Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween with Obama

It's Halloween. Your kid goes to a door, carrying a flashlight and his loot for the night. He rings the doorbell and Obama opens the door and says "Trick or treat!"

He grabs the bag and flashlight. Citing his green energy policies, Obama declares moritorium on batteries and gives the kid a solar powered flashlight for which he bills him $1,000.

Obama takes 40% of the candy, gives the rest back along with a new smaller bag with no handles and a very small opening at the top. Your kid says "I've already got a bag." Obama says, "Everybody wants this bag and we're going to charge $250 a month for it."

The kid says "I don't really need new bag. I have a bag and it wasn't that expensive." Obams says "Some people don't have a bag and this will help them get a bag." The kid points out that if they want a bag, they should pay for it themselves. "I shouldn't have to pay for their bag if I already own one."

Obama says "This way, everyone will have the same bag." The kid says, "But my bag is better. It has a large opening and I can choose to put a lot in or take a lot out any time I want." Obama says "Yes, but the new bag regulates how much you put in." The kid thinks for a second and says, "No, what it really does is regulate what I can get out of it."

The kid says, "I have a bag, and it's paid for already." Obama says, "But this way, everyone can have access to the bag which you have." The kid, with logic on his side, points out that he should be able to choose which bag he wants. Obama closes the door.

He then takes "his" part of the candy and gives it to kids who don't even go trick or treating. Oh, and illegal aliens.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gay marriage? Go for it.

Friday, I was listening to the Shanin & Parks show during afternoon drive time. It's a local talk show that deals with the issues of the day and has a conservative bent, for the most part.

The issue was gay marriage. Callers were understandably split, as this is a divisive issue both socially and politically. Most who opposed gay marriage cited the Bible as the source of their objection. They use terms like "sanctity of marriage" and "union between man and a woman." Those who support gay marriage usually don't cite anything. They just say that it doesn't bother them, or that society has evolved. They will say that society is more accepting of inter-racial marriage and people who live together and never marry than it once was.

Then there was Terry from Overland Park.

He wanted to know why more people didn't mention studies done in countries that allow gay marriage, 70% of the children born in that country are illegitimate. The people in Holland and Denmark, he said, where gay marriage is allowed, are popping out illegitimate kids at an alarming rate. Why weren't people mentioning those studies?

I reached for my cell phone.

First of all, I hate the term "illegitimate children." All children are legitimate. They all need food and clothing and love. To me, it doesn't matter the marital state of their parents. Do "legitimate" children suddenly become illegitimate when their parents divorce?

I'm getting off the subject at hand. Suffice it to say that no one addressed Terry's concerns about why these studies to which he was privy were never cited. And I never got through to the station to voice my opinion.

So I'm going to use this forum to state my opinion about gay marriage and Terry's opinion about those studies.

I have searched the Internet and haven't found those studies. I've found opinions in support of some studies that kind look at that correlation. One even went so far as to examine possible objections to his opinion.

You might say, “Correlation doesn’t always indicate causation.” Yes, but often it does.
Wow. That's compelling. Yes, but often it does. The author then went on to talk about no-fault divorce, which has nothing to do with gay marriage. Like Terry, he offered no real support for his opinion.

Children being born out of wedlock (another of my favorite terms) are not the result of gay marriage. How can it be? By and large, gay people are not breeders.

In those countries that allow gay marriage, adoption by gay couples is more prevalent. A child who needs a family is adopted by two people in a loving committed relationship? Fine by me. In my mind, that child is much better off than one who is brought up by a single parent who either can't support him or doesn't want him.

In direct response to Terry from Overland Park, I would say that no one cites those studies for several reasons:

  1. No one can find them.
  2. Even the most ardent anti-gay marriage Bible thumper has to agree that any argument citing the correlation between gay marriage and illegitimate kids is thin, at best, when discussing gay marriage. At worst, it's irrelevant.
  3. You're a jackass for thinking that way.

If I had gotten through to the radio station, I wonder if I could have snuck that one by the sensor. Probably not.

I think a lot of people have problems with the semantics. "Don't call it marriage. Call it a civil union." That's a crap argument, too.

Marriage is a civil union, even if you get married in a church. Don't believe me? Try getting married in a church by a preacher, minister or priest without presenting them with a license. The state is giving its OK for the union, the church is just providing the place and the officiant. (Ours was George Harrison... the banker, not the Beatle.)

In the end, I have to agree with a lot of the people who called when I say I'm fully in support of it. Two people in a committed relationship should not be denied the same rights that I have when it comes to the economic benefits of marriage, if there are any. They should be able to buy a house together, be eligible for insurance provided by their partner's employer if it's better, be allowed to inherit property without contest, and be allowed the power of attorney when it comes time to make decisions.

They should be subject to the phone calls about when they'll be home, the nagging about their habits or hobbies, the arguments about money or toothpaste on the counter, or whose turn it is to carry out the trash. Who am I to deny them that?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Sports List May Be a Little Skewed

No sports list is complete without including the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team. And when I say "no list," I mean "NO LIST."

Biggest Upset
#4 Sea Biscuit beats Man o' War
#3 South Carolina Beats Houston
#2 Villanova beats Georgetown
#1 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

Most Inspiring
#4 Kerri Strug Sticks the Landing on One Leg in 1996
#3 Kirk Gibson Lifts the Dodgers over the A's in 1988
#2 Jim Valvano's "Never Give Up" Speech
#1 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

Best True Story that Became a Movie
#4 Outcast race horse owned, trained and ridden by outcasts, beats the most dominant horse of the era
#3 White running back and black running back play for the Chicago Bears, one dies of cancer
#2 Yankee great dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, although it wasn't called that at the time
#1 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

Best Sports Team Ever to Lift an Entire Nation in a Politically Charged Environment as the World Looked On
#2 South Africa 1995 Rugby World Cup
#1 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

Best Team Nickname
#4 1984 University of Houston - "Phi Slamma Jamma"
#3 1927 New York Yankees - "Murderer's Row"
#2 1946 St. Louis Cardinals - "Gas House Gang"
#1 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team - "1980 US Olympic Hockey Team"

Basketball Dynasties
#4 Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls
#3 Bill Russell's Boston Celtics
#2 John Wooden's UCLA Bruins
#1 US Olympic Hockey Team

Best Catches
#4 Ozzie Smith's Bad Bounce Bare-Handed Play
#3 Jim Edmonds Diving Over the Shoulder Catch
#2 Willie Mays' "The Catch"
#1 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

Most Devastating Hits
#3 Lawrence Taylor Breaks Joe Theisman's leg
#2 Chuck Bednarik Knocks Out Frank Gifford
#1 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

Monday, July 26, 2010

President Pants on Fire said there would be no new taxes for the middle class

Remember he said this during the campaign, and by "campaign" I mean February, 2007 until the present day, because the man never stops campaigning. It's what he's good at. And by that, I mean he's a good campaigner and that's about all.

But, I digress. To the matter at hand...

I'm going to tell you a hypothetically true story about a man named Paul. Paul is a good man. He has a wife and two kids. He's in his 50s and is a contractor. He's built his company from the ground up. He has a good income, but isn't RICH by any means.

Here's the sad part. Paul's got a bad ticker. He's a fighter, though. So there's hope.

After Christmas, Paul has a heart attack He's waiting for a transplant, but it doesn't look good. He lies on his deathbed, with those who love him surrounding him. They celebrate New Years Eve in the hospital. On New Years Day, slipping in and out of consciousness, he imparts his final words of love and wisdom to his family. He tells them that he has had a good life and that he has lived his dream to see his children grow and start families. He has no regrets. He tells them that in his will, he will leave the family business to his son and daughter, who have both worked to help the business grow.

Pual dies. He has planned well. He has made the arrangements and the family has the funeral and pays their respects. They tell their stories about their patriarch. Slowly, normalcy returns and they get back to their lives.

Until one day, the business receives a certified letter from the US government. It seems they have a tax matter to settle and they have to go downtown to see the IRS. Did the old man forget something, they wonder. He seemed to have everything else in order.

Yes, he forgot one thing. Well, not so much forgot. He just didn't know about it because it has been kept hush-hush.

Enter Obama. Stage left. (That's funny.)
In a footnote of the US budget, on page 127, the Estate Tax has been resurrected. Probably the most despised of all the taxes, commonly referred to as the "Death Tax," it was part of the Bush tax cuts of 2001, and it was hoped by many to be a memory of the old tax code.

Why is it despised? Because it is unfair.

"But why is it unfair?" you ask. Easy.

Taxes have already been paid on that income. He has built the business and lived comfortably, but is by no means rich. He makes a good living but, like many businesses started from the ground up, he has reinvested in it over many years. It is a small business, but has about $10 million in assets.

The government, by reinstituting the Death Tax, is now due 55% of what our hero has passed down. The company now owed $5.5 million on assets upon which Paul has already paid taxes. How do they handle this debt?

Selling the business is an option, but no one will buy the business with that kind of tax burden.They can take on the debt personally, but is that feasible or fair? The simple answer is "No," because, in all reality, they can't pay it. They don't pay themselves that much in salary.

Economic reality for the middle class.
A man lives his whole life, working and saving to pass something down to his kids so that they may have a better life. (Quiet down, feminists. I know women also do, but for the sake of this story, our hero is a man.)

Putting children in a position where they have to close the business and turn over assets is an economic reality. People will lose jobs. Small businesses will close. Because of a footnote. Because Obama is going to extraordinary measures to raise taxes to pay for his political agenda.

What Obama will say, if anything.
He'll say this doesn't effect the middle class. That only the richest 2% will have to pay it. Unless you happen to own a business with $3.5 million in assets. That's going to account for a lot of businesses in this country.

He'll say that you won't have to worry about it. Unless you happen to work for one of those small businesses.

He'll say this is not a new tax. He is merely allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. Which is just a horse shit lie.

George Steinbrenner died this year. His kids are SO lucky.
This is kind of an extreme example, but an excellent one. Steinbrenner a few weeks ago. He's passing on his New York Yankees empire, and his children will not have to pay any estate taxes on it, which is fair, in my opinion. Mr. Steinbrenner already paid taxes on that income. No sense to subject it to taxation once again. Because he died when he did, his sons and daughter saved half a billion dollars in estate taxes.

So in closing, I will apologize to my sons in advance for the tax burden they will inherit, because I don't plan on dying this year. Now if I can just make it to the $3.5 million exemption level, but that's really the fun part.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Plan to Pay Down the National Debt

I'm getting a little fed up with the talk about the deficit.

Everyone knows that it increased under Bush. We're not here to argue that point. Republicans try to justify it as necessary because of 9-11 and the fact that we were and are continuing to fight wars on two fronts. Democrats campaigned that spending was out of control in the last election and their plan to combat the spending is to spend EVEN MORE.

It's as if not one elected representative in Washington would stand up for common sense. These individuals who we choose lose their damn minds when they arrive in the capital. Yes, some Republicans are just as guilty, but the last bill

The national debt grew by almost $5 trillion under Bush. In 18 months under Obama, it has grown $2.3 trillion thanks to the stimulus bill and other pork-ridden bills which show that the ruling party has no interest in getting spending under control.

The ones that vote to spend beyond the means, get them the hell out. Don't even let them on the ballot unless they know that we have to operate on a balanced budget.

Let's face it... it's OUR fault for putting these ass clowns in Washington in the first place. We should, and as Americans we always do, bear the brunt of our elected officials' mistakes.

Paying Down the National Debt
I'm a common sense guy. I'm a patriotic guy. Most people probably are, I think. So why can't we combine those two things to pay down this debt?

Every family has to file a tax return, right? Right. No matter what, it has to be filed. People either owe taxes, or they are owed a refund.

Here's where common sense comes in. For six years, each household pays $10 per person in that household. There's no getting around it, and there's no loophole. If you owe money, when you write the check to pay your income taxes, you just write another check. If you are owed a refund, you have them deduct that amount.

The first year, the government would take in $3 billion. I did my math in a vacuum. I assumed a static population, call it "one in, one out." I also didn't account for inflation, interest or population increases. Perhaps most importantly, and most improbably, I assumed Obama wouldn't spend any more than he already has. (It's estimated he'll add another $4 trillion to the National Debt by the end of his first term.)

By my calculations, it would take 4300 years to pay down the National Debt.

That's doable. Right?

The Reason for This Rant on How to Pay Down the National Debt
I wrote this with the goal of discovering just how much debt the U.S. is in, how much each person owes ($42,000 and change) and what an impossible situation our government perpetuates. Unless our country gets a grip on spending, we've got no chance of paying down this debt.

What I learned:
  1. Spending our way out of debt is a stupid, stupid idea
  2. Anyone who has voted to spend more money shouldn't be in office
  3. We the people need to pay more attention to what our representatives do in Washington
  4. The U.S. needs a balanced budget amendment
  5. $13 trillion is a lot
  6. We can't pay it

Friday, July 16, 2010

Isn't this a little excessive for the Gladstone Applebee's?

We went to Applebee's for dinner yesterday. About halfway through, a party of about 10 people came in for a birthday party. The kid looked to be about six or so. There were two couples, a single guy, and about five or six kids.

A lady carrying a very large package wrapped in birthday paper created a stir. It wasn't because she struggled with the box. It was because of her appearance.

Her hair was jet black. Like Sharpie on clean white paper. It was the kind of black that nature never intended. Blacker than black. Industrial black. Let's just say that the box of die she used didn't promise any natural highlights.

She had two half sleeves of tattoos. I'm not against free expression, and I'm not saying that women shouldn't have tattoos; some are very tasteful and even kinda sexy. But she had the kind of tats that badass bikers may view as a little bold. Let's just say that they were colorful and leave it at that.

Our lady had a boob job. I'm not against that at all. But there's a time and place to be proud of your assets and Applebee's during dinner rush is neither the time nor the place. Unless the Applebee's is in Sturgis and has a stripper pole, shot chairs, and cabins out back for regulars to stay in during the Black Hills Rally.

I couldn't see her shoes. I can imagine that they probably sported a nice, long heel of some sort. But she may have been the type to rock combat boots as a way to complete her ensemble, but I can't be sure.

The piece de resistance, however, and the inspiration for the title of this blog, was what she was wearing. Remember the scene in "Bull Durham" when Annie barges in to Crash's house while he's ironing and drinking whiskey? She's wearing a white outfit and short shorts and Crash says, "Who dresses you? Don't you think this is a little excessive for the Carolina league?" Perfect.

Our lady was wearing what looked like a long white t-shirt that she had modified for full shock value. I can't imagine that you can buy that garment, but maybe I just haven't spent enough time at Hussies-R-Us.

It was backless, for the most part, and open down to the small of her back. I could see a thin, metal chain across her back, and I honestly don't know what that is.

It was low cut, but did I really have to say that or did you assume quite correctly that it was? It was loose, so it offered ample opportunity for her to show off the cleavage if she was so inclined.

But not our lady. No. That would have been... ummmm... tasteful.

This garment was slit up the sides. As I said, it was loose, and every time she turned, or bent over to arrange birthday gifts, you could see all that the good doctor blessed her with. Side boob, and plenty of it.

She wasn't wearing a bra, or anything that could have been mistaken for one. Ashley tried to describe some bra type device that kind of suctions to the breast to offer lift and nipple coverage, but I think our lady would probably reserve that for church or a funeral or something more formal than Applebee's on a Thursday.

I wish I could have taken a picture, and I hope my words are descriptive enough that you get the full effect of what we witnessed. I really thought I should go over and give her a few singles because I think she purposely wanted to call attention to herself in a way that only the hard-working ladies at Million Dollar Babes can. I'm not being judgmental, mind you; I'm just trying to be funny. Self-expression is a wonderful thing and if you want to show off your assets at Applebee's, that's fine.

I just wonder what she wears to work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm outraged by all the outrage

I've been seeing reports and posts that a video showing an Auschwitz survivor dancing at the sites of death camps has sparked outrage across the world. I wanted to investigate to see how deep the outrage runs.

As per usual, it seems that the media and Internet have exaggerated the outrage. I've seen a quote from one survivor who expressed his displeasure. He's allowed to be upset. I don't agree with him, but I wasn't there. I respect his opinion. But his quote is the only one I've seen on major news sites which do not like the routine. He's Polish. He lives in England. I guess that's what passes for "worldwide furor" these days.

Adolek Kohn, his daughter Jane Kormen, and Mr. Kohn's three grandchildren are shown dancing to "I Will Survive." They can't really keep time, but they're not auditioning for "So You Think You Can Dance" or "America's Got Talent." They're celebrating and giving the bird to that which scarred him, but did not kill him. And so, like Kevin Bacon, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker and the rest of the "Footloose" cast, they danced to celebrate without regard to what the establishment thinks. They danced at Auschwitz, at Dachau and at Terezin.

The opinions of others who are outraged, I don't give a crap about. If you weren't there, you don't get to judge this man's actions. He's not making money from his experience. He said that he's trying to reach out to a younger generation so that they may know what happened. He gets to do that. It also gives the finger to idiots who say the Holocaust didn't happen.

This man survived the most horrific mass murder of all time. If he wants to dance at Auschwitz, he EARNED that right. If he wants to take a dump under the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign, more power to him. If he wanted to dress up a dummy in a Nazi uniform and kick the hell out of it and set it on fire, he's got that coming.

Mr. Kohn can do anything he wants; he survived against all odds, had what I guess is a nice life, has a daughter and grandchildren who love him and wanted to accompany him on his travels back to the place where his life wasn't worth anything. That is the essence of survival. He can celebrate in whatever way pleases him.

To Mr. Kohn and his family, I say "Dance on." I wish you would have danced at the other sites of human oppression and murder. I hope you continue to dance and to film and to share. I just hope that you get away from disco.

Disco sucks, man.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Vacation - Omaha - A Zoo is Just a Zoo

We hightailed it out of Pierre like we robbed the bank. Understandably, we did not feel like we would miss the town and all it had to offer.

We headed south to Omaha, with nothing on the agenda except getting to the hotel. Doing nothing in Omaha was better than trying to find something to do in Pierre.

We found the hotel. Took us two tries, but we found it. They directed us to a sports bar next door and we had an early dinner. They marinated their steaks in whiskey; something I've got to try. The server was very friendly and Ashley took the boys to swim for a while.

The grandma's took the boys for the night while Ash and I drove across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa to play some poker at Horseshoe. It's a surprisingly big poker room, and the game I joined was very aggressive. Unfortunately there were no weak players. I missed one opportunity when I flopped a full house and the two players in the hand folded to my raise. I'm still kicking myself for that.

We played blackjack for a little while. It was the dealer's first night and took about half an hour to get through one shoe. He had trouble adding. He threw a card on the floor. As he was rearranging his tray, chips exploded all over the tray. It was comical.

The next morning, we took the boys to the Omaha Zoo. All in all, it's a cool zoo and I highly recommend it, particularly to my friends in Kansas City. If you've never been, KC's zoo sucks as much as anything imaginable. It's sad, really.

Of particular note is the aquarium. That was almost worth the price of admission by itself. The butterfly house is OK. They also have a desert dome and underneath it, a display of nocturnal animals and cave dwellers. Don't miss that.

It rained off and on, and finally got to be too much, so we headed back to Kansas City. Omaha is a nice town with a lot to offer, so I think we'll be going back.

Then again, I may just be comparing it to Pierre.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vacation Day Five - Top 10 Things to Do in Pierre, SD

We left Deadwood, it's history, scenery and 70 degree weather and headed back east to Pierre, the state capital of South Dakota. Why? Glad you asked.

Ashley doesn't like to travel very far in a car. Four hours is about her max, and she'd already endured two six hour stretches. So she thought Pierre was a good stopping point. After all, as the state's capital and largest city, there has to be things to do in Pierre, SD.

Epic fail.

She looked up "Things to do in Pierre, SD" and found that they had a very good hands on science museum for the boys. They have experiments. They have dinosaurs. They have an aquarium.

Not really.

The experiments are things they do in fourth grade science. Or art. They have a two way mirror thing. The aquarium? Five fish, all from the Missouri river two blocks away. Plus they have given their dinosaurs vocalization, so every five minutes, the place erupts with a screaming T-Rex. It's annoying.

We noticed that Perkins is probably the best restaurant in Pierre. We chose to have dinner at the only Mexican place in town besides Taco John's. After all, it's hard to screw up Mexican food, right?

Let's just say that those people worked hard, really hard, and leave it at that. Except that we all really wished we'd chosen Taco John's.

We drove all around looking for things to do in Pierre... ANYTHING. So I devised a list.

TOP 10 Things to Do in Pierre, SD

#10 Read the pamphlet at the hotel "Things to do in Pierre, SD"

#9 Drive around looking for things to do in Pierre, SD

#8 Argue with a local about the pronunciation of the word "Pierre." (They say "Peer." Everyone else in the country says it correctly.)

#7 Go to the Science and Discovery Center and comment on how much it sucks.

#6 Go to the only Mexican restaurant in town and comment on how much it sucks.

#5 Go back to the hotel and talk about how there are no things to do in Pierre, SD.

#4 Explain to the boys that Nebraska will be much better than Pierre with a straight face.

#3 Create travel slogans for Pierre. My favorite one was... too full of profanity to publish here.

#2 Go to bed at 9:30, so you can get an early start on getting the hell out.

#1 Drink!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vacation Day Four - Monuments, History and Smelly Animals in the Black Hills

We took off out of Deadwood to see the national monuments and Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. It's not a very long drive to Mount Rushmore from Deadwood; the Crazy Horse Memorial is less than 20 miles away, and Hot Springs is just 40 minutes south of that.

Mount Rushmore is surreal, I think, because I've seen it so many times. It's not as tall as it appears in pictures, probably because of an optical illusion created from shooting at an angle.

It's majestic, though.

I thought about how an artist's vision was on such a grand scale that he decided to make a sculpture on the side of a mountain.

I thought about George Washington leading a bunch of farmers and merchants against the greatest army in the world and laying the groundwork for Presidents to come.

I thought about Thomas Jefferson and how he took this idea of democracy, something the world had never known, and created the blueprint. ("We hold these truths to be self-evident.")

I thought about Abraham Lincoln and the thankless and tireless job he did, trying to hold the country together, and giving his life for his country as much as any of the hundreds of thousands who went to war and didn't come back.

I thought about Teddy Roosevelt. Why is he there?

It started to rain, so we went on to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which I think is the definition of an obsession. It is another mountain carving started in 1948. His face is done. It's been 62 years.

The artist died in 1982 and his family has carried on with the carving. They will not accept government money or assistance, only personal donations. Until I saw the video outlining the challenges, I did not appreciate the tremendous amount of work that has gone into creating this memorial.

I hope it is finished in my lifetime. I will definitely return to see it completed.

We moved on to the Mammoth Site near Hot Springs. Of all the places we visited, it was the most expensive, by far, almost $50 for us to see. It's a guided tour. As an archaeology buff, I was looking forwardto seeing it.

Because the remains are not fossilized, they can't really take them out of the ground without doing them irrepairable damage. This is both a blessing and a curse. Scientists from all over the world can come to see the site and conduct research. It also means, for the general public, you can't get close enough to really see the remains.

We took the scenic route back to Deadwood, but compared to Kansas City, the ugliest part of the Black Hills is scenic. As we drove through Custer National Forest, we saw buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and prairie dogs. It reminded me a lot of our family vacations when I was a kid, driving through the Rockies on our way to visit my Dad's family in Oregon.

I think Aidan got tired of stopping all the time and wanted to get back to Deadwood. We saw thousands of buffalo like the big boy pictured above. Shortly after I took the picture, Aidan said, "Less stopping. More driving!"

I'm not sure why he wanted to get back to Deadwood so fast. He can't gamble. But it was funny.

Vacation - Day Three - Deadwood and a little poker

The first night in Deadwood was really just a feeling out process. We looked around to see what the town had to offer. There's really not a lot to do in Deadwood proper, but I think we all needed a little of that.

The first day trip we took was to visit Spearfish and the Dick Termes Gallery. He paints on spheres and is absolutely incredible. We met him briefly when he directed us to a parking spot, then he hopped into his old truck and drove away with a big pile of brush in it.

His gallery has dozens of his pieces in it. They hang from the ceiling and they rotate slowly so you can see how his subject matter lies on the sphere. It's hard to describe, so take a look at the youtube video that first made me want to see his gallery.

We also visited a few antique stores right on the main drag of Spearfish, along with an art gallery. All were excellent. We then went back through the winding roads and went through Sturgis. It's hard to imagine that town hosting a huge event like the Black Hills Rally, but as one person put it, "It's an amazing thing when an event doubles the size of your state."

I managed to squeeze in a little poker at Saloon No. 10, where Wild Bill Hickok was shot. I sat with my back to the door, managed to win a little over $200 in 45 minutes, then was summoned by my Mom because Tristan was asking for me. I left a hot table, filled with an incredibly drunk woman, an incredibly drunk man, three people who played every pot, and one guy who was the definition of on tilt. (For you non-poker players, that means he was pissed and playing very badly.)

The floors of No. 10 are covered in sawdust, the walls are covered with Deadwood and western history, and at night, the dance floor is covered with drunk people. A little something for everyone.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vacation - Day Two - Nature's Majesty and Tourist Shlock

We left Mitchell, home of the one and only Corn Palace on the next leg of our journey. After a nice breakfast, we headed west towards The Badlands.

One person's obstacle is another person's national park.
The Badlands is breathtaking. It's more like the Grand Canyon than I imagined. The spires created by the ancient river and the colors that are created are amazing.

It came as a surprise to me that there is a lot of high prairie in The Badlands. A lot of green out there too, and a lot of wildlife. We saw three bighorn sheep very close to the Visitors Center and an eagle was floating on the wind currents above one of the places you can stop to take a look at the view.

It was, all in all, pretty majestic. Then we continued on to the antithesis of majestic, Wall Drug.

One person's moneymaker is another's annoyance.
Wall Drug, as I said in my previous blog, advertises with billboards on the highway. Hundreds of them. And they don't really say anything. It's just the multitude that FORCES you to go, as if under some sort of spell.

As tourist traps go, this one is in the upper echelons. There are souvenirs of all shapes and sizes. It's loud, It's crowded. It's huge. They sell everything from fudge to western wear. There are crappy statues for the kids to climb on so you can take their pictures. A hamburger and fries is $8.50, and that doesn't include a drink. And they have a bitchin jackelope collection. That did not disappoint.

We left Wall and headed in the direction of Deadwood. We drove through Sturgis. We didn't stop because there is literally nothing there. Deadwood is in the mountains, and is cool, dark and has an air about it that something is about to happen.

But it doesn't.

I played Omaha at The Silveradoand did well for half an hour till Ashley came to get me. We visited Kevin Costner's Midnight Star and played some $2 blackjack while drinking a few complementary beers. I learned there was a difference between "complementary" and "free."

I think it's probably because legends of the town are so colorful, vivid and well-told. It markets itself as small-town Vegas, but I was up early in search of a poker game and there wasn't one to be had in the whole town.

Yes, I checked the whole town, not necessarily because I like playing poker, but because I could check the whole town in about 20 minutes. I was gone for 45, never found a game, played a little three-card poker and was back before anyone knew I was gone.

The town was quiet as I walked back towards our hotel, I thought I saw someone across the street wave, and an image flashed in my mind of another poker player acknowledging that he too was in search of a card game. But no one was there; just wishful thinking, or maybe one of the ghosts that reportedly haunt the town.

Either way, Deadwood is peaceful early on a Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to the day, filled with museums and antiques and art.

And later on, once the familial obligations are satisfied, poker.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Vacation- Day One - How many more miles is it?

Just a new turn of phrase. It used to be "Are we there yet. But Aidan has decided that "How many more miles is it?" is a more unique way to ask how much longer we'll be on the road.
Tristan's statement of the day was "I wanna go to the beach." He's remembering two years ago when we went to Corpus Christi. I didn't have the heart to tell him there's no beach in South Dakota. As many of you know, Tristan has OCD and autism, so he repeats phrases over and over when he's unsure of what's going on. I think he said "I wanna go to the beach" 529 times in two hours. It kinda made me want to turn the car around and drive to Texas.
We drove from Kansas City to Mitchell, South Dakota. If you've never been, it's a charming little town, really. The big point of interest is The Corn Palace. It's a palace type structure; the outside is covered with murals all made of... wait for it... corn.

It's not as bad as it sounds. The town looks like Smalltown, USA, except that there's a big honkin' palace in the middle of town made of corn. Inside, they sell corn products and shlocky stuff advertising Mitchell's Number One Attraction.
We went to dinner at The Depot. Nice atmosphere, great food, cold beer, reasonable prices and great service. I had a chopped buffalo steak that was excellent. Even Ashley liked it, and she's really against type of red meat that doesn't say "Moo." The blue ribbon dish was the beer cheese soup. I'm going to try to duplicate the recipe when I get back. I would highly recommend The Depot and I will not hesitate to visit again when and if we come to Mitchell again. Thanks to Leslie for the great service and for finding my Mom's glasses.
Tomorrow, we'll visit The Badlands before ending up at Deadwood. But first, we're stopping at Wall Drug. It's a drug store in Wall, SD. I don't know why we're going there; Ashley just said, "Everyone who has been to Mount Rushmore goes to Wall Drug." She said they have a bitchin' jackelope collection.
Really? OK.
They started advertising in Iowa between Council Bluffs and Sioux City. That's not even the same highway. It better be worth the time. We're going there instead of Quinn to see a barn that houses the world's fourth largest beer can collection.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hummus Recipes

Don't buy ready-made hummus at the store. It's expensive, and usually not very fresh. Hummus is extremely versatile and you can mix just about anything with the base to create whatever flavor you want.

Here are some of our favorite hummus recipes. We'll add more as we come up with more. Please feel free to email your favorite recipe so we can try it.

Smoky Chipotle Hummus
3 (15.5 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame-seed paste)
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 chipotle peppers, canned (reserve some adobo sauce)
roasted red bell peppers (jarred works, do it yourself is better) 
5 cloves garlic
8-10 sun-dried tomatoes
pinch of salt
ground black pepper to taste
red pepper flake to taste

Place the garbanzo beans, water, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, chipotle pepper, garlic, adobo sauce and cumin in the bowl of a food processor; blend until smooth. Add the red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro, salt, pepper and red pepper flake. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are coarsely chopped into the hummus base. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and chill until ready to serve.

Sun-dried Tomato and Herb Hummus
2 (15.5 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame-seed paste)
1 lemon, juiced
2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh basil, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic
12 Sun-dried tomatoes
pinch of salt
ground black pepper to taste

Place the garbanzo beans, water, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor; blend until smooth. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are coarsely blended into the hummus base. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and chill until ready to serve.

Caramelized Onion Hummus
2 (15.5 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame-seed paste)
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
roasted red bell peppers (jarred works, do it yourself is better) 
1 bulb garlic, with cloves split length-wise
balsamic vinegar

pinch of salt
ground black pepper to taste
red pepper flake to taste

Carmelize onion and garlic in olive oil. This will seem like a lot of onion and garlic, but caramelizing them really mellows out the flavor. Add balsamic vinegar when onions and garlic start to turn opaque. Saute till onions are soft. While cooking the onions, place the garbanzo beans, water, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil in food processor; blend until smooth. Add the salt, pepper and red pepper flake. Add the onions and garlic. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are coarsely chopped into the hummus base. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and chill until ready to serve.

Spinach and Artichoke Hummus
3 (15.5 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame-seed paste)
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 cup julienned baby spinach
5 cloves garlic
pinch of salt
ground black pepper to taste

Place the garbanzo beans, water, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in a food processor; blend until smooth. Add the artichoke hearts, spinach, salt, and pepper. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are coarsely chopped into the hummus base. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and chill until ready to serve.

We serve hummus with pita chips, but it's good with just about anything. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Comparing John Wayne and John Wooden

There's a line in a John Wayne movie that I always loved. Now this is a stretch, so bear with me. But I thought of it when I read that John Wooden passed away.

In "The Cowboys," as John Wayne (as Wil Andersen) is leading a group of youngsters on their first cattle drive, the come across an Indian burial ground. Cimarron asks what it is and Mr. Andersen says "Little Big Horn." Cimarron says "They didn't even give him a decent grave!"

"It's not how they bury ya.
It's how they remember ya that counts."
                            - John Wayne (as Wil Andersen in "The Cowboys")

That has always stuck with me... It's how they remember you that counts.

John Wooden built one of the most dominant powerhouse college programs ever at UCLA. He won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, had four perfect seasons, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.

He coached basketball for 30 years, but Mr. Wooden has been known longer as a teacher, humanitarian and thinker since the mid-1970s. He was humble, wise, giving and brilliant. I think it would be even more fitting if he was remembered as a teacher than a basketball man, and I think he would be proud if that was the case.

I read a short piece about Mr. Wooden after he passed away about the folks who saw him almost every day in his favorite diner. I thought it fitting that the kids he has talked to over the last 12 years in the diner probably do not realize he was one of the greatest coaches who ever taught the game.  So I'll finish this with my favorite quote:

What you are as a person is far more important
than what you are as a basketball player.
                            - John Wooden

Friday, May 14, 2010

What a Drag It Is Getting Old

Sometimes I feel old. Sometimes I feel like I'm 28. I don't really know why 28 is the age I project but I do. But the fact of the matter is, I'm 43 now. I have all the aches and pains associated with being that age.

On the day I turned 40 (and I'm not exaggerating here) I could no longer read the birthdate on a driver's license while wearing contacts. Bad news if you're in the bar business. I was relegated to using reading glasses. I didn't like it much. Made me feel old.

My hair gets more and more gray and it seems I never notice it until I get a haircut. What was once a dark brown changed to half brown/half gray, and I fear is now well past 50-50 and working its way toward the silver that was my Grandfather's hair. Except that his never fell out. At least I know I've earned my gray hairs. Having twins, running a bar, being married to a woman... all of this earns the gray.

From the Weaver side of the family, I got this male pattern baldness that leaves the back and sides nice and thick, while the hairline recedes. But this recession is not graceful, no. There's a thatch of hair right on top that poofs up an demands attention. Right behind that is a line of shiny, shiny scalp. To top it all off, I've got a wicked scar which is becoming more visible as time goes on. Drunken horseshoe game... 'nuff said.

I've always heard the oldtimers talk about their knees aching when it was going to rain, and I never knew whether to believe them or not, but now, I know. I blew up an ankle playing soccer in college and it is in a constant state of swelling. I can tell you two days before it's going to rain. The winter is worse, though.

For years I played volleyball four or five nights a week. Being a big guy, my knees took a pounding. I have no cartilage left. When I walk up stairs it sounds like they're covered in Rice Krispies. In the winter, they ache any time there's a front moving in. Doesn't matter if it's a warm front or a cold front, my knees ache.

My hands hurt and I don't know why. I could understand if I'd come up through the Golden Gloves, or worked the docks as a longshoreman, but this can't be anything but an old journalism injury from back in the days when cutting and pasting required an X-acto knife and hot wax. I know I'm stretching with it being a journalism injury, but it's really all I've got to explain why my hands hurt. Plus, it's kind of funny.
I've noticed too, that physical lamentations aren't the only thing I can associate with getting older. Never one to be secretive about how I feel (please read "Why I'm an Asshole" if you need a refresher), I now have zero tolerance for stupidity. There is no leeway here. If you're an idiot, I'll tell you that you're an idiot, why you're an idiot and exactly what you should do to remedy the situation. Usually that begins with getting the hell away from me.

There's no end to the myriad of ways people can piss me off these days. From the poker table ("Why did you play that? Ya moron!") to the highway (Slow drivers piss me off. Fast drivers piss me off.) to stupid changes (Don't get me started on red light cameras) to the political climate ("Nothing good ever came from a Republican. I only pull one lever when I vote.") I'm Archie Bunker without the bigotry.

I'm more interested in the Weather Channel these days. I notice I've been alive for more events depicted on the History Channel. I'm getting more disenchanted with TV. Do we really need to know about the real lives of housewives anywhere in the country? Especially bitchy, rich housewives?

I hate listening to the radio now because I usually can't stand new music and Van Halen is now on the oldies station. And not the cool station that plays older stuff... the oldies station that used to play songs from the 50s and 60s but changed format because their audience was diminishing. I did recently come across a station in KC that calls itself "Gen X Radio," which is great, but I get a lot of odd looks from kids when I'm blasting "Evenflow" and an ad for Flow Max immediately follows.

Yes, it sucks getting older. The little aches and pains are to be expected. I just wish my ankles wouldn't crack so loud when I get up to pee in the middle of the night. It's not so bad at 1:15 and 3:05, but at 4:30 I'm afraid it will wake the boys.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Mother's Day Diatribe

I write, so I'm kind of anti-Hallmark most of the time. I think it has something to do with the fact that I keep applying for jobs there and I never get interviewed. I've heard it's a cult anyway.

So today is Mother's Day and I'm trying to write a poem for my Mom. There's really not a Hallmark card that I would say represents my Mom very well because she's not like the Moms described in the lacy, gauzy cards. I thought I'd write a few different styles because it would be funny.

There once was a woman named Shirley

I'll stop there. There aren't many words that rhyme with Shirley. A limerick is supposed to be funny, and "burly" lends itself to being funny, but Mom has lost some weight over the past year, so it doesn't really fit. Besides, I don't really want to write anything that would make her mad. First of all, I don't want to embarrass her and secondly, I don't want to get my ass kicked.

Drops of wisdom fall
We catch them in our bucket
Makes life easier 

Haiku are supposed to be non-sequitor. Check. They follow a certain syntax. 5-7-5... Check. But like limericks, as a rule haiku suck unless they're funny, and to be funny, they have be dirty. Again, I don't want to get my ass kicked.

Traditional verse 
Mom, you have always been there for us 
Although I didn't always like what you said
Sometimes she'd yell and scream and cuss
And get so mad her face would turn red

But it was out of love.

... And then I just sort of lost it because it was funny and I couldn't get back on track. The poem wasn't that good anyway. Trying to write a poem about my Mom is difficult at best. My mom is not a poetry inspiring person. My Mom isn't really the type to accept frilly praises easily. I think she gets embarrassed when people get all gushy about her. Because I don't think she really thinks she's doing anything out of the ordinary.

The Visual
Usually the visual is all wrong. Usually there's a picture of flowers against a perfectly lit window on an antique table. My Mom isn't like that. Don't get me wrong... she decorates her house, but the grandkids would tear up the flowers and antique tables aren't real sturdy and dependable. My Mom is though.

The perfect card would have to have a visual that says something you can count on in when times are difficult. She's a big Cardinals fan. I should look for a card with Hall of Fame relief pitcher Bruce Sutter on it. He'd come in in the 8th when the starter got in a jam; runners on first and third, one out. He'd get a double play ball to end the inning. Then he'd mow down three hitters in the 9th notching a win.

Not exactly common in Mother's Day card offerings.

The Gift
My Mom is hard to shop for. Really hard. She just says "Nothing" when you ask what she wants and when she needs something, she just goes out and gets it. She'd be happy with a day with her kids and grandkids. Unfortunately my family and I can't be in Wichita with her today.

Maybe I'm just making the whole process too difficult.

Just say it
My Mom is awesome. She kicked my ass when I needed it. She was there to loan me money, give advice, listen when I got my heart ripped out, and would drop everything to be here when I needed her help. I call her almost every day, even if it's just to talk about why LaRussa's screwing up by hitting the pitcher in the eight spot. Our relationship has seen some rocky times, but I'm glad to have my Mom's blood in me. She's funny, loyal, smart, stubborn, dependable and tough. I haven't always been the best son I could be, but I think she's been the best Mom I could hope for.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm Gonna Live Forever

I've been thinking a lot about my Dad today. Not for any particular reason, but probably because I miss talking to him. I could sure use some of his counsel right about now. He had a way of putting things into perspective.

My Dad was a simple man. He always wished for the same thing on his birthday. "Health, wealth, good friends, and time to enjoy them." He liked hanging with his family. He liked being outside. He liked dogs and kids. He liked old trucks and the 57 Chevy. He told the same jokes and the same stories over and over again, although the stories sometimes involved different characters and had different endings. (My Dad was full of shit, but in a good way.)

He liked fire. He would make little fires on our back patio in a cast iron dutch oven. My Mom always was a little bit afraid he'd burn down the house. After he died, we built a fire in his smoker that stayed burning for five days. We'd gather around, drink beer and tell stories about him. I think that Dad would think that it was a right proper send off.

My brothers and I have very different personalities. I think if you ask anyone who has known us through the years and knew my Dad, they'd tell us all, "You're a lot like your father."

I can't think of a greater compliment.

We played "Live Forever" at his funeral right after I delivered the eulogy. Some say it's about religion, and that may be true; I can't say what was going through Mr. Shaver's head when he wrote it. But to me, it's about passing the right information to the next generation, and in that, leaving behind a legacy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thinking of You

I find myself thinking of you
when I have a moment's peace
I want to share it with you
because those moments are
few and far between these days

I find myself thinking of you
at times during the day
fleeting thoughts of your
kind eyes, your gentle laugh
and I miss you seeing you

I find myself thinking of you
even when we are home
and you are sleeping the sleep
of a tired Mom and teacher
who earns her rest every day

I find myself thinking of you
all the time, angel darlin
when we plan to have time of our own
and we can do the things
we often don't get to do.

I find myself thinking of you
when I am puzzled by life,
I don't know where I'm going,
or I don't know what to do
but I know without doubt
I'll find myself thinking of you.

Friday, April 30, 2010

My Wife Has Entered The Twilight Zone

The movie “Twilight,” which has caused such a stir lately, and the book series written by a caught in the doldrums housewife have completely missed the target audience.  The saga (as my wife calls it) details the trials and tribulations of human/vampire romance in a Washington state high school.

You would think that the target audience would be high school girls, but apparently high school girls do not read novels about high school girls falling in love with vampires.  Junior high and middle school girls do read books about high school girls.

Guess who else does.  Middle school teachers.  They are insane about this.

The First Bite of Twilight
It all started innocently enough.  A couple of girls in my wife’s class told her she should read the book and, being a teacher who likes to keep up with what the kids are reading and watching, she did.  She bought the paperback version of “Twilight.”  She read it rather quickly, after all, she has a masters degree and we’re not talking Dostoevsky here.  It was written for 12-year-olds.

This has turned into something like Harry Potter meets the Beatles-mania for a group of teachers and a few friends who have become infatuated with Stephanie Meyer’s offering.  My wife is at the lead, and for the past year, it’s all she can think about outside of work.

She passed it off to someone and someone else offered her the second book.  She started lapping it up the drippings from a fresh bite when one of the new mush-heads gave her the first book on CD.  So while she’s reading the second one, she was listening to the first one on her iPod.  She then went to the Barnes & Noble and bought the first and second books in hardback.

In June, Stephanie Meyer came to Kansas City to promote her franchise in advance of the movie coming out.  Again, more mush-heads standing in line to get autographs and hear about Bella and Jacob and Edward playing baseball and making their way through high school without biting one another.  (Bella’s the girl, by the way, and a whiny one, at that.)

I asked my wife why she needed two or three versions of a book, and she said, “You wouldn’t understand if you haven’t read the books.”

Well, of course I understand.  You bought two versions of the same book.  One in hardback and one in paperback.  What’s not to understand?  Then you bought the second one in hardback and the book on CD.  Are you seeing a pattern here?

She said she gets something out of listening to the actors.  My God, they’re not actors.  They’re just people reading the book to you.  The book you’ve already read.  Twice.  She said, “If you don’t read the book you won’t understand.”  Of course I understand.  There are three books out, and you’ve paid for five copies and are in possession of a pirated version of one other copy.

By the end of the school year, she was doing a Twilight Tuesdays group.  Originally, I thought she was sponsoring a book club for her students, something she’s done before with the Harry Potter series.  Little did I know, she and two others had been gathering other mush-heads and were scouring the internet for tidbits and theories and discussion groups.  Ashley was putting it all together and disseminating the information to her group of adults (no kids) every Tuesday.  It had become water cooler, er, teachers’ lounge fare.

Although she claims it only takes “a few minutes” to do, I once clocked her at five hours.  She didn’t get to bed until 2:00 a.m. on a school night and a couple of times over the summer, she didn’t get to sleep until after 4:00.

Now, I know that some of you must be thinking “This guy doesn’t want his wife having anything outside of him and the family” and still others must be of the opinion that I need to put my foot down.  I’m not going to do that.  I choose, instead, to be passive aggressive and write a story about it in the hope that she will someday realize exactly what a mush-head she’s turned into.

Then, in August, all hell broke loose.

For her birthday, usually I plan something ranging from dinner with her Mom, and I’ll do all the cooking to a surprise party with all of her friends (no small feat, I’ll tell you.)  This year, all she wanted for her birthday was to be left alone.

Twilight Nerds Unite
The night before her birthday, the fourth (FOURTH!) installment in the series was released.  She and three other mush-heads went to pick up “Breaking Dawn” at midnight.  They were required to pre-pay for the book, and decided to make a night of it.  They made T-shirts which said “Twilight Nerds Unite” on them.  Then they went to dinner and showed up at the bookstore along with a thousand other middle school minions and one very exasperated weekends-only Dad who had to numb himself with Jack Daniels and Prozac to get through this experience.

There was a trivia contest.  The leader of this three-ring circus passed out nine pages of questions and my wife’s team of teachers won a bag full of candy and shwag from the Twilight franchise.  “We CRUSHED them,” she announced to me the next day, with fire in her eye and Starburst wrapper clinging to her neck.

I’m sure the little girls in attendance were disappointed, but it’s hard to beat three adults at trivia when they only missed one question.  Even then, Ashley wasn’t satisfied.  “I think the question we missed was kind of vague.  It could’ve gone either way.  When I get some time, I’m going to re-read that chapter and write a letter to the host.”

She had been up all night reading.  That’s what she wanted for her birthday.  To read.  Our twin boys were five, and they had their first big birthday party earlier that year.  They understood that on your birthday, you get to do anything you want, go anywhere for dinner and people treat you nicer because it’s your birthday.  On that day, their Mom didn’t get out of the chair except to go to the bathroom or to move to the bedroom when it got too noisy.  I think she may have had a sandwich.

I took the boys to Sam’s and came back to find her asleep in the chair.  We brought everything in through the garage and I popped a pizza in the oven for dinner.  She was still reading and dozing as I got the boys to bed.  A couple of hours later, I went to bed and she got up and returned to the chair to continue the saga of Bella and Jacob.  Apparently they were married now and having sex and everything.  Everyone is worried about Bella having a vampire child.  They don’t know if she can take it physically.  She’s weak.  There are theories.

She finished the book in about 40 hours.  She took a couple of weeks off from reading anything other than internet blogs and message boards about the movie coming out in November.  Her Tuesday Twilight group had grown to a number which was more than 30, I think.  It now included my mother-in-law, which I never saw happening, and Ashley’s friend who has a PhD from one of the most respected institutions of higher learning in this country.  Ash had suggested it to Dana, who read the first three books over Labor Day weekend and then e-mailed her reaction to the books.  “I’ve been reading for three days and I’m tired and horny,” she said in the e-mail.


Team Jacob vs. Team Edward
In November, the movie came out.  I was told under no circumstance was I to make plans for that Friday night.  All the mush-heads made plans to see the 4:25 showing.  I asked if she was even going to come home from work.  She said, “Yes.  I’m going to stop by.”  Ashley left the house at 3:00.  Her group numbered three dozen, ranging in age from 12 to 63.  My mother-in-law wasn’t even the oldest on in the group.  There were only four girls under the age of 16.

They made t-shirts.  I mean, more t-shirts.  They had a printer do them.  The ones from the book release were just iron-on things Ashley did at home.  That wasn’t good enough.  This called for a professional.  Team Jacob shirt wearers outnumbered Team Edward shirt wearers by a goodly margin.  Apparently, there’s some discrepancy as to whom readers think Bella should be with, Jacob the vampire or Edward the werewolf.

This is some high school they’ve got in Forks, Washington.  My high school in Wichita had jocks, nerds, car dudes, and juvenile delinquents.  Pretty standard stuff.  And I’ve gone through the yearbooks… none of my classmates sparkled in the daylight.

They made gift bags.  Girls like that stuff, Ashley said.  Everybody donated something for the premier.  Ash made bookmarks for everyone.  Someone got some pictures to put in the bag.  Others got some sparkle stuff that women wear to clubs.  Others put in snacks for the movie.  I’m pretty sure someone put in an apple because the cover of the book has an apple in the picture.  I don’t know why.

I digress.  They saw the movie.  They laughed.  They cried.  They pointed out where the movie diverged from the book.  They all twittered during the Meyer’s cameo as “Stephanie” during a scene in the diner.  Afterward, they all went to have dinner and drinks at a bar close-by to discuss the places where they laughed, the places where they cried, the places where the movie diverged from the book and Meyer’s cameo as “Stephanie” during the diner scene.

About 11:40, Ashley called to check in and let me know they’d be out late.  She walked through the door about 3:15.  I’d fallen asleep in the recliner and was amazed that it was 3:15, since the bar closed at 1:30.  She and Tracy, the other mush-head leader, decided to see the midnight showing of the movie.  And just so you don’t think that my wife is the only Twilight nerd out there, I’ll tell you about Tracy.

A few weeks after the movie, or as I like to call it, when life gets back to normal, Ashley asked if I could watch the boys on a Saturday afternoon so she and Tracy could take a group of girls to see the movie.  I thought “OK.  That’s nice they’re taking a group of girls to see the movie.  Yeah, I can do that.”

Tracy called on Sunday morning after Thanksgiving to see if Ashley would like to meet and see the movie.  Again.  She covered the phone, and asked me if it was OK.  “Either today, or next Saturday, not both,” I said.  She put the phone back to her ear and said, “Joel’s got plans this afternoon, so I can’t.  I’m sorry.”  Total lie. And it made me out to be the bad guy. But in my mind, I'd stood up for what was right. And sane.

So, in the world of mush-heads, there’s at least one other who is just as dedicated… er… crazy.  I’d like to talk to her husband.  Maybe we should start a support group.

The Saturday outing rolled around and Tracy called to let Ashley know that she and the girls were Christmas shopping and they’d like to go to a later show.  Ashley asked me if it was OK, as if I had any say in the matter.  I just nodded.  They adjusted their plans and she hung up.  I had to ask why Tracy would take all those girls Christmas shopping.  “Just two girls,” Ashley explained.

“She’s letting two girls upset the schedule for all the others?” I asked.

“What others?” she asked.

“You told me you were taking a group of girls to see the movie with Tracy.  I assumed it was a group from school or something.”

“No, it’s just two girls.”  I delved further, already knowing the answer, and I wasn’t going to like it, but I asked anyway.

“Do they already have T-shirts?”  Ashley nodded, confirming my thought that I’d been had and that the two girls were there the night the movie opened.

It’s been nine weeks since the movie opened.  It was number one at the box office for one whole week.  It met with mixed reviews and even the true fans admit that the special effects suck.  The fourth book has been released.  You’d think that maybe it would all slow down for the Tuesday Twilight group.  There was some question as to whether or not the kid that played Jacob was going to be in the sequel.  Apparently, he’s not going to be big enough to play the werewolf or something.  Wait… that’s Edward.  OK, I’ve got that straight.  So there were stories to read and blogs to check out and websites to revisit to get the latest gossip.  Gather it all up and send it out to the other mush-heads.  More than 90 minutes to do that and we get in bed and she’s reading the last book.  Again.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome
Let’s check the score.  First book… two copies, one pirated CD, two copies on DVD. Oh, she has it for her Kindle, too. The hardback has been signed by Meyer.  She’s seen the movie in theaters three times, although I have a sneaking suspicion that she and Dana saw it again when she was in town for Christmas and she just didn’t want to tell me.  She’s read the book twice and listened to it I don’t know how many times.  Second book… hardback, CD, DVD, Kindle.  She saw it twice the night it opened, and once the night of the DVD release party.  Third book… hardback, signed by the author; she’s read it twice, and now has it on Kindle. She'll read it once more before the movie comes out, "just as a refresher."  Last book… hardback, and she’s getting ready to finish it for the second time.

We're not addicted. We're enthusiastically devoted
The next installment, "Breaking Dawn," premiered in September, I think. Whatever. The band of mush-heads, numbering about four dozen now, showed up wearing t-shirts, gift bags, the whole nine yards.

One of the local news channels even got wind of it and sent a crew out to the theater. Ashley called me twice on my cell phone, twice on the land line and texted me twice to make sure that I recorded it. I sent her a text with a picture of the DVR schedule so she'd know that indeed, I had done my duty for the night. And the boys are doing just fine, thanks for asking, honey.

Out of morbid curiosity, I watched the newscast. There in high definition is my lovely wife and her merry group of mush-heads wearing still more shirts which say "We're not addicted. We're enthusiastically devoted" on them, along with the Twilight logo. The crew interviews Ashley, who's wearing a Burger King crown with a New Moon promo on it. In fact, so is everyone else. So somewhere there are four dozen little girls who couldn't get a Burger King crown with a New Moon promo on it so these people could have them. OK. Whatever.

By the way, Ashley wouldn't let me delete the newscast off of the DVR for five months.

Will the madness never end?

Apparently, I have the answer. A few weeks ago, the second movie came out on DVD. The merry band of mush-heads got together to watch both movies. Again. I’d already had plans to go to a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, but I was told that I would have to watch the boys that night, as this had been planned for quite some time. “But it’s not on the calendar,” I pointed out. “Plus I asked you if you wanted to go to the fundraiser and you said you would if we could get your Mom to babysit.”

“I must have forgotten,” she said. “We’ve been planning this since November.”

“Since November?” I asked. “When did you start planning it?”

“At Chili’s. We went there for dinner after we saw ‘New Moon.’”

My hand. My forehead. A great SLAP echoes through the dining room and into the kitchen.

“Let me get this straight. You were planning this little shindig after you saw “New Moon” while you were waiting to see it again. Is that about right?”

“Sounds about right,” Ashley replied.

So this is my life. The next installment of the saga, the name of which escapes me, is due in theaters in June. I’m not sure which date in June, but I’ve wiped the weekends clear in June. I’ll be at the house if you want to come hang out with the boys and me.