Friday, September 25, 2009

Voice from the past

The Missus insisted that I delete some of the 1,000 plus emails that have piled up in the Grouch family email in-box so during a slow time at work today I spent a few minutes deleting them. The military related emails went flying into the delete folder as did the forwarded cute videos of pandas riding unicycles and the like. Then on to emails regarding on-line auctions, boy scout meetings and other long past events. The emails from the Grouch children got to stay around a bit longer. Some of those went back to 2002! Then I stumbled across an email from my dad. It was just a short reply to something trivial we had talked about on one of my Sunday evening calls to him. Then I found another and yet one more written shortly before he departed Forest Hills for the rest home in State College. It was as if I could hear his voice again through the short little messages from him. I hadn't meant to save them but they were saved and now he has reached out from the past and touched me in the present.

I miss him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Invisible Man or The Injured Bunny

So, for a bit today I thought I had become the Invisible Man; not like the book by Ralph Ellison, that staple of high school English classes, but more like the movie with Claude Rains but without the bandages. You see (or maybe you wouldn't have) for a period of time this morning I thought I had accidentally drunk an invisibility potion instead of my breakfast juice or maybe I had unwittingly donned some invisibility shorts rather than my usual beat up Eddie Bauer hiking togs. Evidence seemed to be that I was invisible to numerous drivers on my morning commute as they hurled their vehicles directly in front of me or even at me. But, then I realized that no invisibility potion exists. Were these drivers incompetent, homicidal, or just plain stupid? Being the non judgemental person that I have evolved into I decided that something else was at play. That something had to be The Injured Bunny.

5:50 a.m I depart my home on my bike. Flashing LED lights fore and aft on the bike. Goofy neon green reflective vest draped over my body. Humming an Abba song to myself I set off for work.

5:51 a.m. Joe Smith is drinking his morning coffee when he sees a horrible sight: his pet baby bunny 'Bun-Bun' has managed to get his tiny paw caught in the Nordstrom automatic cheese grater and the result is not pleasant. Grabbing Bun-Bun Joe dashes to his Ford Expedition and peels out of his driveway at high speed headed for the 24 hour vet office.

5:52 a.m. "Waterloo - I was defeated you won the war" I hum to myself.

5:55 a.m. Joe rockets down Frisca drive and yanks the wheel to the right, cornering on two wheels. The startled face of a bicyclist who is wearing a highly visible neon green vest with flashing lights fore and aft on the bike is illuminated in the headlights as he swings onto Las Mananitas and accelerates to at least 40 MPH before executing a hard left around the next corner. "Got to save Bun-Bun!" he thinks.

5:56 a.m. "That was a close one! Now then where was I...'Waterloo - promise to love you forever more...'

6:00 a.m. I'm riding along in front of Burger King. A trash truck lurks in the parking lot. I see its dark menacing bulk. It starts to move on a collision course with me. Surely the driver sees me...he doesn't see me! I lock up the brakes and skid sideways. The truck drives on without a pause..

"Oh no, my friend Joe has twittered that Bun-Bun is injured! Driving a trash truck and texting is pretty difficult...did I just see a bike?"

6:50 a.m. Burbank Train station. I unload from the train and mount up the bike. I head out of the parking lot. What's this? A city of Burbank work truck is in front of me going slower and slower. He's actually stopping in the intersection! He's answering his cell phone and just sitting there! What the..?

"Mack, it's Joe calling! Bun-Bun's hurt, he's hurt bad! I don't know if he's going to pull through. Mack, you've got to call Jose and tell him. And Call Sue too!" The Burbank city worker can't move with the awful news. He realizes that he is sitting in the intersection in his truck with a cyclist behind him who is wearing a goofy reflective green vest. Doesn't the dope know this call is important?!

6:55 a.m. Pedaling down Flower Street. I spy a large truck pulling slowly out of a side street. the driver doesn't see me. He's talking on a cell phone. He'll see me, he sees me...he doesn't see me! I swerve out of the way. The driver continues to talk on the phone.

"Jose, it's Mack! Joe's Bun-Bun is dying! The cheese grater got him!" "Ay caramba!" exclaims Jose, noticing a cyclist out of the corner of his eye. Oh well he didn't get hit.

7:05 a.m. Shaken from three near collisions and a truck blocking an intersection I am thinking 'what next?' when it happens. From yet another side street a Toyota van launches at high speed directly at me. I brake abruptly and the Toyota turns in front of me, a middle aged woman looking grimly ahead, not a glance in my direction.

"Bun-Bun mangled by a cheese grater!" thinks Sue as she heads out to the freeway and eventually the animal hospital in Valencia. "Good thing Joe called me before I left for work. What was that neon green thing I saw as I was pulling out?"

Four near collisions in the space of about an hour. Since I am not a judgemental person I know it couldn't be because the drivers were incompetent, homicidal, or just plain it must have been because of Bun-Bun the injured baby bunny. Or not.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grouch-y reviews

Here are several mini reviews for a movie and some music. If I had anything of substance to write about today I would so this is the best I can do.

Mini Movie Review:

We rented "The Children of Huang Shi" last weekend. This is the true story of a British journalist, George Hogg, who during the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 takes over the care of 60 orphan Chinese boys and then marches them several hundred miles to safety to escape the fighting and the Chinese military that wishes to draft the teenage boys. The story was great, the scenery was stunning, and overall we really liked it. Craig even gave it a thumbs-up so if it held his attention it is worth seeing.

Mini Music Review:

One of my enduring favorite singers in Lorenna McKinnett. She sings mostly Celtic music and her voice is fantastic. I first heard her on NPR radio in 1988 and quickly bought a cassette tape of her songs. She has done songs to classic poems such as 'The Lady of Chalott" and "The Highway Man". When she was still a relative unknown I just missed seeing her at a small club in Hollywood - I couldn't believe she was playing there but it was too late to get tickets. Now she is a major performer and I still probably can't get tickets. Anyway, give her a listen if you like Celtic type music. She's pretty good.

So, how can a group have two excellent songs and the rest is pretty much unlistenable? I refer to Coldplay and the two good songs are "Clocks" and "Viva la Vida". The rest leave me cold. (hee-hee).

That's all folks!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Picture time!

I know all of my fans have just been waiting and hoping for a picture-time blog edition. You are in luck! Here for your enjoyment and amazement (as the case may be) is an eclectic gathering of images just for you!

As always, click on the photo for a full size view!

Mary stopped by to visit Chee-Chee at her place about a month or so ago. For the last couple of years Chee-Chee hasn't been in the best of health but recently she has beaten the illness that had been getting the best of her and she is in fine health and spirits. The dog in the picture is a new one but the name escapes me. Mary said that it seems very nice.

A while ago when we were returning from our nightly walk Molly treed a raccoon in our front yard, all without knowing really what was happening. About all she knew was that some sort of creature fled at our approach and ran up the tree and stayed there cussing us out. Molly looked bewildered but proud during the incident.
Some pictures from our Laguna Beach trip: This is a beach at Laguna Beach, thus the name of the town. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to actually go to the beach while we were there. Mary and I will go back next year - just the two of us - and we will visit the beach!

On the scenic overlook - so, does Craig look embarrassed that Mary is using a golf umbrella for a sunshade? Naaah...

Where the rich people live...

This past Sunday Mary, Craig, and I went to Marla's air base for family day. Marla organized a dog agility demonstration with her dogs and the dogs of her agility competition friends. She was the MC and did a great job. There was a very large crowd for the show and many people stayed afterwards to talk to her about dog agility and to pet the dogs. It was great!
The flight line had some WW2 B25 bombers on display along with some T28 and T34 trainers. nearby were these two F16s and an F5 painted to resemble a Soviet MiG for use in air combat training.
Craig got to go inside this B25 that is owned by the former base commander. Note the slogan below the Japanese flags! Unfortunately we arrived just too late to see the fly over of the B25s and the trainers. A couple years ago we were treated to a fly over of the B25s and multiple single engine fighters and trainers at low altitude. A stirring sight!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What would you do?

I recently finished reading "On the Beach" by Nevil Shute. For those not familiar with the book (or the movie with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire) a nuclear war has been waged in the northern hemisphere; the southern hemisphere is undamaged but a cloud of radiation is slowly settling from the north to the south. In Australia where the story takes place the population is aware that death is not only certain but the month of the death of all creatures
is known. Yet, the majority of the people go on with their lives, planting a garden, going to school and work, having babies. The story centers around an American Navy submarine that makes its way to Australia and the captain of the sub; a young Australian woman who before the American shows up is slowly drinking herself into oblivion; an Australian naval officer and his wife and infant daughter; and a scientist who knows that all will be dead in less than a year.

The book was almost unbearably sad to read but very thought provoking. We know we will die but blessed not knowing when; would the knowledge of an end date for one and all change our behavior for the better or worse or not at all? It made me think and wonder how brave I could be in the face of this situation.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My not so close brush with the famous

I started to the train station on the bike early this morning and realized that something was wrong with my front gear set. I couldn't shift into the highest ring so I was stuck in medium range. This is like being in 2nd gear in your car. Lots of pedal spinning and not going very fast. I discovered that the cable that controls the front gear set was one strand from breaking completely. If that happens then the shifter defaults to the lowest (smallest) gear and I really wouldn't be going anywhere fast. So...I was taking it pretty easy, riding slowly and not putting too much strain on the drive train. As I approached the turn to Griffith Park I noticed a couple spandex clad cyclists on their expensive road bikes in front of me. As I followed along behind them I noticed several more guys with similar attire and bikes up ahead. Then a group passed us. Then some more passed us. As we approached the parking lot for the zoo it was filled with mobs of cyclists. Hundreds would be my guess. These folks were everywhere, unloading bikes from cars, riding in circles, comparing spandex outfits (well, I didn't see the last but I bet it was going on) and other bikey type things. With my broken bike and slow speed I figured I would be in the way with whatever was going on so I detoured to the L.A. river bike path and enjoyed having it all to myself.

Later at work I heard on the news that Lance Armstrong was leading an impromptu bike ride through Griffith Park and had traffic snarled throughout the area. According to Kurt, Lance twittered that he was going for a ride at the park and hundreds showed up. And to think I was one of them and didn't even know it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Grand Day Out

A grand day out...or actually several! Before I go any further I must include a link to Wallace and Gromit for someone who has never heard of them. I don't know if his humor is on the same frequency as mine but I find these characters very funny:

Be that as it may my grand weekend out started on Friday with a trip to Portland for my older sister Cathy's wedding (when I say older I am of course stating only in a chronological sense and and not in an outlook on life). Since many who read this blog (or at least profess to!) were present, I will not give a blow-by-blow account of the ceremony and the wonderful dinner and visiting afterwards except to say that it was fun, wonderful to see all, and Charlie has a great family. I arrived way too early before the ceremony at Charlie's house and was installed on the screened porch to stay out of the way while the preparations continued. While silently praying that other guests would soon come I was able to visit with Charlie's mom and two sisters and had an enjoyable time talking with them. Here is a link to some pictures of the ceremony: You will need to scroll down to see the event. The older I get the more I feel the need to stay connected with siblings and the nieces and nephews. My great nieces Eden and Estelle were there and cute as lady bugs!

Saturday a.m. I left Portland in the pouring rain and jetted back to hot and sunny Burbank to get my lawn work done, go to church and get ready for the next grand day out.

Sunday the missus and I and the local kids attended the wedding of Chris, the older son of our friends Janell and Ted. The wedding was a bit unconventional but then I am a grouch and a conservative grouch at that but for all that I thought it was nice and everyone had a great time. The bride was radiant and the groom looked relieved that he didn't pass out when his time came to recite his vows. Many of the guests were 20 somethings who had a raucous time at the reception and really enjoyed the music and dancing. I even did the chicken dance - who could imagine??

But wait, there's more! Today we went to Marla's estate in Moorpark. A beautiful house with a huge yard and 20 acres behind it, a massive shade tree in the back yard and oodles of room for her dog agility training ground. She hosted a Labor Day cookout for her family and her dog agility friends. Janell and Ted came too even though they aren't dog people or family but very much friends. Kurt applied his considerable talents to cooking the food to perfection. The food was great and the visiting was even better. And there is a grapefruit tree in the yard laden with huge grapefruits - and I love grapefruits! I took two home to give them a try.

All of this visiting and conversing and socializing is putting my grouch rating in danger of being revoked!

And that ends my grand several days out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Democracy in action

Our happy little town decided the other day to restripe a busy 4 lane main artery to a 2 lane road with a buffer zone and bike lane. Instant chaos. The city manager stated in the paper that this was done to promote the bicycle friendly image of the city. The only image that the residents wanted was one of his head on a pike. In front of City Hall. The city council sensing the anger of the hoi polloi wisely disavowed all knowledge of the changes and ordered the City Manager to appear before the crowd to appease them before they marched on city hall with torches and pitchforks. Kurt even got into the act by sending two emails to everyone in city government demanding that the road be restored as before and also wrote to the newspaper (they published his letter).

The meeting was tonight at a grade school. I went and so did Craig as an observer for a boy scout merit badge 'communications'. There was a lot of communications going on at that meeting! I have to hand it to the City manager; it was a decidedly unfriendly crowd but by the end of the meeting most were smiling. The journey from beginning to end was a bit rocky but no folding chairs were thrown and no one's ancestry was called into question. I even stood up and spoke as a commuting cyclist (good credibility) who could do without the bike lane. The reporter from the Signal got my name and phone number so either I will be mentioned in the paper or they will call me to extend my subscription. In the end the city compromised by restoring the 4 lanes and adding a narrower bike lane. Democracy in action!