

Unfortunately, the environment destroys the fantasy before it starts.  I’m wearing a bib.  She’s transformed into this weird thing wearing a mask and an eye shield, and she’s coming at me with a steel hook.  The two gustatory sensations I’m experiencing are “gritty” and “sickly sweet.”  To make it any unsexier, you pretty much have to add vomit or something.  It’s a tragedy, really.  There is so much promise in the setup, and so little delivered.

I’m neither a connoisseur nor frequent consumer of pornographic films, but all it would take for me to yell “oh, that’s so fake!” would be for one to start in a dentist’s office.

 Posted by at 12:38 am