Saturday, September 18, 2010

Plane Crazy Building Blocks

Growing up, I was always HUNGRY to play with some type of building toy. Lincoln Logs, Legos, or Erector sets – I loved them all. There is nothing better than taking some basic component and turning it into a creative masterpiece. Unfortunately however, if my appetite for ‘Tinkering with toys’ was expressed in terms of fine food, my creations were more similar to FISHSTICKS than FILET MIGNON.

I also liked little toy cars and airplanes but luckily I was just as capable as all other kids at making ‘motor’ and ‘gear shifting sounds’ – my parents were so proud (relieved). Now what’s sad is, when you get older, for some reason society generally thinks it’s kind of weird if you’re still playing with building blocks and big boy toys especially if your best work still smells of ‘minced fish’.

I’m not concerned though because as goofy as I am, you never have to look too far in this world to find people that are even weirder. While playing and dreaming with my Lego Mindstorms as an adult, I would have never imagined building structures using REAL plane parts. Even my most expensive building component might be $50 or so for a motor or oddball gear, but imagine tens of thousands of dollars for a retired plane fuselage PLUS shipping and architectural conversion.

You would figure that if somebody was thinking ahead, the freight on these babies would be cheap since they could fly themselves to the job site? I believe the irony would be particularly sweet if I made a bunch of these plane bodies into an enormous mobile or better yet a pinwheel. Oh no on second thought I get motion sickness far too easily for that – I’d have a shopping cart full of ‘sick sacks’ with just a whisp of wind. I guess I had better stick with my Legos and fish stick boxes as building blocks. If I play my cards right, I’ll be ready for those Banana Boxes beside the supermarket trash bin any day now. Gee,I don't know why but I'm suddenly feeling HUNGRY for really BAD food - I guess I'm a little NUTS or maybe just PLANE crazy?!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Camping never lights my fire

Despite my name being closely associated with the term ‘Camping’, I have not done as much of that activity as you might think. More than most people I enjoy smelling like the burning hair off of Smokey the bear and going to the bathroom in the woods, but I am a bit lazy and camping can be a lot of work.

Now it really shouldn’t be that hard if I would really go out into the forest and try to ‘rough it’ like Bear Grylls or our local hobos. But like most city folks, camping for us involves packing half of life’s modern conveniences powered by propane, batteries, or sweat into a cramped car, and driving hours on end to have FUN. I have to store all of that stuff too so with sleeping bags, pads, back packs, and gear - the entire attic looks like a really lousy Army/Navy store.

I honestly don’t mind camping but most of the time camping doesn’t like me. I am not suited for an activity that by necessity ends at dusk and all the insects and animals silently surrounding me would like at least a little taste of my blood. Except for the obligatory hour of burning marshmallows and getting a face full of wood smoke around a campfire, most of the time everyone heads for the tents when the sun goes down. Of course that is just when I am getting my 2nd wind so I typically will wander off and get lost in the woods and have to fend for myself until morning.

You see what REALLY bugs me that I can only make fire with matches and lighters. My real life quest for fire has included a stainless spoon as a reflector, various friction methods, and even a pair of glasses to make a focal point from the sun; but in the end I always resort to matches or I will be left out in the cold.

Once back at our home, I got a ’bee in my bonnet’ that I needed to learn to ‘make fire’ which is not an easy task in icy 20 degree windy weather. Undaunted, I hacked a tree limb down and made a spindle, a bow with twine, and cut a flat branch to drill into. I tried to use dryer lint for a starter nest and I made a spark and ember but like my love of camping, other than a LOT of smoke, the hard work NEVER lit my fire. I drilled away for close to an hour until my wife glared at me disapprovingly and told me to ‘take those stinky smoldering sticks and get OUT OF THE HOUSE!’ Gee I told you I’m a lousy camper and it was REALLY cold outside.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The unexpected treats of old age

I’m sure the first thing you assume when you read the title of this post is that I am about to complain ceaselessly about the rigor (mortis) of growing old. Yeah life is performance based, so it’s tough sometimes to not be able to dig ditches as deep or build crates as well. But I know with each click of life’s big clock, soon enough I will have to turn my grave-digging duties over to a much younger guy or ghoul.

With that said however, lately I have been concentrating on the genuine positives of being a little long in the tusk. Teeth for example, are one of those benefits because honestly who needs ‘em. I’m always spending time cleaning and polishing them just so I can eat an apple or a cob of corn to impress my dentist. You’d think I’m taking care of a fine Italian sports car instead of just your run of the mill ‘chompers’. When you get old, people expect you to have yellow eyes and yellow teeth. Anyway these days, I can get my apples out of a squeeze bag of sauce and the corns that aren’t on my feet come in a can - creamed!

I am also looking forward to shopping with one of those discount store scooters that I see everywhere now. Does anyone know if you need a license for one of these babies or can I hop on one and go for a test drive any OLD time. I do wish they had a bit more aggressive gear ratio so I could ‘pop wheelies’ or maybe just the kinks out of my back. Also a 12 volt lighter plug for a GPS might be nice so I can always locate the Pepto and the Prunes.

Oh and who can forget the ‘Geezer discounts’ at suppertime. Yes once you come of age, not only can you call dinner ‘supper’ but a lot of places even give you 10% or more off the price of pablum. Isn’t that great, not only do you get to skid your ‘tennis-balled’ walker over the cafeteria floors but even though you’re bulbous, bloated, and blue-haired – the food COSTS LESS!

Poor young people with all their barely-there underwear, pierced ‘pore-ifices’, and smutty talk – society constantly judges their flaws and talks behind their backs. Oldsters never need worry about those assaults on our self-esteem because we literally can’t HEAR or see anything. Look out world, I’m warming up my flannel ‘jammies’, hearing aid, and Coke-bottle glasses for an anti-social test-drive publicly near you. I know you’ve got a case of ‘age-envy’ by now, but someday your ship will come in too on a tidal wave of scary GRAY water. But don’t worry, thanks to ‘Depends’ - on a cold day, even THAT will be a warm and unexpected treat!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Dopey “Ipod-ostles”

Now I have never joined the exclusive club of the ‘I-FAD’ generation. I am aware of MP3 players and solid state memory which allows folks to buy and store thousands of songs if they want to, I just never understood the need? Aren’t all those songs available free on most any radio station? Once you listen to them a few times, isn’t it time to move on to the next new thing so why keep them all?

Have you ever noticed when you have so much choice, it is impossible to settle down and make a decision. So if your brain is like mine and you have a hundred cable channels on TV, you’ll always be wondering what is on the other 99 you’re NOT watching. I have this same problem at the market in the cereal aisle. The last time I CHECKED, just in Chex products alone, they have Wheat, Rice, Corn, and Bran products, along with sub-varieties of each like Honey Nut and Cinnamon. With all those healthy ‘checkie-choices’, when will I ever find room to fit in my Franken Berry and Count Chocula sugar fix?

With these modern music players I also don’t like those tiny ear plugs which have to be practically surgically installed into your ear canal. Is this good to have a constant din of loud music literally pounding away on your anvil with your hammer? I have never had a pair of these small earphones which is not tangled into a rat’s nest of knots. Mine always end up becoming baggie twist-ties rather than for their intended musical purpose. On the upside however, it is always easy to find a perfect fit for NEW earphones, because due to my lack of Q-tip hygiene, I always carry an EXACT ‘wax cast’ replica of my inner ear with me.

So sadly I guess I will now be classed as an old geezer since I have not joined the ranks of the loyal Ipod fan club. I think it’s rather funny though to want to be in this fad club since don’t only whales and furniture moving companies hang around in PODS? On second thought it makes sense though, because the last guy’s that moved the junk into my house were about the SIZE of whales. They were a little BACKWARD too, but you’ll be happy to know that they all had Ipods – in my opinion, that makes them ‘DOPI’!

Killing the selfish does not BUG me

I generally am not a squeamish person when it comes to bugs, blood, and most organics. I pretty much just disassociate myself when it comes to my home ‘bug killing’ duties and eliminate the interloper without a thought. It seems lately I am being tested regularly by a snake in the house last week and today some kind of BEETLE BUGS probably filled with gooey Fahrvergnügen.

Like anyone I still am not a fan of wandering through a forest and getting a face full of cobwebs glued to my hair, teeth, and chin. I also can be a bit of a ‘Ballerina Boy’ when a persistent bee, wasp, or horse fly won’t leave me alone. I am sure my neighbors have hidden video somewhere of me at the mailbox, dancing tight pirouettes lashing out at the air and all around my head trying to whack a seemingly invisible flying irritant.

Since we humans are literally tens of thousands times the size of even the biggest bug, I generally figure that insects should avoid us, not the other way around. Yet, more often than not some dumb bug will fly in my face of logic and demand a call to arms, nerve gas, or my wife’s favorite pancake spatula (and you thought those things were chocolate chips). I particularly hate those armor plated beetles who will calmly parade across the carpeted floor acting like they own the place. Funny around tax time every year, there is not a bug, bird, or mole to be found near this dump. But you can bet, after the bills are paid, and the BBQ starts coming out in the Spring, guess who shows up to dinner, a movie, and a quick spin around the fluorescent light on Friday nights?

When I find these marauders I generally try to kill them, though I do have a translucent trap for spiders and so-called beneficial bugs. I am not that ‘gentle’ really, it is just that if you kill a spider or ‘mini-Mothra” it leaves a big hairy brown smear on the wall. That may be fairly normal and OK in our bathroom, but there is no guarantee the bugs will use the restroom when it’s ‘killer time’. Those Kevlar-coated bugs irritate me when they hunker down in the fiber of the carpeting to avoid my shoe or exo-skeletal crushing coffee table book retribution. As soon as the pressure comes off, they get-up and start to run for the trees like out of some cheesy Vietnam era war film. Of course in those cases, it requires a more intimate kill, where I have to get down on my knees and take a tissue so I can FEEL the lethality of my death sentence.

I can’t win of course because as much as the wife does not like bugs in her house, she herself ‘bugs’ me to clean up all the dead bug-parts strewn all over the place. Unfortunately with some of these bugs when you get close and personal to exact enough pressure to end their evil ways, their buggy parts often go their separate ways too. It is a pain to have to pick up after bugs, since I have a hard enough time picking up after myself. You’d think since the bugs are living here rent-free, they would at least have the decency to grab the vacuum and help out once in awhile. I hate stupid, selfish, bugs!

Monday, September 13, 2010

‘Architecture Digested’ - Diapers follow Whiners

I am a genuine fan of architecture. Yeah, if you stir up blocks, brick, stone, and some mud to hold it all together, you’ll have every ingredient you need to fix up a soft and spongy brain just like mine. Now as terrifying as that sounds, you could instead use all that stuff in a more constructive manner to build a Pueblo, and I will probably like it. I enjoy iconic buildings that make an architectural statement so this is one discipline in my life where I often prefer, form to PRECEDE function.

In college, I researched many famous structures from the obligatory Wright disciplined design style, to Simon Rodia’s eclectic Watt’s Towers in Los Angeles. Still all that ‘high-brow’ construction doesn’t ‘MOVE’ me nearly as much as something like a hot dog stand in the shape of an ACTUAL hot dog. If you have ever had an ultra greasy wiener with chili on it, then you’ll understand my real meaning. I like the weird and wonderful of architecture including, water towers that look like catsup bottles, missle silos converted to homes, and even the occasional modern cave dwelling.

When Google Sketch was the new ‘CAD lite’ kid on the block, I drew up a concept for a new Las Vegas hotel – in the shape of a toilet. The pool deck in the middle was surrounded by a ring of conference rooms and the hotel tower was faced with an enormous fish tank. I thought the design had certain satirical benefits for a town started by mobsters in the middle of the desert, but oddly nobody wanted to build it, EVEN after I offered to pay for all of the Legos. I have family there and visit regularly so no need to send me nasty e-mails to tell me how misinformed I am.

In practical terms I will never be a real student of today’s architectural challenges. I don’t have any appreciation for calculating wind loads on buildings or constructing cookie cutter conforming structures that all cities seem to love. I can hire SMART people to do all that stuff, but in my perfect ‘pink bubble’ world, I want to only build structures that city municipalities don’t understand and therefore despise.

Maybe I just “rattle cages” and “cry out” to make a statement and get attention as an INDIVIDUAL in this cluttered, busy world. Wait, that’s no statement! CLEARLY, that’s just the relentless claptrap of a stupid giant ‘BABY’ whining in MY ‘crib’. Oops, I think I worked myself up into such a frothy lather, I’m well overdue for my hourly ‘diapey’ change. Hmmm, maybe there is something to that ‘Form follows Function’ stuff after all?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Public Servant's Plus-Sized Prows!

Believe me I have the utmost respect for the police and fire people and the job they do. Even on my best day I do not have the stamina or guts to carry out one of these ultra-risky jobs. With that said however, sometimes I wonder if when these PLUS-SIZE public servants were told they were ‘first responders’, they misunderstood and thought that meant it was for the buffet line.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about your local cops that have had an extra donut or two and the Blueberry muffin top is just starting to peek over the bat-utility belt. I am referring to these full-on overgrown ‘Oompa-Loompas’ who would have trouble running to the elevator much less up a flight of stairs. I’m not saying big people can’t do demanding jobs. As long as these folks can meet the SAME physical training standards that everyone else meets in the same job, then bless their big-bagel hearts!

You see, I too have crushed my fair share of chairs so I have lived on both sides of the subject. When I was a young buck, I could bound up the side of a mountain, or paddle a river undaunted for hours on end and by nightfall be ready for more. But add 30 years and double that in poundage of brain-blubber, and I can tell you endurance activities like working in a Chilean mine,or scrubbing my nooks and crannies become a real challenge.

There is indeed something to be said for experience, but if you’re part of my team as a soldier, cop, or fireperson, I’m going to have much MORE to say about your physical readiness if my life depends on you. Though it rarely matters when all you do is pick-up the mail or stare at a laptop all day. I would be concerned however, if people’s lives depended on my physical PROWESS these days - because it’s clear that I have a ‘wittle WESS’ spring in my step, but a much bigger ‘PROW’ now!