The Missing Piece

Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Family Zoo:

I didn't draw this.
I've been more than normally (for me) sporadic posting stories here, and there are a myriad of reasons, but the overriding one is that it's been a strange combination of personal contentment and the unsettling grind of poling through the morass of bureaucracy to get David into the System. Maybe Bill Watterson got it right, though. Maybe I just needed to be in the mood.
     At any rate, now that the mood strikes me (with a mallet), here we go again.
    Recently, on the occasion of my Mother's birthday, (she hasn't quite hit the age where it's okay to ask how many yet) she decided that the Area Siblings, (they sometimes forget that I'm one of them now) would meet for the... however-many, anniversary of her birth at the Gage Park Zoo, in Topeka. I'm showing some age. It's now the Topeka Zoo, but this is my story, so there! This was always the place that my Dad took us to when he needed an under-$40 vacation for a family of 7. We'd pack a cooler and the family in a continuing array of large-capacity vehicles and drive the hour to the Zoo. An adventure for kids from a town you can walk across in 20 minutes or less. When we took the off ramp from the Interstate we all got very excited and this ratcheted up to mania by the time we passed under the huge (to us) open park gate. After trekking across the barren wastes... ish we had finally made it to ... the... ZOO!
Didn't that thing used to go the other way?
     It wasn't especially impressive, but they did have lots (too many for the space) of animals that we wouldn't ever get to see in the Prairies of Kans-ass, and we got to ride a train. That's right. A train! It was just a little 15" gauge, gas powered train that made a pretty good circle around the non-zoo portions of the park, but it went through a tunnel and over a trestle bridge!  Of course the bridge was only 4' off the ground, not over a mountain gorge, and the tunnel was a 10' diameter culvert-pipe covered with dirt, not hewn from the granite fastness of a mountain, but we were pretty imaginative (and loud) kids. We filled in the details. To mom, the pinnacle of the entire trip was the Reinisch Rose Garden. And every subsequent visit to the zoo requires that we return there. Imagine trying to enrapture 5 under-teen kids with 7000 variations of  400 varieties of... flowers. We were not fans, and spent most of that time chucking rocks at the ducks in the lily pond, where she couldn't see us.
     At any rate it was her birthday and she got to pick, so the oldest 4 out of the 5 siblings, one in-law (sorry Chris) and 2 grandchildren were to meet in the tame Wilds of furthest Topeka.
     When I told Dave we were going to the Topeka Zoo, a place he's only been once or twice before, and even though I didn't say why, he immediately said, 'We're going to see Grandma at the Zoo!!' I smiled... and then... thought about it. And then I thought about it some more. Now I'm sure it says something about me that my first thoughts went two different directions, both of them with varying degrees of sarcasm. So I thought... 'Does he mean he'll see her at the zoo, or in the zoo?' You see, it might be that because he only goes to the Topeka Zoo in the company of his grandmother that he naturally thinks that we wouldn't go there without her. Or... it may be that he believes his grandmother is (or deserves to be) one of the exhibits in the park. At any rate, he seemed very excited to go. And that was the important thing... I guess.
    Even though we were the last ones there, it looked like we weren't all that late as the rest of the family hadn't cleared the meeting zone right inside the gate. Grandma got a hug first thing, and, even though we still hadn't answered the 'at' or 'in' question, we all proceeded to have a pretty good time.         The reptiles had their 'No Dudes, No Way' sign out, so we immediately proceeded to the giraffes. Even though they don't vocalize much, David is pretty impressed with giraffes. 'Look at that TALL!!' is about all I can get out of him, but he sounds impressed.
     One of the next exhibits was the African Lion enclosure. The lions are outside in this... fairly large enclosure and the viewing is inside a large, hollowed-out manufactured rock with plate glass. As we were walking in I heard Dave mutter, 'You must be afraid of the lions...' of course, right after that, 'I'm not afraid of anything.' Both were pretty hushed, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to hear either one. We were in the small building for about 5 minutes or so and, although he was kind of dramatically hesitant to approach her at first, most of the time Dude was almost pressed against the window above one of the two lionesses, who was laying against the glass. Once we cleared the door, however, he thrust both hands up in the air and crowed, 'I'm not afraid of ANYTHING!!'
     Dave was so impressed with himself that he refused to be impressed by the next three exhibits, even though they were the elephants, the hippo and the orangutans. Usually some of his favorites.  I have to admit, that the one exhibit that I hated to go into when younger was, depending on who you listen to, either the first, or second completely enclosed tropical zoo habitat in the country. Going into it led me to decide that if I'm ever lost in the Amazon Rain Forest, I'm just going to look for the first jaguar or piranha pack that I can find, and give myself up as the catch-of-the-day. The building was always too small, too hot, had too many animals, and smelled worse than the elephant building. It says something that I would rather be outside than inside in Kansas in August. The idea was great, tropical birds roaming freely inside a building. But they just crammed so many plants and birds in there that you couldn't stand to walk through it. Even though I still didn't care for the humidity, they had cut back on the animals, thinned the vegetation, and cut out almost all the animals they'd had in tiny cement enclosures. That seemed to be the theme throughout the park. When we went when I was a kid it was really pathetic. Tiny cages with bored animals morosely turning psychotic circles. True, you got to see more animals than you would reasonably expect in such a small ( 80 acre) park, but I always went home feeling sorry for them. Now enclosures have replaced cages for the most part, and the zoo seems to be cutting down on the number of animals and increasing their... habitat. And the process is continuing with plans to expand the area of the African animals exhibit, that look really nice.
     Let me digress even more for just a minute. I'm of two minds about zoos. I truly wish there was a way for these wonderful creatures to be allowed to live wild, or at least in spaces where they can be animals. But at the same time I can't deny that some of these species simply have nowhere to go, nor can I truly regret the opportunity to actually see them without wearing out 3 passports and at least one Lotto win.
     No matter what my opinion, Dave loves to go to zoos... so we go. He had a ball walking through the lorikeet cage-thing with about 20 free-flying lorikeets flitting around. One of them hopped down the rope railing right behind him and then bounced back down the rope when he turned around. 'Don't touch the parrots.' he said, before I could, and then went 'Bphaw! Silly birds!'
     Before a brief turn through a similar butterfly 'cage' we went to see the bears. In
keeping with the new enclosure trend the bears were just in a big open space with a huge tree, an enormous fallen log and regular foliage. The humans were on a walkway above the level of the fence giving a pretty good view. The tree is a Black Walnut (I think) about 3-4 feet thick at the base and about 70 feet tall, and it's the bear's tree to do with as they please. And, since it was a pretty hot day, what they pleased was to be sitting about 30 feet off the ground in the branches where the wind was. Most people either don't know, or chose to forget that Black Bears, unlike their brown and white cousins are very good climbers. So while you can sometimes climb a tree to get away from a Grizzly or a Polar Bear (finding trees in the Arctic can be a bit problematic, though), with an aggressive Black Bear all you'll do is leave fingernail marks on the bark as he drags you back down. And, of course, Smokey the Bear was a Black Bear. Among the many people that don't know one or the other of these little factiods were the female members of our tour group. As Dude, Chris and I were ogling the large, flightless butterflies our companions were scanning the ground asking, 'Okay, where are the bears?' When the two younger ones were pointed out the universal sentiment seemed to be summed up with, 'Holy Crap! How did they get all the way up there?' A much wiser group was scanning the trees as we moved on. What they'll use this newfound information on, I have no idea, as Black Bears are not native to the Midwest.
     There really wasn't much more to the Zoo, although Dude did like the Mountain Lions, he still doesn't like waiting for me to take pictures of flowers, which the park has in abundance. On the way to the gate was a small garden just full of lilies. Cue: Dude rumbling. Dave and I, having completed this section of the trip, immediately walked out of the gate and started directly across the parking lot to the train, but the 'old fogies' following us had had enough, because they all got veggies and drinks and sat down in the shade, leaving David and I stranded outside. Sort of. I'll admit that I stayed out for the opportunity to take Dave's picture on the
Locked up, safe and sound!
other side of the fence from the rest of the family. I thought it would be cute. I didn't however plan for him to give me the 'thumbs up' while he did it. His pose might just be the answer to that 'at' or 'in' question I'd had earlier. I don't know.
     After a spin around the park on the train (I was the only one who noticed that it was going in the opposite direction than it used to), and a complete skip of the Rose Garden (a first ever event) everyone met in Lawrence for lunch. Mostly because no one knew Topeka well enough to think of anywhere to eat.
     It was probably all to the good that he'd accepted a chauffeured ride from Aunt Beth and Grandma, because I made a wrong turn and was, once again, the last one to 23rd St Brewery as I'd headed toward the wrong landmark despite having lived there for 2 months. There was no one in the brew pub that had any doubts about David's feelings for his shells and cheese and buffalo chicken. There was much approval. My family has a somewhat odd tradition when we all go out to eat. Once everyone has had the first taste of their own food, forks get passed around the table to get samples of whatever might look tasty or interesting off of anyone else's plate. This is probably a measure to cut the time a decision would take if we were each restricted to just one thing. (Oh! I want this, but that looks so good!) Waitresses have gone mad from the dilly-dallying that ensues. Normally Dave is a conscientious objector to any policy that would remove the Holy Cheese from his plate. But, either because of the convivial atmosphere, or the fact that he had a huge whopping chunk of Wisconsin on his plate with about half of Buffalo thrown in for good measure, Dave gleefully passed out samples of his wonderful meal. He felt so good, in fact that he gave the entire restaurant a rousing rendition of 'It's All About Soul' by Billy Joel that extended the length of the building and out onto the portico culminating with triumphant arms, a couple of bows, and, 'Talent Show in Vegas, baby! I'm ready to go!!'  I was impressed with his energy and enthusiasm, but the only place I wanted to go was home. And after many promises (by David) to visit each and every one of their houses and check out their systems, (his way of saying goodbye) that's exactly what we did.
      Of course, that plan hit a bit of a snag when I ran out of gas on the bike about 3/4 of the way home. Thankfully I was just far enough behind the only sibling that lives in KC, my sister, Deb, and she had only just gotten home and she rescued us with her lawnmower gas in about 10 minutes. So... typical 'smooth sailing' for the 2 Dudes... sheesh.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Self-Driving Tour:

The Wearin' of the Grin
     I sometimes think that people in the Midwest are both less and more able to cope with the Dudeness than Pennsylvanians. Less, because, while friendly and courteous, Midwesterners are sometimes more easily startled  by anything that breaks their routine than people on the Atlantic Seaboard. And once brought up short, it tends to take a bit of time for them to get back on a roll. I've seen David make genuinely crazy people wander off shaken, confused and looking over their shoulders in wonder. Typical people generally have no chance at all.
     I say more, because they are friendly and courteous and anyone with those traits will almost always at least be given a listen-to. And despite whatever else Dude is, he is very friendly.
     Case in point: By now, anyone who's ever read one of these stories (and if you haven't, get to it! There are only 89 of them so far) Dude invites anyone and everyone to Vegas wherever we go. Sometimes he invites them 2 or 3 times in one sitting. The other day we were heading into a place called Vintage Stock, a used game/music/movie store with a bit of game/movie memorabilia and paraphernalia, and when we drove up we startled a small girl and her mother parking next to them in the lot. The bike is kind of noisy. After we concluded our business we were followed out by this same pair. When the woman explained that the girl was especially sensitive to noise (picked the wrong Dude to follow out of the store there, didn't ya?) So I kept the bike silent while Dave and I patiently waited for the two to get into their SUV. When the little one was secured and the woman was getting into the Land Tank, Dave, once again, asked if she was going to have fun coming to Vegas with us. She turned with a smile, and said, 'I'm sorry, I won't be able to make it to Vegas. We're going to Scotland and Ireland this year.' Dude could care about the Gaelic Homeland. The woman said she wasn't going to his Mecca, so she was instantly shuffled into the 'nice, but beneath notice' category.  I was almost instantaneously interested... and jealous. Seeing my interest, she pretty much gave me her entire itinerary for the trip. You know, so I could catch up, if I happened to be in the area. The whole time Dave was hawking Vegas like a carnival barker and occasionally drifting off subject (if there ever really had been one) to various movie quotes and restaurant choices for dinner that evening. This woman was genuinely delighted by both Dave and my interest in her Adventure Across the Pond. She spoke to him when he butted in with his questions and then switched back to me when he was done....ish.
     That's one of the things I truly love about the Midwest. You can meet a total stranger in a parking lot, accidentally start a conversation with a polite gesture or phrase and end up knowing more about them in 15 unhurried minutes than you do about some of your relatives. I never got this woman's name, nor she mine, but by the time our brief exchange was finished I knew the Where, What, and Why about her trip to the Old Country (Ireland and Scotland: Self-driving Castle Tour; and because they're descended from some of the Royalty in that area). Hell, I don't know where anyone in my family is going on their vacation. But that may be just because they don't want me tagging along. Come to think of it, I don't even know where some of them live. (it's a big family)
     The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that, in this one aspect at least, David is perfectly suited to the Midwest. This is the only place I've ever lived where a wrong-number call can lead to an hour long conversation with a complete stranger (it happens more often than you'd think). Anywhere you can start an hour (day/week/month) long conversation with complete strangers is just the place for a Dude to be. He's already found cheeseburgers, 2 favorite game-stores, public buildings with elevators, 2 malls and a steady supply of Mac and Cheese, so all of the essentials are covered.
     Pittsburgh people try to be polite in the face of all that Dudeness, but it's really not in their nature. There was always that startled pause whenever Dude would ask, 'You ready to go to Vegas?' A quick look at me to assess the danger and then another look at David. They rarely ever seem to smile as quickly or as easily at David as do the Midwesterners. Of course, smiling is about the only thing that
Midwesterners do quickly. (Mostly kidding) But the smiles are sincere and the courtesy is genuine.
     At any rate there was an unexpected hazard resulting from this chance encounter. It seems that Dave's dreams of Vegas Glory have become just a tad more organized. I mean, he's always wanted to go to the 'Big V', but it was more of a 'You ready to go to Vegas?' way. Now he's talking about specific places and things we have to do and see once we're there. I mean, now there's a buffet, complete with elevator, (I mean, how they hell am I going to find one of those?), he's evidently entered into a multi-million dollar Talent Show, we're going to a pool....  on a roof! We seem to be visiting either the Luxor or CircusCircus, depending on what day it is, and we seem to be bringing along everything (including the cats) except Suzi. Not because she isn't allowed to come along.... but because we're sending her on a Spa Cruise. I'm pretty sure, except for the gondola ride at the Venetian, and the sinking ship at Treasure Island there's just not much Cruise action in Vegas. Of the ocean going variety, that is.
     Dave does, however, want to take Suzi's car to Vegas with us. He says it's the 'Best, perfect way to get to Vegas!' Suzi drives a BMW Z3. A 2-seat convertible sports car. He's always saying, 'We've got to take the racing car to Vegas!' How we're going to get 3 cats, 5 gaming systems, about 300 game discs, 2 Dudes (regular and Super-sized), clothes, Mac and Cheese, ketchup, ranch dressing, and a long, long list of other things into a vehicle with the total passenger and trunk space of an airplane bathroom I have no idea. Maybe we'll just leave the top down? I just haven't been given the specifics on that one. Dude is beyond such things.... It's probably just my job to figure it out.
     Right after I wrote this I found out that I'll have to find room for one more package for our Quest. It seems that Suzi is indeed invited along on our Adventure. When I mentioned that she was the only thing in the house that I hadn't been asked to find room for in the Z3, she corrected me. It seems that it's her job to figure out how to find a Spa Cruise in the midst of the Mojave Desert. Maybe a Spa Bus Tour? I'm not really sure. Perhaps Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is making a World Tour from the deserts of Australia?  Maybe they'll take along a non-Drag Queen guest with a personal Dude-request?
     Also, he's been reminded that I have relatives in Chicago. So now our 'Vegas Road Trip' (his words) is somehow supposed to include a swing by the Observation Deck of the Sears Tower. I think he even knows what floor it's on. Once again, the logistics of fitting in a 350+ mile trip (in exactly the wrong direction) into our 'little road trip' is entirely up to me. I'm evidently capable in ways that boggle the mind... My mind feels boggled, anyway.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Wake up, Suzi:

 As some of you may know, Dude and I have managed to con.. uh... coerce.... uh... Blackmail is such an ugly word, we prefer extortion. Or, Long Distance Hypnotism. Anyway, somehow or another Suzi has come into our lives. She quickly became Dave's buddy and he looks forward to the days that Dad has to go to work. They have a (sort-of) routine when I'm gone, and it all starts with the wake-up.
   When he was much younger (and the Games were in my room) David would often climb into bed with me early in the morning. This was pretty much self defense, (mine) as there was no way in hell that I was going to get out of bed at 7:30 in the am on a weekend. As he got older this practice was pretty much discontinued and a moratorium was placed on most Dude traffic in Dad's room. You see, Dad likes to stay up late, but David has a firm bedtime, and 9 hours or so later he's going to be awake at some ungodly cow-milking hour, whether or not any cows actually need milking. His dad does not care if the cows ever get milked. As a matter of fact, his dad would sell or shoot the cows and buy his milk at the store at 1:00 in the morning.
     When this happens when Dad is home, Dave will stay (mostly quietly) up in his room except to come down for his pad, or to get a drink. I think this is a defense mechanism similar to the small animals that sometimes share the cave of a hibernating bear. Yeah sure he's warm, and nobody is going to come after you in the cave of a sleeping bear, but it's probably not a good idea to play Metallica turned up to 11 either. So we'll just be quiet and let that grumpy old bear sleep. When the grumpy old bear works, however, this is an entirely different story.
     On the evenings before I work, (I have an odd schedule) Dude will, after his before-bed drink, stop and say either, 'Dad will go to work tomorrow', or 'Suzi will be home tomorrow.' I've come to understand that these are not questions. He's actually ordering me out of the house for 13 hours. When we agree he'll happily exclaim, 'Then we get the Ipad time tomorrow?' and won't take another step up the stairs until Suzi agrees. Which she does, every time.
      Suzi, like me, is an habitual night owl. When given the opportunity either one of us will stay up into the wee hours. And, also like me and most other half-vampires, she doesn't particularly care to see the fresh sun peeping in the windows at that proverbial ungodly cow milking hour of the morning. David has no respect for those who would burn the daylight and often comes into the room before 8 o'clock and sits or lays down in the bed peering at the coma victim on the other side.
     Occasionally he takes a couple of running steps into the room, leaps into the air, and lands on the bed in the classic Joe Namath panty hose add pose. 'Suzi, are you awake yet?' he chirps brightly. 'Is it time for the Ipad time yet?' Why she hasn't killed him I have no idea. I mean. The kid doesn't even bring coffee, or a pastry, and he's bright and cheery? He'd better be glad he doesn't do this to me, because I'd start throwing things at him, and some of those things would be large and weighty. Pillows, books... cats... convertables. You know, whatever is handy. Suzi, on the other hand, doesn't even get upset. Weird. After an initial squinty eyed look in his vague direction, she often just smiles and gets out of bed! I mean... what? Oh sure, sometimes she tells Dave that it's too early to get up, and then he goes in the kitchen to make himself a 'grilled' cheese sandwich and juice. The breakfast sandwich is his own invention. It's cheese, on bread, microwaved for 15 seconds, so no actual stoves are harmed in the making of breakfast. But other times they get up and go into the front room for 'Ipad Time'.
     This has become a really big thing for David. Once the French has been Pressed, and the Elixir consumed, they sit in the front room with their pads (neither made by Apple) and... just each do their own thing. Dave has his YouTube videos that he searches and watches, and Suzi has her stuff that she does, including a Singing Monsters game/app that is pretty cute, but completely incomprehensible to me. Sometimes Dave leans over her chair to watch what the monsters are doing, and other times he shows Suzi the cool vids he's found. It's cute and cheery and homey and just between the two of them. No Dads Allowed. I can't even be jealous, because Dave's normally glad to see me when I get home, and, if you substitute a book for YouTube, that's pretty much the same thing that Suzi and I do. There's usually an hour or so every evening when we just relax in each others company quietly with our Pads.
     I got Dude his Pad a couple of years ago for Christmas. I've had to open it up several times because he's dropped it and disconnected the battery, but other than that it's worked pretty well for that whole time. The big reason for that is, I don't let him have a charger. Now, before y'all get the wrong idea, there's actually a couple of good reasons for this. A: Battery powered devices always draw power from the battery, even if it's plugged in. And the way Dude uses it, that would seriously cut down on battery life. And B: If he wasn't limited by the life of the battery, he just wouldn't do anything else. No other games, or playing on his keyboard, or coming downstairs. None of it would happen.
   Recently, as sometimes happens, we've had a rash of Micro-USB cable meltdowns. We are death to interfacing technology. In fact, Dave and I were down to two, and then I bought two more and then both of the older ones fritzed. (see what I mean?) So we were back down to two cables and 3-4 devices to be charged. So what would happen usually is that Dave would plug in his pad when he went to bed and I would unplug it and steal the cable to recharge my pad and phone overnight and then plug his back in when I left for work in the morning. I just don't have the capacity in the morning to remember to take it into the other room.  Of course, this left his pad in my room, which, since he was in there waking Suzi up in the morning, wasn't out of his way to get.
     Until the fateful day when Dude was (cue Dramatic Music) banned from Dad's room again.
Actually, he was just told to get out of my room when he started looking for something in the closet. Don't ask me what, I have no idea. At any rate, David was banned from the bedroom for the evening, although he took that to mean for-ev-er. Or at least until Dad forgot that he was banned from the room. Which amounts to the same thing, in Dude-time.
     So... now you see the quandary. That Which Must Be Had at Any Cost was now locked away in the tower of Don't Go In There or Dad will Kick Your Butt, along with his Ipad buddy, The Suzi. Something needed to be done. And Dude was just the dude to do it.
    Being Dude, the first thing he did was try to sneak his prize out of the room. Suzi woke up the next morning to see the butt of the Least Stealthy Being in the Universe bob slowly around the corner of my side of the bed and make its way out the door. I'm sure she wondered for, oh well... a pico-second (one trillionth of a second) who that wandering posterior could belong to. Suzi laughed as Dude crawled out the door, apparently unaware that his Ninja skills needed a bit of brushing up. Even though Dude thought he was breaking a Dad-rule and could have gotten busted, it was no big deal. What was kind of a deal was that he'd snatched the cable and taken it with him up to his room. A strict no-no. Of course, if he hadn't absent-mindedly forgotten to put the cable back (or at least downstairs) until after I'd gotten home, it would have just been another silly Dude-story. As it was, I had to talk to him about taking the cord up to his room. During this discussion, I may or may not (no recording exists) have said the words, 'Just wait for Suzi to wake up to give you your pad'. It could have happened. Like I said, there's no actual evidence that it did.
     If such a conversation had taken place, that might explain what happened the next morning.
     Suzi was snoozing mightily, early (very early) the next morning when her slumber was interrupted by a persistent repetitive sound. She knew the sound, but in her befuddled state, couldn't quite figure out what it was. After more than a few repetitions of the semi-recognizable electronic noise, she cracked a bleary eye open and scanned the room to see what was up. Of course, what was up, was Dude.  David was just barely outside of the bedroom door. Nothing strange there. He can be very patient... sometimes. What made the situation strange (to me when I heard it later) was the fact that he had Suzi's electronic kitchen timer in his hand. Brows furrowed in confusion, she just stared at him for a few seconds. 'Thank goodness it worked!' He exclaimed, shutting the damned thing off. 'Suzi, are you awake now?' I would have killed him quickly at this point. I'm serious. I would have quickly fashioned a prison-shank out of a pillow, or pulled the pin on a cat-grenade and pitched it at him so I could get back to sleep, but Suzi just smiled and said, 'What do you want, Dude?' The Pope will call any day now about her ascension to Sainthood.
   'He needs the Ipad, to watch the videos!' Suzi looked at the clock's dismally small numbers and even without the aid of caffeine still managed to smile while she said, 'It's a little too early, David. Why don't you go back to bed, and we'll play with the pad later?' And you know what? He didn't even gripe! He just said, 'Okay, we'll get the Ipad time later.' and went back to bed.
     I'm sure I was no help. When she told me the story later that day I admit that I probably missed the point. 'Wait. You mean that he figured out how to program the kitchen timer?' Probably wasn't the first thing she expected to hear. She took the whole thing in stride as one of the hazards
of Dudeworld. I, on the other hand, had another talk with my youngest offspring on the hazards of rogue kitchen-timer usage. Really. Those things are not toys, you know.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

War of the Words:

This one I had to swipe.
     For a time, Dave and I stayed in Lawrence Kansas, home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks. If you're not from Kansas, and you don't know what a Jayhawk is, don't be alarmed. Almost no one in Kansas knows what one is either, except as a description of a KU Alumnus. Historically, it's the derivation of 'Jayhawkers' a term for the Kansas version of the Missouri 'Bushwacker' before and during the Civil War. The Jayhawk mascot is said to be part 'screaming Bluejay' and part 'stealthy Sparrowhawk'. All I know is that it's blue, red and yellow and looks like the technicolor cousin of Heckle and Jekyll. Quite a number of my family (including my oldest son) graduated from there, and that description will probably start trouble. Oh well.
     While we were staying in Lawrence, waiting downtown for my son Tim and his wife Abby next to their favorite coffee shop. Dave had something of an 'encounter', which led me to believe (once again) that Dude is actually a representative of an alien race.
      I love college towns. They have the amenities and infrastructure of a town three times their size without the crowding, barring the occasional weekend pub-crawl. What college towns have in abundance is an eclectic and tolerant population of fairly intelligent, if slightly naive individuals who are actually out to prove what they care about before they become jaded capitalists like the rest of us. In Lawrence the one thing that goes along with all this relaxed tolerance is a selection of some of the most relaxed and colorful homeless people you'll ever encounter. (I've been to LA, Orlando, NYC, Berkeley, Chicago, Miami, and every other Major Metropolitan area in the country, so I've seen some stuff) Most of these people seem to have little areas staked-out at various points along the main drag, where they hang out, speak in a friendly manner to just about anyone, some of them play an instrument or dance to CD's. All of them have a small, unobtrusive cardboard sign marked with Sharpie and some sort of receptacle for donations. Dave talks to each and every one of them, asks them if their ready for Vegas, or just to hit a Casino, or just to say, 'Hi buddy! That's some good music!' or 'Way to go, buddy! You're the best!' or even, 'That's some good dancing! I love to dance!' He is a one man support group. The thing is, these people are known to the students and people that frequent Downtown. Most know their names, some of their story and often stop and talk, or give them a little something, or even just to let them pet their dogs. (Lawrence is one of the most dog-friendly towns I've ever seen. It's like a giant PetLand) Sometimes, however, economic or personal choice aren't the reason for homelessness. There's always a group, within the group, that just can't seem to... well... stay on their meds. Some of them are easier to deal with than others. There's no good way to say this. Some of the Clinical Schizophrenics  just won't shut up. And if you know who I live with you'll realize how big that statement actually is. Schizophrenia is a disorder designed to make people nervous. Schizo-effectives talk too much, too loudly, never stay on topic for more than a few seconds and generally leave your 'personal space' lying on the floor bruised and gasping in pain. The thing is, while they're avoided a bit more than the other indigents I never saw any of them harassed or antagonized in any way while I was there. It was also obvious that they were consistently directed, or taken, to shelters, counselling, or some sort of outreach program to get them help.
     This leads us to Andrew (not his actual name). Andrew's stated purpose for hanging around the coffee shop was to wait for opening of the bike shop next door. I know this because in the first 4 minutes of meeting Andrew I knew his name, why he was there, how long he'd been waiting, how many times he'd had to wait, every name of everyone he'd ever dealt with in the shop (and why), what he'd had for dinner, lunch, his opinion of the efficacy of his semi-current outpatient treatment, several of the best places to 'crash' in town, and the last time he'd thrown up. Also I learned more about Government (Local to Federal) conspiracies and alien intent and biology than is probably healthy for any one person to be aware of. I also had time to notice that Andrew didn't appear to have a bicycle. Or a helmet. Or any of the other things that go along with riding a bicycle. I'm not afraid of crazy people, and they seem to know that, so I just rode the conversation out, commenting as seemed to be necessary or required, but it didn't take me long to figure out that Andrew, my new and bestest friend, was never, ever, ever going to shut up. Not only did I figure it out on my own, but it was written on the faces of the three or so students sitting in the patio area of the coffee shop. Andrew would never stop. He would never quit. He would follow me (his bestest friend) to the ends of the earth, protecting me from Aliens, Government Agents, Outreach Nurses and Rude Bicycle Shop Associates. Talking continuously the whole time. Since I already had one of those, and had thus reached my quota, I started looking for a way out that wouldn't involve physical violence or hurt the feelings of my new 'bestest friend'. About that time, Andrew carved his own conversational tombstone, thus saving me the effort. Dude had been preternaturally indifferent to my plight, or even our conversation until Andrew mentioned the word, 'Vegas'. (Cue: Meaningful Music) Dave immediately birddogged into the conversation with 'It's only the Casino Elevators in Vegas!' Here is where Andrew met his match and Master. Andrew kept trying to guide the conversation along his lines. Lines that Dude blithely ignored, continuing to talk about Vegas and Hospital elevators. Games and movies, dogs and cats. I could see that Andrew was used to having the upper hand, probably because most people are nervous around him, and talking to someone who not only had the upper hand, but frankly, the upper dump truck, discussion wise, was unnerving him. Dave continued to talk about just about.. well, everything, inviting Andrew to Vegas, complimenting him on what a good job, he was doing (?), asking him if he'd seen his tour bus, and extolling the virtues of nurses everywhere. It was like watching avalanche racing. Except without the St. Bernards.
     Coming around the last corner, you could see that Andrew just didn't have the heart to finish the race. He looked confused and hesitant, and he started shooting looks at Dude full of Fear and Awe. It was like watching Indigo Montoya fighting the Man in Black after that man had switched to his right hand. It was a thing of Terrible Beauty.
     Andrew finally broke off and walked away without ceremony. Dude, ever gracious, said, 'See you in Vegas on June 21st!' Andrew didn't reply, he just kept walking. When he shot a nervous look over his shoulder to 'check his 6' for Dudes, David yelled in a friendly voice, 'See you at Kansas University this June!' That was evidently too much for Andrew, who ducked his head and scurried off around the corner. Never to be seen (by us) again. I mean  never. I looked over at the students. Their reaction can be summed up in one word. Stunned. The blond looked at the not-blond and said, 'Did you see that shit? He just walked off!' The blond, who somehow looked sage and stunned at the same time, replied, 'He never just leaves like that.' The two looked at Dude, suitably impressed and maybe even with a little awe. Dude responded like any true Warrior of Words would... 'Hi guys! You ready to go to Vegas?' I pulled Dave away for a walk up to the corner in back. You know, so he could save his Awesome Powers for when they were truly needed.
     When Tim and Abby showed up I told Tim what had happened, kind of laughing it off. He immediately knew who I was talking about and was seriously impressed with David's Kung-fu Dialogue skills. I promised that he'd only use them for... all the time. I mean, seriously. He can't be contained with mere mortal force. Even Dude-dad force.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Not-So Secret Service:

     An incident the other day made me think of my time in Florida as a stagehand.
Dave and I were walking a new (to us) mall. I was there because it was getting to be my usual Christmas Shopping Time, (2 weeks before the day) and, while I had a somewhat limited budget, I really wanted to get something cool and unusual for Suzi,(phrenology bank, Galileo thermometer, as this was our first Christmas together. As far as Dude was concerned this was just another opportunity to ride the elevators and scout a new GameStop location. Don't get me wrong, he really likes Suzi, but c'mon! 'It's the new elevators at the mall!' (that's a direct quote) He also seemed to be very concerned that the outlets in the Food Court had waaaay too much product laying around and we should, as concerned citizens, you know... help them out.
     To make his point more clearly, Dave was walking slightly ahead, but turned back toward me, so that he was walking 3/4 backwards and not paying any attention to where he was going, or which of the lucky citizens he would wipe out while he tried to make his point. So... we're in one of the larger malls in the KC Metro area, two weeks before Christmas and my none-to coordinated son is walking backwards with even less of a care for public safety than his usual 'none at all'. Nope. No chance of disaster there. So, as many of you might already have figured out, in the midst of trying to convince me of our desperate need for fast food David was inches away from 4-wheeling right over a young lady and her son. Her tiny, pink, 6 month old, cute as a button son. Baby stroller and all. I desperately grabbed the front of Dude's jacket and manually hauled him out of the way. The young lady, froze for a second and then went on about her way with a huge sigh of relief. Completely oblivious to the fact that he almost wiped out 2/3 of a family, Dave paused briefly in irritation and then continued with 'He has to get the pizza at the Food Court.' 'The Food Court is open, remember?' I was very slightly shaken with the implications of the near miss and started in on Dave, 'Dude you have to watch.... forget it.' Because, seriously, this sort of thing happens about every 34 seconds whenever we're out and there's no way he'd understand why mowing down an infant would be any worse than bouncing off the wall. I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get my point.
     While I was thinking about this incident, I realized that my Dude-training had actually been going on longer than I thought.
     When I lived in Florida I worked for a Stagehand labor company. We supplied willing crazy people ( I was pretty mild for that group. Which should tell you something) to the Entertainment industry for all sorts of events; Indoor and Outdoor Concerts, Arena conversions, general stage-equipment set up and removal, conventions of all types and once, cleaning up after Warner Brothers Cartoon Characters on a cruise ship. (I'm not kidding) One of the events we handled was The Herbalife, I Have More Money Than You Do, Pyramid Scheme Millionaire's Convention. (Okay... I was the one that called it that) I don't know how many of you have participated in a Convention before, but they're fairly predictable. Lot's of snoozable Corporate rah-rah, some stirring speeches by the most famous people your company could afford, followed by the best music they could afford with whatever was left over from the Motivational Speakers. Despite being called 'Amway Nazis' by someone that will remain beyond prosecution (probably just who you're thinking) had, at the time, quite a bankroll and quite the need to prop their image up just as high as it could go. Their Entertainment was Ray Charles, and 2 of their 3 Motivational Speakers were (Stormin) Norman  Schwarzkopf, and Barbara Bush.
    The thing about working Entertainment is that, despite their profligate use of money, if you're not actually working the show, they aren't going to feed you so much as a PB&J sammich. So if you've been up since, say 6am and it's now 6pm and you're feeling a mite peckish you are entirely on your own. My friend Tim (Flash) (Don't ask) and I, coincidentally enough, had experienced that very dilemma and were just returning to the Convention Center at the rear of the building from obtaining the necessary grease, carbs and carbonated caffeine to sustain our will to live. Tim was, rather excitedly telling me about... something, to the point that he was walking backwards in front of me to maintain eye contact. So I was the one who noticed that Barbara Bush and her Secret Service escort of 5 walk out of the doors and toward us on the very same walkway. Three things you need to know, 1: Secret Service guys are bad-asses who would die for their charges, but would rather you did instead. 2: They are bad-asses that carry guns that you'd never even know where there until they want you to. And 3: The primary accessory for any well-dressed Stagehand is a backpack of indeterminate origins. Strikingly similar to the standard-issue backpack for, oh... say your average, everyday suicide bomber. Needless to say we had 5 pairs of identical Ray-Ban sunglasses pointed in our direction.
Tim, we hardly knew ya.
     As the two groups drew closer to each other on parallel paths, I kept trying to gain Tim's attention to warn him of the Brooks Brothers-clad danger, but he was not about to be diverted. The Secret Service detail was in 'standard diamond formation' which is, directly in front, behind and off either shoulder of their charge, with the 5th guy behind and to the side, (He's the one with the Uzi) where he has the best view and can see the rest (or, in front and to the side where he can lead the group). As our groups converged the formation began to tighten a bit and the right hands all seemed to settle on their jacket buttons in a synchronized fashion. I'm sure the panicked look rising on my face was interpreted in the worst possible way by the Armed Federal Agents (I can't emphasize that armed part enough) because now the button-hands were, ever so slightly, under the lapels of the suit jackets they all wore. Tim continued on, oblivious to my ever more frantic attempts to warn him of his (and my) growing peril. For a brief second I frantically imagined that Tim was actually part of a plot to kill the former First Lady and I was his unwitting, soon to be tragically dead, unwitting dupe. (I had been reading a lot of Ian Fleming at the time) Naturally, Tim chose the time when the two groups were about to intersect to veer toward 'Babs' and Company. The Secret Service agents didn't like that. No sir, they didn't like that one bit. Hands completely disappeared under jacket flaps, and the 'rover' had his wrist up to his mouth in perfect 'TV FBI guy' fashion. That would be his left wrist, as his right hand was reaching for his Uzi. That's how I know he had one. Not good. As a matter of fact, we were about 3 seconds away from being part of an After Action Report at the local Field Office.
     Luckily for all of us I avoided all that paperwork by grabbing Tim by his backpack strap and physically throwing him about 6 feet to the side, away from the itchy trigger fingers. I quickly spread my arms, hands open, and said, 'Sorry! He's not an assassin! He's just an idiot!' Mrs. Bush actually smiled at that. The Secret Service guys didn't. They evidently practiced not-smiling a lot, because they were very good at it. Their little group never broke stride and they were soon far enough away for me to start breathing again. Tim the Oblivious had missed the whole thing, and had no idea that I'd just saved him from becoming Lead-lined Swiss Cheese and concentrated on the fact that in my adrenaline-fueled panic I'd nearly thrown him completely off the loading dock. (Hey Rocky! Sometimes I don't know my own strength) So, instead of thanking me for not letting him be just another Domestic Terrorist statistic he started after me about his impromptu flight. And naturally, he didn't believe me when I told him that I'd just saved his life and, depending on which Cultural Model we were using, I either owned him, was responsible for anything he did in the future, he had to follow me around until he saved my life or we were now married and I was really hoping that I got to pick which one. Luckily neither of us actually belonged to any of those Cultures and a truck driver walked up and said that Tim should be thanking me for saving his life and I should probably cut down on the Wheaties if I were going to continue saving smaller people's lives by throwing them.
     So, evidently I've been training for this Dude-guard position for longer than I thought. I've always said, kind of flippantly, that he's a Rockstar. Perhaps that wasn't the big joke I always thought it was. Actually, it probably was. And, as usual around Dude when a joke is involved, the joke is on me.
     That's okay, I'm pretty used to that. The only question that remains is: Am I protecting Dude from Everyone Else, or Everyone Else from Dude? If it's the latter, I really need to talk to y'all about a raise. Seriously. I put my life on the line for you guys every day. I think that's worth a little something extra in the pay envelope. Or even just something in a pay envelope. Or any envelope, box, package, or dump truck you care to send to the house...
     Well... it was worth a shot.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Halfway to Vegas:

      There have been many upheavals in the Dudeverse in recent months, I'll probably recount specific stories later, but this is kind of an overview of the whole deal, now that I've finally  used a crowbar on my wallet and gotten internet again.
    For reasons that have nothing to do with Dude, Raine and I decided (several months before the move) that our relationship had come to an end. It was amicable enough that when Jill Mosura (Henceforth called the Evil One) plucked at the sappy, nougatty center of my conscience, and told me I just had to let Dave sing at the opening of the graduation ceremony (unknowingly delaying my departure by at least a month), things were cool enough that I could, in fact, delay my departure.
     But depart, we did, two Dudes and a Psycho Biscuit (Dexter), we temporarily stayed with my oldest son, Tim, his wife Abby, and 3 dogs, Yuki (a Siberian Husky), Skylar (a Malamute), and Sweetness (some sort of 3-legged Terrier), and the Cat.... uh.... Psycho-cookie.   (okay, I'm the only one that called her that) Her real name is Mila. They were very nice about our staying. It gave me time to get to know Abby, and it gave Dave and Tim time to get to know one another as they've mostly lived in different parts of the country for Dude's entire life. It also gave Dude time to get acquainted with Abby's iPad.  Abby, if your iPad is ever missing, I swear I would never take Dude to your house without your knowing about it. And even then, never without a thorough pat-down before we left.
     Dave and I spent several weeks driving into Kansas City to find someplace to live with more bedrooms and fewer dogs (sorry guys), so we would jump on the bike and head the 40+ miles to the far side of KC. Dave used to love riding the bike. We'd jump on it and tool around town, or around the lake and take in the sights, and everything was cool.  It seems Dude's butt is a bit more sensitive than he previously imagined, because every time a ride lasted for longer than 20 minutes I started hearing about it. Do you know that Bikers call the pillion (passenger) seat on a motorcycle the 'bitch seat'? They have their own reasons, which I won't go into here, but I did start hearing a lot of 'bitching' from the backseat after the first 20 minutes of every ride. Also every time thereafter when we had to get back on the bike to continue our day, or even to go back to Tim's house. (and Abby's iPad) It got to the point that whenever we'd leave Tim's house he'd call out, 'Time to get in the Tim's truck!' Even though neither Tim, nor his truck, where anywhere within 10 miles of the house. Somehow his butt remembered the bike. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Smart-Ass'
     I've stated before (endlessly) how much David likes new houses, new doors, and new elevators. But, since most rental homes do not come equipped with elevators, and I have a strict aversion to apartment buildings, the very best he was going to do was 2 out of 3. This didn't deter his enthusiasm for the search one bit (once butt and bike had parted ways). Every house we looked at, and not a few we merely passed by were 'My new house!'. I kept trying to tell him 'We're just looking' and 'Maybe', but he was having none of it. 'We got to get the new house, for the systems!' As a matter of fact, somehow in his mind it became that our new house would come complete with systems and  wifi and it would just be a matter of time before the elevators were installed. I'm not sure how that all came about but more than a few of the nice people who were showing us the properties would be accosted with, 'Does it have the systems?' and 'We get the new house with the Wii and the Playstation 4!!' and 'It's just the Wifi in the new house.' Which only embarrassed me a tiny bit, but confused the hell out of them.
     Every house was 'The New House', and I think he was starting to wonder why his stuff wasn't already there. Even though we were looking at 3-4 houses a day at one point. We were finally looking at a duplex in Southern KCMO (That's Kansas City Missouri, for the non-Midwestern), we had gone through the place, and it wasn't too bad, although the bathroom arrangement was a little odd, when the woman off-handedly mentioned that the 'unit' next door had just recently become available, but hadn't been listed yet. My instincts, honed by years of garage sales, twitched a bit at this, and when she asked if we'd like to see it my response of 'Well, hell yeah.' might have taken her back a bit. But hey, I'd spent the last several weeks roaming hither and yon, and the prospect of seeing another property, A: Without having to scour the interwebs. and 2: Being able to walk to it in under 32 seconds, appealed to me mightily.
    We toured the house, which had slightly larger bedrooms, a huge basement, and a slightly more beneficial arrangement of toilet facilities. I liked it pretty well, and we were talking about rent and deposits and possible move-in dates when I looked around and said, 'Where's David?' Yes, the Least Stealthy Being in the Universe had giving me the slip... again. (that could get embarrassing) Since we were standing by one door and the other was locked, I was reasonably sure that he hadn't taken to wandering the neighborhood to 'board someone else's vessel' like a system stealing game-pirate. After a quick search of the place netted us no Dude, I even checked to make sure all the windows were locked. I wandered the 3 rooms upstairs because that's where I'd seen him heading last,  when I heard scuffling sounds in one of the closets.
My score in the new house debate.
    The closets in this place seemed to come equipped with vague mumbles. Either that, or impatient ghosts that just couldn't wait for us to sign the contract and move in. I tried to open the doors, but Dave had nearly barricaded himself into the closet, he had pushed himself up against the bifold doors so I couldn't open them and he was refusing to come out. I tried calling him out a couple of times but all I got back was, 'It's his new house' and 'Gotta get the systems in the new bedroom'. I guess I was supposed to just get our stuff and he'd wait right there. This put me in a bad position, bargaining-wise. I mean, it's hard to pretend indifference to whether or not you get a house if your youngest offspring won't leave it. The agent is bound to know something is working in her favor if someone is yelling 'It's the new bedroom, with the systems!' from one of the closets upstairs... or anywhere for that matter. As I walked back downstairs toward the, now slightly smug-looking, Rental Agent, I muttered, 'Found him.' and continued our interrupted 'negotiations'. At least he didn't yell, 'Attica! Attica!'. That would have been awkward.
     I finally negotiated the release of the Hostage in the Closet for a minimal fee (steakburgers and fries) and tried to explain to him that you need to have supplies with you before you Occupy in protest. Unless, of course you happen to be in Oregon. I also have to state, for the record, that David did not get the bedroom he so ardently desired. Mostly because that room is now our office and computer room. His bedroom is on the other side of the stairs, next to the bathroom. I do not accede to the demands of terrorists. ... Much
   So, two months after our Interstate Adventure began we had a place to keep our stuff. The problem was that our stuff was in a storage facility 50+ miles away in Topeka. Luckily by this time Tim and Abby wanted us out of the house bad enough to actually help us move. My nephew Brendan's motivations are somewhat more obscure, although it may be cynical to point out that I was in possession of his mother's SUV at the time. There may have been urgent messages flying from the Lone Star State to regain possession of the vehicle, although I have no direct knowledge of them. It is possible, however, that he was just being kind to his only Maternal uncle, which would just be... weird. At any rate, we were deeply grateful for all the help on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Although, once his games were loaded into the truck, Dude lost all interest in the whole middle part of the moving process, and sat in the cab of the truck with his 3DS until we were ready to actually go to the house. And once there, lost all interest in it again, once his systems and games were in his new room. Naturally.
     Along with his new digs, Dude has a new co-conspirator in the endless struggle against All That is Dad. Her name is Suzi.  Suzi and I were friends in High School. That doesn't quite cover it (duh), Suzi and I were instantly friends in HS. We never dated each other, we were best friends.  Although the nuns did warn her about the evils of 'corrupting' someone soooo much younger. (She was a Senior, I was a Freshman) They didn't understand. Nothing like that was going on, we were just the only two 'green monkeys' in a world full of brown monkeys. Then, after a short stint at the local college, she had to move on... to Chicago.  We had no further contact until many, many moons later, but during the interregnum between the break-up and the new digs she decided that living with 2 Dudes might not be such a bad idea. (I still have no idea why anyone would volunteer for that).
The Evil Organist Effect on Dexter
     Now they're thick as thieves, sharing 'iPad time' while I'm at work, when Dave's not practicing for the Las Vegas Talent Show on his new keyboard.(I didn't even know there was a Las Vegas Talent Show) He's really good with it. He'll listen to songs and then play the chords on the keyboard until he has it right, then he'll shut off the song and replay the chords and sing it himself. It's really kind of amazing. Of course, sometimes he just plays the scary sounding chords he's learned from some of the classical music he has recorded... and laughs like a villain in a Black and White movie. When this happens, Suzi and I just chuckle nervously and keep doing our thing downstairs... in the living room... away from the mad keyboardist, as the cats head for our bedroom to hide.
The Union Station 'Waiting Hall'
Dave's already found his favorite place to go in KC. It's the Union Station Depot. Which was restored about the time I first moved to Florida, and let me tell you, they did an absolutely wonderful job of it. The ceilings were lovingly repaired and restored and the whole thing shines of old wood, granite floors, mellow brass and early 19th century lighting and hardware. Dave couldn't care less. He's completely indifferent to it all. It doesn't matter to him that the building is over 100 years old (102 this year). He doesn't care about the 95 foot tall Main Hall with its three 3500 pound chandeliers. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference to him that it was the 2nd largest train station in the world when it was built. What matters to most civilized people (him) is that, by my count it has 6 elevators that we've found so far. All completely open to the public (him) to use whenever they damn well please. And that doesn't even count the Link. An elevated, climate-controlled walkway, connected to the side of the station that crosses a busy street, goes down the block, around the corner and crosses yet another street between Union Station and Crown Center that sits catty-corner to it . Not only does it do all this action a serene 15, or so, feet above the sidewalk, it has 4 or 5 access points and all but one of these have elevators. Add to this the 3 story elevator that lifts people from the old Freight House up to an open walkway that connects to the rear of the Station and you have a positive Dude-fest of elevator happiness. Not to mention that the walkway crosses over about 10 tracks, so there's a good chance for a bit of train-spotting while you're up there.
Watching the trains
       So if you ever hear Dude volunteer to go 'take pictures in the city' with the Dude-Dad, let me translate that for you. It actually means, 'Dad needs to take me to Union Station so that we can ride up and down all the elevators in the building, take another elevator to the Link level, walk along the Link, down the first elevator, walk down to the end of the block, take another one back up to the Link walk back to the first elevator, down to street level, across a bridge to the Freight House area, up another elevator, across the open walkway back into Union Station to try to start the entire process over again.' Dude-speak is sometimes a rather compact language.
     So, Midwest America, the Dude-versian Aliens have landed. We've already begun recruiting Dude Robot Slaves (pat. pend) and encouraging your citizens to immigrate (at least temporarily, and at their own expense) to Las Vegas Nevada. Your elevators will be slowly, but irrevocably conquered for the Greater Dude Empire. And your cheese is, of course, immediately forfeit to his greater Mac and Cheese glory. We want you to understand that we come in Peace (but not quiet) and mean you no harm. This is but a stop on the way to the eventual conquering of Las Vegas to be used as the new Capitol in the Greater Dude Empire, but does not reflect negatively on our regard for your lovely, if somewhat parochial, Homeland. After all, you're only halfway to Vegas, it's not your fault.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Do You Want to Go to Vegas?:

 It's no secret that David wants to go to Vegas. I'm pretty sure everyone in the Free World, or at least all of Southwestern Pa knows about it. It's a common theme that every 6 minutes there has to be a Sin City reference or the world will come to an end... Or at least the Dudeworld will. Mostly the constant Vegas references are a grind. Every other time his mouth opens: 'It's only Vegas!', 'It's only the Casinos!', 'We have to make it to the elevators in the Casinos.' or: 'You ready for the Slot machines in the Vegas, buddy?' (that's the newest one) I haven't gone a day in the last two or three years without hearing some reference to our proposed Sin City Vacation Destination.
     I actually made a mistake a couple of months ago by telling him he couldn't go into a casino until after he was 21. Now he's convinced we're leaving for Vegas the day after his birthday. I'm pretty sure I said nothing of the sort, and I'm not exactly sure how he worked that out, but his schedule goes something like; Special Olympics Beaver, State Special Olympics, Birthday, Kansas City, Vegas. The rest of his year is kind of fuzzy, but he's very clear on that part. I'm pretty much doomed.
     This sometimes comes out in some strange ways. Anyone who's been anywhere around Dude will know that he incessantly quotes movies, games and sometimes even songs. The other day we were coming out of Target or Wal-Mart, or somewhere, when he started quoting The Lion King. Nothing unusual about that, he recently found his talking storybook CD-ROM collection and that's one of them. I was half listening to the quote when I noticed a certain edit of Muphasa's lines. The quote is supposed to run, 'Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars, the great kings of the past are up there, watching over us.' What I got was;'Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars, the great Kings of Vegas are up there, watching over us.' I was shocked for a second, and then I completely lost it. Laughing so hard I'm sure I was making the people in the parking lot nervous. Then Dave almost started a panic with his, much louder raucous laughing. 
     So there we were, two hysterical Dudes walking across the parking lot, laughing our fool heads off heading into Wal-Mart... nothing unusual there. Hey... I've seen some things at 3am in Wal-Mart
that would curl your nose hairs. If that's the weirdest thing they had happen there that day, they need to give us a medal. And a cheeseburger. Each.

     Dave's fairly magnanimous about going to Vegas, he even has the airline picked out. It's Southwest, by the way, and now every time we go by Pittsburgh International Airport (it's 10 miles south of us) and we see a plane, He points to it and says, 'You know what that is?' The first few times I fell for this I answered, 'It's a plane.' (Oh, foolish Dude-Dad) He immediately jumped on top of that, saying, 'It's the Southwest Airlines.' I peered at the plane and couldn't tell. 'We get on the Southwest Airlines and it takes us to Vegas.' 'Oh lord.' I mumbled and realized too late that a face-palm maneuver probably isn't a good idea at 70 mph. 
     That better be a big frickin plane too, because Dude doesn't think that anyone should, or would want to be, left out of his trip to Vegas. 'Are you ready to go to the Vegas?' is his normal form of greeting if 'Hi buddy, how's it going?' doesn't seem to fit the situation. 'See you in the Vegas.' is what he uses where most people would put, 'goodbye' in a conversation. The whole thing also seems to be becoming more pervasive. Even dinner has been 'Vegas-ed'. 'We have to get the pizza at the Vegas.' or 'They have the Mac&Cheese at the Vegas.' To which I inevitably reply, 'Why don't we just worry about the pizza/Mac&Cheese/cheeseburger in Aliquippa for now?' He always says, 'Yeah', but I don't think his heart is really in it, because the next thing that hits the table, 'Does the Vegas have the ketchup?' I immediately have to assure him of the certainty of his favorite condiment's inclusion in the Haute Cuisine of Sin City, and then I go someplace quiet for a while and lie down.
     Of course Dude, being Dude, isn't satisfied with just one trip to one place. He'll also bring up... other things. Like his, now yearly, trip to State Special Olympics. 'Time to get ready to go to the Penn State! The City Bus is almost here!' The school charters a bus every year to take them to State College. 'He has to go to the Penn State to take the 3DS to record the elevators!' He doesn't ever talk about the events, or the medals, just, 'It's only the Penn State!' or 'It's just the elevators at the Penn State, he has to record with the 3DS!'  And then there's always, 'We have to get to the Western Beaver High School for the Special Olympics!' I usually just put my head down at that point and stay quiet until he goes away. (He never does)
Would you like to go to Vegas, Mr. Bond?
    He's getting a bit more diabolical and intricate in his 'Vegas' campaign. The other day we went to buy him shoes. We have to do this quite often as the way he walks wears down the inside of the heel quite rapidly. When we picked his new shoes, he asked, 'How fast are the shoes?' I, unthinkingly replied, 'As fast as your little feet can make them.' He paused for a minute and then asked, 'Are these the super fast shoes?' Realizing that I had unwittingly found myself in some sort of shoeware cusp moment I replied more firmly, 'Dude, those are turbo booster shoes.' 'YES!!', he shouted, (in the middle of a crowded Wal-Mart that we suddenly had a lot of room in) 'He takes the turbo shoes to the Western Beaver, to run in the Special Olympics and goes really fast!' What could I do? I said, intensely, 'Yes!' and we went about the rest of our business. Dave wouldn't let the 'Turbo Shoes' out of his grasp and almost snatched them from the checkout girl before she could ring them up.
     When we got home, I told Raine, 'Ask him about his shoes.' She did, and he was off... 'He has the super fast Turbo Shoes! And he wears them in the race at the Beaver Valley High School and he goes really fast!!' She looked at me in confusion and I just shrugged and said, 'They're Turbo Shoes.' and shrugged, as if that explained everything. I was wrong. 'Turbo Shoes' explained many things, but I was to learn what 'everything' really was.
     During the course of the day Dave would often repeat his new 'Turbo Shoes' mantra. But by the time I was tying them on his feet to get them ready for school, I learned that Penn State was also to be conquered by the mighty Turbo Shoes. As this was not only a natural progression, it was also completely expected. It didn't startle me at all when I heard, during his shower, 'He uses the Turbo Shoes to go fast in the raced, and win the medals at the Penn State.' As a matter of fact I portentously intoned, 'It will be so.' Then the bomb dropped, 'And then after Penn State we take the Turbo Shoes to Vegas and the Casinos.' Dude-Dad, ever on top of this sort of thing, said, 'Huh?' He leaned in, ingratiatingly, with that Used-Car salesman look on his face, and said, 'It's only the slot machines at the Vegas.' I cocked an eyebrow at him sternly. 'He takes the Turbo Shoes to the Vegas?' He said, with a smile. Obviously falling back I said, 'Why don't we worry about the shower in Aliquippa first?' He laughed and said, 'Yeah.' And we went back to shower things. 
     Why not? He could afford to be magnanimous. In the holding-action that is our Vegas War, he had obviously won this skirmish, hands down. I did the only thing I could do, as a defeated Dad/General. I rallied my troops and sent the opposing forces to bed. I may not have won the battle, but at least I was holding the field at the end of it.... Or at least the towel. Either that, or I'm just the towel boy at the Dude-spa.... yeah.... that's probably it. I wonder what kind of job I can get with that on my resume'?