361. Onward, Mr. NOodle!

Yes, yes, onward, blogobstacles!! Let no man grow weary of slacking and surfing the net. We are the thin plutonium powder line between reality as we know it and impending chaotic doom of galactic marginalization and lardification.

“In a world where aliens and interstellar thugs reign havoc on the innocent, one man will rise to lead the broken nerd herd to conquerdom. A quiet hero called to duty by Elmo….”  Blast, boom, explode, sound effects. Bright lights. Hopeful music. And one chiseled face rises up on the screen… “His name? Mr. Noodle.”

How his name became a group’s battle cry is a long story without a beginning, middle, or end. Dave and Vicki and my wife and I and Dave’s two sisters were at Hauser’s Winery on the mountain top overlooking Gettysburg in late summer, early fall. There was a band around the corner but no seats for us, so we huddled against the warm stone wall at a metal table with eight chairs and drank wine, laughed, ate, and noodled around as we are prone to do. This was not our first rodeo, no sir. We would entertain and supervise ourselves, by golly.  Stories were told and an occasional dance occurred to warm up buns and feet in the evening chill. Not for Dave, though; he has the most unnatural covering of body hair known to homo sapiens and that insulates him year round. Vicki actually has to groom him twice a year with an electric razor that they also shave the dogs with. He was wearing shorts, of course. We wore sweaters and jackets.

As we carried on and played with words and songs, Deedee made the first reference to our hero. “Who is the guy who Elmo talks to? You know, he never talks.” Well, Sesame Street was two decades away in my memory vault. I could not even guess, but I can do an Elmo voice, which I proceeded to do. You see, when my oldest daughter was an only child, for almost five years, she loved to play dramas like The Wizard of Oz. She would be Dorothy and I was then compelled to be all the other characters, constantly changing voices and body language to entertain her and meet her approval. She was a tough audience. Still is. Anyway, I have a little bit of a mimic skill in me and can often imitate characters. For some reason I can do Marlon Brando’s Godfather voice by pretending to have a sinus infection while holding a dry prune in the back of my throat and gutturally groaning past it.

“You come to me , (inhale slowly) on the day of my daughter’s wedding,(exhale slowly) to ask me this favor? (Pause with a quavering lower lip) And yet, (inhale) I asked you to be my friend years ago, (exhale quickly) but you did not want my friendship.” It’s close enough to bring smiles.

But Elmo’s voice is all high pitched with simple vocabulary. No tone like Bert or Ernie or Grover, Super Grover!!

“Hey, hey Bert. Would you like to see my new ball?”

“No, Ernie. I am organizing my paperclips right now. It’s not a good time for me.”

“But Bert, I uh, I can bounce my ball and it comes right back to me. See? Can your paperclips do that? Huh, Bert? Can they? Huh?”

“Oh, Ernie, that’s silly. No one bounces paperclips. Why don’t you go on and roll your ball somewhere else, okay?  I’m just about finished here. Just straighten this last row out.  There.”

“But Bert, don’t you want to bounce my ball? Go ahead. It’s fun. You’ll love it, old buddy.”

“Well, okay, if you’ll leave me alone.”

Bert bounces the ball and it explodes onto his paperclip collection sending it all into a flittery fish scale mess.

Ernie. You ruined my work!! Now take your stupid ball and get away from me.”

“I’m sorry, Bert, old Buddy. Heeheeheee. That’s how the old ball bounces, hee hee.”

And Grover was the world’s best restaurant customer. In our basement my two younger daughters set up the Angel Café around a plastic kitchen set. They would make menus and set up a table with plates and a tea pot. Eventually I would be called to be their customer, at which time I’d channel my Grover.

“Here is your menu, sir. We have a spaghetti special today with salad and a roll and tea.”

(Sotto voce) “Order that, Dad.”

In falsetto Grover voice, “Uhhum! Waiter, I would like a bowl of bean and onion soup, please.”

“Sir, we don’t have soup. We have spaghetti.”

“I’m not interested in spaghetti. I had that for breakfast.”

“No you didn’t! Sir! You have to order from the menu.”

Grover, “I don’t care for your menu. I’ll have the soup.”

“Hmmmph. You are not playing right, Dad.”

Grover, “Who is this Dad you are referring to?”

“Nevermind! ”

Jessica, returning with a bowl and slaps it on the table. “Here’s your soup.”

Grover, “How rude! No wonder there is no one in your Café.”

Jessica walks away to gather her six year old wits.

Grover, “Ahhh! Waiter, there is a fly in my soup.”

Jessica snaps. “No there isn’t. We’re just pretending and you aren’t playing right.”

Grover, “I want to speak with your manager.”

Ten year old Grace arrives. “Sir, you are creating a disturbance and must leave.”

Grover, “Not until the fly is removed from my soup.”

Grace places the bowl on my Grover head. “There you go.”

Those were fun times for me and gave the girls a lot of material for later therapy sessions.

But, back to the winery and finally someone came up with Mr. Noodle. I don’t know if it was the wine or all the intellectual foreplay, but once his name was uttered, we all burst out laughing. For the next hour Mr. Noodle was worked into various comic contexts. We were helpless in our infantile humor.

 

“That’s what Mr. Noodle said.”

 

355.The Dinner Party; The Force Awakens

You know how it goes at this time of year. Festive festivities pop up like mushrooms after a warm rain, given the necessary fungi enriching  ingredients. We were invited by our hosts to their house on the hill, which hovers above the Falling Spring like (may I say it out loud?) a Death Star. It was the Croquet Bunch from post #303. plus two, but for me it had a Star Wars sort of feel to it. I sensed almost from the get go that a power struggle between the Force and the Empire was about to unfold in the guise of a Christmas dinner party gathering amid gargoylish repartee. Over the hills and faraway I thought I heard Led Zepellin warning me not to cross that fateful threshold. I disregarded my Jedi intuitions and crossed over.

Image result for han solo picturesHan Solo (i.e. Jerry) greeted us at the decorated door. “Welcome. Let me take your coats.”

“Let me get it off, Jerry!! You are neither my tailor nor my urologist. Let go!!”

“I was just trying to be a good host.”

“Then get a good wooden hanger, and stop groping my leather jacket so fetishistically. Gosh!!”

I sensed cosmic tension and made a mental note to stay vigilant against being sucker punched. Time has not been good to Han, I noted. He is shorter than I recall, which is forgivable, but also more talkative, which is not. Also, he was wearing bright orange shorty socks without boots, shoes, or even flip flops. His mood was suspiciously upbeat. I wondered if Jimmy Buffet style free flowing pharmaceuticals had been ingested recently, not out of paranoia but from an over abundance of Jedi caution. I wondered, and still do.

As the other guests arrived, Princess Leia met them and whisked them off to the living room with the formal Christmas tree. Nerdy pictures were taken all around the Death Star as the ladies exchanged presents and pleasantries while the males drank solar brewed beer on leather couches. Han/Jerry demonstrated his dog’s mind control abilities by letting Sadie Dogstar in and out 17 times in 20 minutes, each time rewarding Sadie with a dog biscuit for coming back in the Death Star. Had I been training her, I would have given her the biscuit to leave and locked the door, but it was clear that the dog had Jedi mind meld skills and was Jerry/Han’s puppet master.Toward the end of the demonstration Sadie’s belly was dragging across the threshold and she could not continue, so Jerry went in and out at her almost intelligible bark commands. It was the most impressive set of animal skills I’ve ever witnessed outside of Sea World and Shamu playing chess while blindfolded.

Before we knew it, an intergalactic dinner was served (actually we did it buffet style since the robots and storm troopers had the night off) in the formal dining room. The eight of us ate, and ate eight servings of splendid choice chicken in a perky pineapple sauce brought by Barriss Offee, aka Snarky SueBeeDOOBeeDoo, and an almost too perfect salad presented by Toryn Farr/ SoosannNITRAM, who had been planning a clonespiracy for later in the evening. Not even their husbands knew that these dishes had been dastardly prepared by their brides to weaken the Force’s forces. Truly, we ate in a cloud of ignorance.

Much later, 8 pm on Pluto Central, the Plus Two arrived. By then we had descended into candlelight, setting the stage for what was to come. I sensed the conflict about to begin. My arm hair rose and sizzled with static electricity. It was Zoltran Magyar and his CoCounsel, Nancee WOnton Kenobi. The napkins were thrown down like gauntlets on the tablecloth as Princess Leia served decaf coffee all around.40. Sabe15. Darth Maul

Dan/ 3CPA and his droidmate SoosannNITRAM began the blog interrogation, as if we all did not know this moment was inevitable. Sure, help the hostess wash up and then post-apron kitchen duty throw down the real gauntlet. “So, how is the blog going, Burrito?” Not a hint of entrapment in his voice.

Around the table of ten it went, affably at first. You would not know a coup d’état was in progress. Princess Leia mentioned the Indian restaurant/ belly dancing episode post that she had orchestrated on planet Nasturtium. Hot nervous laughs snorted through clenched teeth and flared nostrils of droids and wookies alike.  Markbaccaman seemed confused at all the flustering. He bellowed baritone yeti growls, possibly trying to warn me of an ambush. Too late. We continued on with way too much interest in my blog and coffee nation world, a utopian land of unemployed men condemned to clean their navels all day. It was suggested that my real job does not exist and my wife simply allows me to live out my harmless delusions, which, like my snoring, I am unaware of. The laughs and guffaws built into cosmic thunder as the poisoned entrée and salad digested out of sight, trickling into neural synapses left unguarded.

I shared the inner workings of the blogiverse, which most attendees did not know well, or pretended so. There was an unnatural focus on my alternate universe. I knew something was wrong. I mentioned how many hits I’d recorded from countries all over the world, and gave examples of my Brains and Potatoes post that brought a lot of Russian traffic. That’s when Snarky SueBEEDooBeeDoo struck like a cobra. “Can you tell how long they stayed on?” she asked in such a way that it implied folks scurried away from Burritospecial as fast as roaches from light.

 SoosannNITRAM’s circuit board overloaded on comic input data and she spewed 12 cubic feet of laughter gas, while Dan 3CPA schnoozled next to her with his belt light blinking and blaring ” AMBER, AMBER. INTRUDER, INTRUDER!!” They were uncontainable disgraces to droidhood.

Image result for star wars characters pictures I pondered my chances of escape from the Death Star. I wanted to save my wife Queen Latifahspanx, but the rest would have to be sacrificed. As my bride got up to use the ladies room on my cue, I turned to Zoltran, who was at my right hand side, and gave him a Jimi Hendrix Jedi handshake at full voltage. The blue arc of cobalt vapor coursed around that unholy assemblage, expanding them for a second and then each one imploded, sucking the glass inward from the Death Star’s picture window. Only Sadie Dogstar and my Queen survived alongside me. We left behind only an incomplete set of Star War plastic figures as we exited the Death Star.

 

294. Leah

My granddaughter is a two year old spitfire picklebutt named Leah. She has been at the center of yet another Tusconic experience here in Arizona this past week.  From the first moment after her nap last Friday, she asked her mom in a tiny, whispery voice, “Where’s Wonka?” and then scrambled to my bedroom to celebrate being in the same space. (“Wonka” was her near approximation for “grandpa”, but it seemed to capture something more than the generic label for her mother’s father… and stuck.) She smiled her precious smile between her silky pink cheeks and it was on! Dancing, and arm waving, and chase, and babies, and puzzles, and books, and  the I-pad (thank God for Netflix).

Everything was alive with her energy but only for a few minutes at a time– jumping on the bed while singing “No more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed”, “The wheels on the bus”, “Ring around the rosey”.  A whirling dervish if ever there was, whirling through emotions like a roulette wheel. I kept hoping for red 17, but randomosity ruled.

Her dad Stu is in “Cow if fornya” doing his work right now. He flies Apache helicopters with the National Guard. When a jet would fly over her house, Leah would run out and wave and say, “Hi Daddy” in the general direction of the noise. She likes aircraft too. It seems to be in Stu’s family’s blood. Not many two year olds have a poster of a helicopter on their bedroom wall. Leah does, and she knows Daddy flies “Ha-pache copters”.

At her school there are many kind rules. “This is my work” means “I’m not sharing right now; go beat feet somewhere else.” “Too many  people” means just that. Someone has to go, but it hurts a little when you are the only other person and she yells, “Too many people, Wonka!”

Two days ago we spent maybe an hour playing the money game. We both happened to have shirts with pockets. Leah grabbed a couple of fists of coins from her piggy bank and dropped them carefully into my pocket one coin at a time. Then she scooped them out and dropped them into her shirt pocket. And again…”Do it again”, she said. I have no idea what she gained from this pocket money changing, but I gained sweet breath and tenderness that was worth every penny. Love makes simple things delicious and unforgettable.

Being two and highly verbal and strong willed, she puts on her bossy pants at least once an hour and commands or demands… “No, no, no” as she shakes a little empress finger at something or someone. Some kids get sugar highs; I think Leah gets power highs that have to be moderated with surgical precision. Time outs are readily available on the carpeted stairs where she wails about the injustice of the incident she has likely forgotten. Oh the drama!! Scarlett O Leah, “I shall always have Tara” ( and a thousand stuffed animals, books, Kermit the dog, a trampoline and blow up  pool in the yard, a kitchen set, a rocking chair, etc. etc.). She’s a hoot even when she’s pouty and attempting to rule the world tyrannically. When the time out is over and she demonstrates remorse, “I sorry, Wonka”, it’s all good again. Time for a fiesta for the prodigal granddaughter’s return. Blackberries are a favorite.

Five minutes later she wants to share something, a book or a carrot. “Make space” means slide over for her wiggle butt to snuggle in beside you. Now yesterday we had to ride up to the Guard airbase to drop off Stu’s car he’ll need when he gets back from Cow if fornya. I drove behind my daughter in the Prius with Leah. Grace tossed me a double CD of Raffi’s greatest hits. “Just put in the new Raffi and sing along, Wonka.”  Well, I engaged the CD as we got on to the I-10… but it wasn’t Raffi. It was some bogus fake  Raffi and a disc of Tchaikovsky’s pop hits. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like the folks at Times Square who buy a Rolex for $10 from a street vendor only to find out at Battery Park that it’s a fake and doesn’t even keep time. Fortunately the Baroness of Bossiness was content to sing her own soft songs all the way out to the airfield.

Once Grace rejoined us I registered my complaint. “You told me weed but you sold me basil.”

“What?”

“The Raffi was all wrapper and no Raffi.”

“Oh, sorry. Was it a disaster?”

“No, it was Wonkastic actually.”

And away we went to a lovely “rench raunt” beneath the Catalina Foothills. It was lovely despite the part time efforts of the Diminutive Despot to work her Mommy into a braided rug. Leah makes crow noises that warn of the terrors to come.  In just a blink she turns from a fuzzy domesticated puppy into a wild “Cow yote”, who can turn herself into a cooked spaghetti noodle when you try to pick her up and place her in another time out. She is a gamer, let me tell you, and would be in the Baby Hall of Fame if not for a few moments here and there… like Pete Rose. She sort of gambles on getting her way until you go nose to nose with her for the integrity of the game of parenting.

And then after her latest walk she brings a rock, an acorn and purple flower to document her adventure. They are still warm from the Arizona sun’s radiant energy and her little marshmallow hand. She shows me her knee boo boo which I kiss twice, and I realize I’ll miss her soft voice, her funny expressions, and her hummingbird spirit.  It’s all good like pure oxygen in my blood.

So long my Cow yote puppy.

 

 

136. The Fun Club

I always wanted my own play house or tree fort when I was a kid in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Unfortunately that never happened. My family lacked tools, talent and materials to build much of anything. Also, there was only one tree in our yard, the same ugly elm tree that was planted dead in the center of every front yard in the cookie cutter neighborhood of post war Virginia Hills. A young elm is not a tree that is conducive to supporting a homemade fort in its branches.  Of course, there were other trees growing in folks’ yards, but in the 1960’s they were weak saplings just trying to survive in the hard clay of the area. In the neighbor’s yard behind us, (the Emkirs at one time), was a small circle of mimosas, lovely to sit under on a hot summer day but totally incapable of supporting a boys’ clubhouse tree fort. So I lived without. Not exactly the desolate Great Depression tale of my folks, but it was the cross I had to bear during the Great Society of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

No one in our working class neighborhood did much that could be considered gardening or landscaping. That took time and money and must have seemed foolish to veterans of WWII and Korea and Vietnam, the gritty men who lived on Dorset Drive and the Parkway, Virginia Hills Avenue and Enfield Drive. Kids in those days were told to “Go outside and play”.  Being constructive was for men. Tired out men did not play. They sat in lawn chairs and drank cheap beer on warm summer evenings in wife beater tee shirts that were never gonna be fashionable. They smoked short cigarettes that had earned their lifetime loyalty– Winston, Lucky Strike, Camel, Salem. Like the cars they drove, things were pretty darn basic back then. Hand crank windows, no air conditioning, a.m. radio, and an ashtray with a lighter. Had to have a lighter since everyone smoked then, even in grocery stores.

We kids had forts made of sticks and leaves, and many years later we had big boxes and shipping crates that served as hideaways, but by then girls and candles and cigarettes and beer were part of the equation. Those were nests for unsupervised horny adolescents not innocent tree forts or kids’ clubhouses. The best thing to do with those nests of nadirity would have been to burn them alongside the Christmas trees we burned each January and thus purge the earth of two sand grains of adolescent sin. {Note: nadirity is a construct made from the root nadir, meaning lowest point. Yes, I made it up, thanks to Mark Craver.}

When my girls were old enough to want their own playhouse beyond our basement, they were maybe 11, 6 and 2 years old. I say that they wanted it, but if I were being totally honest, it was my idea. I wanted them to have the experience that I had wanted as a kid. A fort with a window and door and a ladder and a slide and a sandbox. One summer I decided that they were getting their own play house at the back of our yard. I laid out $500–600, what would have paid for a week’s vacation at the time or a month’s mortgage, for the materials needed. I had a very simple plan: an 8′ x 8′ deck that sat up 4′ off the ground above an 8′ x 8′ sand box. On the deck would be a little house with a slanted roof. The single room measured about six by eight feet and was seven feet tall. It had a single window and a hinged door like a horse stall.

It took me several days to put the parts together– pressure treated 2″ x 6″ decking on a 4″ x 4″  frame set in post holes with concrete. I wanted everything to be solid, plumb, square, level and worthy of time. The house part was 2″ x 4″ construction covered with T-111 siding. It was a thing of basic beauty. My girls could not wait for occupancy. Before I had the guardrail installed on the front walkway, my daughter Grace pushed the neighbor boy off and shattered his elbow, requiring surgery that night. My wife and I were watching him, and I did watch as Grace pushed him and he doubled over and collapsed into a ‘V’ as he fell four feet and his elbow met a rock. It was one of those moments when you just knew that you weren’t gonna get any closer with that family. You had come as far as you could. It was time to eat them or turn back…or something like that.

In any event, my three daughters and two of the neighbor girls took occupancy and declared that the fort was to be called THE FUN CLUB. The two older girls, Erin and Suzanne, appointed themselves dictators for life without chance of overthrow. They began making up rules for their younger siblings to follow, which was briefly tolerated in the new colony. But like their British predecessors, they overstepped natural law and fueled a rebellion. Grace and Kristy seceded and took the Gerber baby Jessi with them. Basically they waited until the older girls grew bored and then squatted in the abandoned playhouse. However, while they were a united colony, they wrote and sang their theme song in all their throaty glory.

“This is the fun club; this is the fun club; this is the fun club so let’s have fun! fun! fun!” to the sped up melody of “You are my Sunshine”. Very primal, like spring peepers croaking out their calls into the stillness of spring nights.

The older girls moved on to post-Barbie appointments with destiny while the three younger ones kept a diary and collected dues for future expenses that were never incurred. Pennies and old pink sticky notes adorned the FUN CLUB for a couple of years and then we used it for storage until the ladder steps broke and the roof began to leak. It was an odd arrangement to store summer chairs and toys in an old playhouse four feet above an old sandbox. Cats and groundhogs enjoyed the structure, though.

Years blurrily passed. I don’t remember when, but I found myself tearing down the playhouse and exposing the deck. And then I cut the 4′ x 4′ posts and dropped the deck onto the sandbox frame where it has sat now for a dozen years or more. It’s an odd sight to see an 8′ x 8′ deck at the back of one’s yard. The uninitiated would never guess that there had once been a FUN CLUB on that very spot; a spot as pure as the white sand that filled the box beneath it. My childish dream had come full circle.