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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The "Participation Trophy" for Weather

by Tom King (c) 2012

Okay, I'm probably being ungrateful.  The temperature here in Puyallup stays pretty steadily in the comfortable range. We only get a couple of decent snowstorms in the winter. Their idea of a heat wave is a blistering 79 degrees.  It hit 85 last summer and the natives were passing out on the streets. All in all, so long as Wal-Mart doesn't run out of anti-depressants (which happens sometimes), the weather is pretty mild.

Warm Pacific currents pump warm tropical air up through the western half of the state keeping the temperatures even. Haven't heard of them having many hurricanes or typhoon or whatever they call them  rolling in off the Pacific. Just clouds mostly. They have a special name for when the sun comes out because they see it so infrequently up here. Along the coast at Forks and LaPush, vampires can safely come out and run down to the Dairy Queen to hang out with their friends in the middle of the day. The overcast is that reliable. And that's pretty much my complaint.

I grew up in North Central Texas where we have real weather. When it's hot, it's in the hundreds for a month or so at a time. When it's cold, we're covered in ice and the electricity has been knocked out for days.  I've seen the temperature drop 20 degrees in 10 minutes. I've worn Bermuda shorts one day and long underwear and a parka the next. During the summer, we spend at least one or two evenings a month sitting in the bathtub with a mattress over our heads listening to the weather guy track funnel clouds passing through the neighborhood.

I suppose my problem is that there's no weather related excitement up here. I think I'm bored weather-wise. A few minutes ago we had what passes for a hailstorm up here. The hail reached the size of BBs or bicycle wheel bearings and lasted for a full 45 seconds. Some folk, obvious visitors to the state, even opened umbrellas. The native Washingtonians never noticed. Me, I had my nose pressed against the window hoping for something at least the size of a decent golf-ball.

The only real chance at Washington weather excitement during a "sun break"

The weather up here reminds me of the kid in school who always wins the "participation" trophy.  It's like when a storm system passed through in December. The weather guys had this marathon weather alert going on TV describing 25 mile an hour wind gusts knocking down dead limbs and pup tents.

I kept expecting one of them to clap his hands and say, "Way to go, Mr. Weather. Good try!"

Of course, we can always drive up into the mountains and take the risk of being buried in an avalanche. That might at least get the old adrenaline going.

And there's always the volcano.....and the odd earthquake...........oh, and tsunamis. Other than that, it's pretty boring hear weather-wise.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

God Smiles: Daisy and the Blankie

by Tom King  (c) 2012

Daisy the Wonder Dog
They say that if you need a dog, God will give you one. As Wendy Francisco points out in her children's song, God and Dog, dog spelled backwards is God. I think that's more than an accident of spelling.

I always said I'd never be one of those old people who was stupid over a pet dog.  I was wrong.  If you've read this blog much, you've heard about Daisy the Wonder Dog till you're probably sick of it. But something happened early this morning that made me understand a little bit more how God must feel about us sometimes when we try so hard to get it right.

I had a conversation the other day about how my faith is periodically restored when people perform random acts of kindness without there being anything in it for them at all. My wife has been wanting denser foam in the sofa cushions. Sheila is from redneck stock, has virtually no behind and has a bad back to go with it. Whenever we get a new sofa she always stuffs the cushions till they are about the firmness of concrete. I don't sit on the sofa anymore because I actually have a butt and need a nice large depression to accommodate it. For her, hard as granite is comfy.

Anyway, she called the furniture store where she bought the sofa and asked what it would cost to replace the foam in the sofa cushions with a denser foam. She explained that she wanted to know how much she needed to save up to get the job done. The lady asked her some questions, did some calculating and then told Sheila there'd be no charge for the replacement foam. She told Sheila "God bless you," and that she hoped Sheila's back got better soon.

That kind of thing is what I'm talking about. It must make God smile to see people do very sweet things like that.

Daisy, our spoiled, but very obedient half Lab, half Border Collie, half blue heeler, half who knows what else, woke me up early this morning. She usually sleeps on the bed with us, but lately, since Sheila's been having lower back and kidney problems and she's been in a lot of pain, she's taken to sleeping on the floor on Sheila's side of the bed.  About halfway through the night, she jumps up on the bed and sleeps the rest of the night at the foot. After I get out of bed, she takes my spot and scoots up next to Sheila to keep her company..

Daisy had apparently decided early this morning to come up on the bed to join us, but something was wrong. She kept circling the bed and whining. I woke up and found her sitting patiently on the floor beside the bed staring at me. I patted the bed beside me and called her to jump up. She wouldn't. I tried to coax her up several times, but each time she kept running around to Sheila's side of the bed and looking at the floor. I finally got up and went around to see what she kept looking at.

Turns out that during the night, Sheila had woke, decided Daisy must be cold and pulled her plaid blanket off the bed to cover her up with. (Sheila always thinks Daisy is cold - despite the vast amounts of fur I keep brushing out of her winter coat).  Daisy looked at me. Then she looked over at the bed, then looked down at her plaid blanket.  I knew instantly what was wrong.

Daisy napping on her "blankie"
Sheila lays Daisy's plaid blanket over our bed at night so if she (the dog, not Sheila) sheds it gets on her blanket and not on the quilts and bedspread. Daisy's blanket is light weight and much easier to wash. Daisy knows she is supposed to wait to jump on the bed till her blanket is in place.

She had evidently seen that her blanket wasn't spread over the bed, so she figured she shouldn't jump up on the bed till it was. I picked up the blanket and spread it over the bed. The instant the blanket settled in place, sixty pounds of excited pooch came hurtling across the room and leaped onto the bed.  I got a good swift lick in the face, she turned round twice and curled up in her spot, grinning happily.

I understand why God might smile at our struggles to obey him and be very pleased even when we can't do it on our own. I also understand why He picks up the blanket for us once in a while too.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Fish Out of Alcohol

by Tom King (c) 2012

I've been in four bars in my lifetime if you don't count Applebee's (and I don't).  I wasn't impressed any of those times. I'm basically a teetotaler (my Dad did prison time for something stupid he did while drunk and I learned from the old man's example). Also, I don't smoke and I am thoroughly married, thus eliminating all three of the basic pastimes associated with bars.

The first time was when I went into Felix Bar in downtown Ft. Worth to pick up a customer (I was driving a taxicab during a downturn in employment back during the Carter administration).

The place was smoky, dark and the lights were predominantly blue. I couldn't think of a more fitting ambience for a place where depressed people would want to gather. The barkeep recognized my jaunty taxicab driver's hat and pointed at a puddle of humanity slumped against the wall at the end of the bar. I led him out into breathable air and bundled him into the cab.

When I asked him where to take him, he mumbled incoherently about going home and ordered me to "Just drive."

So I drove. At every corner I asked him whether I should turn or not. After about 10 blocks or so, I realized he was asleep. The snoring should have given it away sooner, I suppose.

He kept waking up and pointing vaguely in one direction and another. We looped around downtown Ft. Worth for almost an hour till he finally gave me an address. I looked it up in my Mapsco book and discovered he lived in a tiny house about four blocks from the bar. Three minutes later, we pulled up in front of his house and I poured him out onto the sidewalk where he tottered confused. He handed me his wallet through the window and told me to "Take out what I needed."

Being a good Christian is hard sometimes especially when you are as broke as I was at the time. The wallet was crammed full of 20 and 100 dollar bills. I took out my fare according to the meter - no tip - and waited to make sure he made it to the front door of his house before driving away.

My second visit to a bar was to Billy Bob's Texas. Some friends invited us and it was a new deal and supposed to be pretty tame. People said it was more like an amusement park. My Sweet Baboo and I went along. We'd been looking to meet some friends and this seemed like something different to do and besides it came with a baby-sitter and we really needed a break from the kids.

The place has an indoor rodeo arena, but there wasn't a rodeo that night. There was some kind of very loud cover band, but the music wasn't anything I cared for. I danced badly with my wife (we're not a dancing people the misses and I). Somehow we swappped partners with the other couple and I danced with his wife and he with mine. I was NOT at all comfortable doing that, although I probably managed it better than my sweetie. When it was over, I grabbed her and swirled her out on the dance floor, where we remained clinging together like lost sailors in a raging sea till it was over and time to go home..

I really didn't see the fun it in. though someone told me you have to drink to appreciate the darkness, the smoke, the ear-shattering music and the blue lights.

My third visit to a bar was when I went to South Carolina with a board member of the nonprofit where I worked. We were going to South Carolina to accept a gold award for a documentary film we did about our work at Worldfest Charleston International Film Festival. We landed in the wrong state.

We boarded a rented Lear Jet in Ft. Worth and flew to Charlotte, NC. Himself was so entirely snoggered he told the pilot the wrong city (and state for that matter). We made it to Charleston after refueling and arrived at the ceremony on time. Plaque in hand we loaded up in the car to go back to the hotel (I thought) but decided to go bar-hopping instead. As the poorest member of the party I didn't have any say in it. Himself, his son, me and the film's director soon shoved our way into a waterfront bar. Again, the place was dark, blue, incredibly smoky, loud and pungent with the smell of alcohol and perfume. We were crushed in amongst several dozen skinny "actresses" who heard there was a rich Texas oilman/film producer at the bar. They descended on us like locusts. We waited till Himself was thoroughly anesthetized and then his son (who was looking out for his mother's interests) and I steered him out into the blessedly fresh sea breeze. I vowed never to return to a bar again.

Fast Forward - Ft. Worth, Texas, an Irish Pub downtown. My sister was big into the Celtic Music scene and there was a benefit concert. My wife and I love Irish music and we knew the band, so off we went. Irish pubs are, I discovered, a bit brighter, a bit less smoky and I actually like the music (which did not make my ears bleed). We didn't drink, however, which apparently was the "fund-raising" part. I did manage to slip a few bucks to the lady that was running the show as a donation. She looked at me funny and said something I couldn't hear. I'm not sure, but I may have given her the wrong impression as to what my donation was for. We left early.

I made one more brief foray into Ft. Worth's swinging nightlife. I went to a bar on the south side in order to collect some Christmas gifts for kids at a treatment center for abused children. It was a biker Christmas benefit. I got a couple of steps inside and saw the place was dark with blue lights and the air was smoky to the point of being unbreathable . I was propositioned (I think) by a girl in a tube top who told me she'd danced naked on the table at the last "one of these" and invited me to stick around to see what happened.. I gathered up the gifts and retreated quickly. Since I never really got fully into the bar, that one I don't count.

There are just some places that someone like me does NOT belong!