Tuesday, March 31, 2009


March 2009

It was late at night, nearly bedtime, and I’d been lying on the floor. Before I go down for the night, though, I’m in the habit of walking the backyard. You know, make sure nothing’s askew.

Sliding glass door was opened and I exited with my customary bolt of fake bravado and then stood in the middle of the lawn for some posturing. I then went about my routine. Walk the grass on the side of the house and then to the bushes along the perimeter wall. There’s almost nothing ever exciting or unusual out here. But tonight I got lucky.

My sense of smell is by far the best in the house. These other guys what with their little pug noses can smell only the most robust scents. Something was in the bushes. I went for it. After a very brief chase, it ended. Whatever it was I’d been chasing was now flopped out on the ground. I approached and got up very close. It smelt very interesting. It was wild, whatever it was. And then there was squeaking. I saw that there were a couple of little guys walking around on the ground right by the flopper.

[photo: the baby opossums]

I was getting some really great snufflings in, so much to smell here. When I’ve got a really good scent going, my nose runs profusely. It was getting sloppy, my nose. Dripping, if you’ll please pardon my being so graphic. I was then advised to walk away. I did.

The glass door opened and I reentered the house. My nose still dripping. But I didn’t care. I licked my whole black nose with my tongue.

“Good dog, Koobi,” he said to me.

Koobi. I don’t know why they call me that. My name’s Kira.
-Kira the dog

[I escort the dog out every night before we sign off. We had an opossum and her babies in the yard Saturday night. When I heard the commotion in the bushes I quickly snapped to attention. (Kira’d been nailed by a skunk three times, including one five day stretch where she’d been hit twice.) I don’t know if the mother opossum was injured or just scared, but it did play dead just as they are rumored to do. Three tiny babies were squeaking there on the ground. 15 minutes later the mother opossum and her babies were gone.

At Wife Klem’s suggestion, I offered the episode from the dog’s perspective. The boy just finished reading a book entitled Sheep by Valerie Hobbs, a narrative from the dog’s eyes, which served as the catalyst.]

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Dump Shot

Two college chums and I had ridiculously joked on several occasions of possessing phenomenal leaping ability combined with supreme basketball skills. We’ll call these chums Andrews and McGettigan the Elder. One scenario specifically involved a basketball game and the ability to leap well above the hoop. Rather than delivering a forceful slam dunk we’d coolly drop the ball from behind our buttocks and into the hoop for a score. This was referred to as the ‘Dump Shot’.

Spring 1989

I was at the UC Santa Barbara University Center between classes. This was a large open courtyard and on this day there was a presentation, the topic I have long since forgotten. The speaker, however, caught my interest. Jamaal ‘Silk’ Wilkes. Wilkes was a former NBA player for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1977 to 1985. A good player.

I sat down and ate a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich, I was accustomed to packing said sandwich variety when going to campus.

Following the presentation he lingered and spoke to the students that approached. I considered his autograph with a specific Dump Shot reference. ‘He seems pretty easy going. I’ll ask,’ talking myself into action.

The crowd quickly dispersed one by one as autographs were issued.

“Hi, Mr. Wilkes. May I have an autograph, please,” I started.

“Sure. What would you like me to write,” asked the former professional basketballer.

“That was some dump shot,” I requested.

“Would you repeat that, please,” smiling. I did.

“Dump shot,” he questioned.

“Right,” I responded.

Laughing, he obliged.

The proof of this exchange was long ago lost when I discarded my old college notebooks. Bummer.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Biology Class, the Guest Speaker

My second year in college and my major was still undeclared. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. I enjoyed the sciences yet I had not given biology a go. Not nearly as mathematical and formula driven as physics, chemistry, or mathematics, thought I’d try this out before I decide on a major.

Q4 1986

First three weeks of biology was going great, really enjoyed the material. Then we had a guest speaker one day. To my horror, the speaker’s topic was blood. I have little constitution for this type of discussion and I quickly came to feeling ill and light headed. My initial game plan was to simply not pay attention the entire lecture. But to no avail, I was having difficulty containing myself and there was still an hour to go. I knew there was no chance of seeing this through. No chance of a good ending. I felt a lapse from consciousness imminent.

Retreating into emergency mode, I reviewed the exit options. It was a lecture hall with only two exits, one in the rear and one in the front near the speaker’s riser. I was seated near the front. I decided on the quickest exit, but this entailed exiting across the speaker’s riser while in front of about 150 students. What a spectacle I’d be!

With time quickly becoming of the essence, I mustered up the strength to perform this embarrassing task. I grabbed my gear and skateboard, politely disturbed the other students in my aisle as I excused myself through the theater seating, walked across the riser, and walked actually behind the speaker. My disturbance caused only a minor hitch in the speaker’s discourse. I opened the door and out into freedom. But the ordeal was not yet over.

Once outside the lecture hall and in the hallway, my eyesight began to fail me. Everything became fuzzy and, eventually, I could see nothing. I took a few more steps with my eyeballs feeding me nothing more than the equivalent to the static on a television set which is getting no reception. Assessing that I would shortly pass out, I extended my arm and felt for a wall and sat on my skate board while my eyes still saw nothing.

Someone asked me to move so that they could open a door. In my incapacitated state I had unknowingly hunkered down against a door. What a dope I must have appeared. I scooted over two feet, eyeballs not yet functional.

After a few minutes my eyesight was restored, and I self diagnosed that I was no longer at risk of losing consciousness. I had collected enough of myself to skate back to my dorm room. I dropped off my notebook and skated to the dining commons where I ate lunch.

I passed that biology class. I attempted no further classes in this field for the balance of my collegiate days.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Adventures of Jackie - A Monster Tea Party

This is the second story with the character based on my daughter. [Please see the entry dated Feb. 21 for the first ‘Adventures of Jackie’.]

The Adventures of Jackie - A Monster Tea Party

Jackie was asleep in her bed buried in a pile of her dolls, stuffed animals, and pillows peacefully dreaming of monsters. Not monsters like vampires, werewolves, and mummies. More like harmless, little fluffy creatures that like to cuddle, not so much the harming and destroying kind of monsters.

She awakened suddenly and sat up in bed. It was nighttime. She was only four years old and not yet astute at telling time, but she could see darkness out her window. She heard a faint squeaking and looked in that direction.

There by the door stood two furry little guys barely bigger than a doll. If standing next to Jackie they might be as tall as her belly button. One had green eyes and appeared to be of blue fur. The other with yellow eyes with red fur. They looked at Jackie and were not afraid. They smiled to her and motioned for her to get out of bed and follow them.

Smiling, she grabbed Dolly, her favorite doll, and got out of bed. Giggling she followed the monsters downstairs.

Kira, her good dog, was at the bottom of the stairs to greet Jackie and the two creatures. The dog did not seem surprised at all by the presence of the two extra beings. Kira and the two small monsters had apparently seen each other before and they got along agreeably.

The monsters led Jackie to the family room where ten more monsters were on the couch! Some sat politely waving to her and others were playfully hiding under a blanket. They would peak out from underneath, squeak, and then cover up. They were very colorful guys including green, yellow, purple, blue, orange, red, and a little one that was pink with white dots.

“Wow, you guys are pretty,” she exclaimed. “Who are you guys? What are you doing here,” she continued happy to have so many playmates.

One monster hopped down off the couch, ran to Jackie’s toy kitchen set in the family room and pointed to it while jumping up and down.

“You want to have a tea party with me,” Jackie asked.

Three more jumped off the couch and they all nodded their heads ‘Yes”.

She got her tea set out, complete with plastic food, from her kitchen and set up on the coffee table. Her dog came trotting around the corner with two more monsters on her back with one tugging at an ear. Kira, very tolerant of the mild abuse, deposited the monsters at the tea party and then lay down behind the couch.

Jackie hosted her new monster friends at the tea party and talked nonstop. She talked about how she liked spooky things, the cartoons she enjoyed, her friends at preschool, and how much she liked candy and ice cream. All the while the monsters held their tiny tea cups with their pinkies out and listened politely. They all squeaked along to her compelling monologue.

Two monsters, feeling playful, were jumping up and down on the couch. They bumped into each other and fell onto the coffee table knocking the tea set and plates to the ground with a loud clatter.

Jackie and the monsters heard both mommy and daddy upstairs get up out of bed and walk quickly to the stairs.

The monsters ran to the hallway ventilation screen and pulled it open at one corner where there was a loose screw. They waved and squeaked a smiling farewell to their tea party hostess. One by one they squeezed through the screen and into the walls where they lived.

“Jackie, what’s going on,” said daddy relieved to find that the noise was only his daughter having a tea party with her doll, Dolly. He started to pick up the tea cups and plates.

“Hi, mommy and daddy. I’m having a tea party with some monsters. Sorry about the noise, they knocked down the plates,” Jackie explained.

“It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. You and Dolly should be in bed. Come with me, I’ll tuck you both in,” mommy picking up her girl.

“Good night, Jackie. Stay in bed, please,” said mommy kissing her daughter and then Dolly after putting them both back in bed.

“Goodnight, mommy. I love you,” Jackie said, pleased with her late night adventure.

Mommy left the room and Jackie heard a squeak. She turned and in the dark she saw a pair of green and a pair of yellow eyes. Two of her monster friends cuddled up to Jackie and her dolls.

“Hi, guys,” whispered Jackie and then she giggled.

Daddy walked by Jackie‘s bedroom and heard her giggling in bed. “Good night, Boogie,” he said and kept walking.

“Good night, daddy. See you tomorrow,” she called back.

Daddy thought he heard a couple of squeaks. But he was too tired to investigate. Plus his pillow was calling him back to his sleepy slumber.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stop the Spending!

President Obama is in a tough spot.

(1) The country is under a crushing weight of ever increasing unemployment at over 8% across the country, the worst federal unemployment rate since 1983. Unemployment is at 10.5% in California, the worst since the 11% of 1982!

(2) The stock market is in the tank, although this seems to have leveled off. Let’s hope this is the trough with a gradual increase to follow.

(3) The financial markets are seemingly in chaos. Banks and lending institutions are being told to lend, but they’re afraid. They have money to lend but are fearful of what lending strictness to impose. Should they revert back to the safe old adage, ‘The only people who qualify are those who don’t need it.’ I guess that’s preferable to ‘Give it regardless of qualification because the borrower meets a federal guideline that is not tied to their capacity to pay back.’ The result of that 2nd looser adage of recent years clearly didn’t work.

(4) Then there’s the corporate bankruptcies and bail outs. Where’s all this money coming from? Also, are we at risk of the devaluation of the dollar with so much of it being printed and doled out?

For the sake of readability I’ll be brief. To sum up my feelings: I’m fed up! Close the Federal wallet!

I offer my Two Step fix:

I. No More Bail Outs.

Let the market forces fix the problems. There’s an obvious reason why not to bail out these failed companies. Strong well run companies taking over the assets of the losers will heal the economy. Yes, it’s going to be painful. The repercussions of unemployment and economic woes will be shorter if the market forces are allowed to work as opposed to artificially prolonging the pain and subsidizing the losers. The losers should emaciate away.

Example: Let’s say there are two companies competing in the same industry. Company One makes poor decisions compromising its financial strength and it goes bankrupt. Logic says, “ You screwed up. You’re not as good as Company Two. Sorry, you’re done.” But government says, “Sorry to hear of your misfortune. These are tough times in which we live. We’ll help you along.” Giving Company One bail out money is the wrong thing to do. Here’s why:

(1) Rewarding poor decisions or a poorly operating enterprise is destructive. They behaved foolishly or poorly and failed. Their reward for foolishness should not be an undeserving do-over. Rewarding bad behavior begets bad behavior. [Sounds like our welfare system.]

(2) The competing company, Company Two, that has been doing well should be in a position to now take over Company One’s clients and market share as a result of Company One’s failure. That would reward the properly run Company Two and make for a stronger industry as the well run company becomes the industry leader. But this proper sequence is disallowed by the bailouts. Upstanding Company Two is now denied this natural order of the capitalist system. This makes the economy weaker by denying the effects of the natural progression.

Sure, I know, the government’s doing more than just giving money on these bailouts There’s some ownership and guidelines being discussed as to possibly how the money is to be spent. Given the amount of dollars being put forth there is certainly an inability to properly monitor. I have no interest in bailout money flowing, being allegedly misused, and then a federal verbal beat down being issued on the same company that was previously deemed a worthy recipient. They already failed once with their own money. Are they supposed to be healed and smarter now that they’re using our money?

II. We, the tax payers, are paying for all the Federal spending. Close your wallet, Mr. President.

I’m a free market kind of guy, you have no doubt accurately detected. If a free market system runs afoul or screws up, does government involvement really sound like a fix? Look at government. What part or aspect of government itself do you think is well run and inspires you to think it can lead or furnish corporations with smart business advice? If the free market system is askew, let the market forces straighten it out. If illegal actions have taken place let the legal system prosecute and pass down jail time to the corporate offenders. Heck, blow out a few corporate knee caps while you’re at it. Send a message, not Billion dollar checks.

The continued generously robust federal borrowing and printing of money is a problem. With the spending and budget going nuts on a federal level we run the risk of the dollar’s devaluation. With that possibility, Americans must ponder do we save our money and hope its value hasn’t decreased by the time we finally access it? Or do we spend it now while it still has value?

Sure would be awesome if the government stopped spending and instead spent more time thinking. The fixes that are being implemented may take decades to fix.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Book Crusher, a tale of parental pride

Our boy’s been on fire with his reading! On a daily basis he has mandatory reading that he does, plus he reads to his younger sister to earn his allowance [see blog entry January 17, 2009 for details]. Once his homework and reading is done each afternoon he’s clear to do what he wants. Lately, he’s been engaging fun reading on his free time!

For the past two weeks his fun reading has been ample starting with Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi. He liked it so much that he read it twice. Then he knocked back Stinkopedia by Megan McDonald, it’s based on the character in the book series entitled Stink. Yesterday evening our silly guy finished Bone by Jeff Smith and with a big smile he ran over and grabbed BC Mambo by Erik Craddock. With a one minute intermission between books he was back at it again. He’d been wanting to read Mambo but was advised to finish his current book before starting another. He complied, the good guy. He went to bed last night saying how next he’d read Jurassic Grampa by Kirk Scroggs.

Admittedly these are not novels. Some of these books are written in a comic book style. They have numerous box illustrations per page with conversation and thought balloons. These are all, however, boasting of more literary credibility than a comic book. These all have AR tests. [AR tests are taken by the kids after they read a book. The tests are to gauge their level of reading comprehension.] And besides, this is his fun reading. Heck, if the guy keeps crushing books like this with the same enthusiasm Wife Klem and I are happy to encourage his insatiable appetite.

Much credit goes to Wife Klem for the fella being a bibliophile. She’s devised a strong incentive plan to motivate his continued rapid consumption of these delightful tomes. There’s a chart on the refrigerator keeping track of his completed daily reading regiment. For every ten days of mandatory reading he gets to choose a book from the book store.

I applaud your work, Wife Klem. Oh, yes, and you too boy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Compiled Quotes

“If we’re not supposed to eat animals then why are they made out of meat?” Emmett Cassidy, chum from high school [1967]

“Enjoy yourself. If you can’t enjoy yourself, enjoy somebody else.” Jack Schaefer, author [1907 - 1991]

“Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” Colin Powell, 4-star general [1937]

Friday, March 20, 2009


A refreshing time of year. The flowers are blooming in full force, bees are buzzing, and butterflies are exiting their chrysalises and rejoining life anew. Reminds me of an anecdote.

Spring 2007

I have a niece. Beautiful nice little girl with an easy smile and quick laugh. She was four years old and wanted to interact with spring by means of watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. My sister-in-law, good mom that she is, was happy to oblige her daughter’s request.

They prepared a box to safely hold captive a caterpillar during its transformation period. They caught a wild caterpillar and delivered it to its new home fully equipped with generous servings of greens. A few sticks were arranged just so to properly host a chrysalis.

Caterpillar, obeying its internal clock, made its chrysalis after two weeks of eating and crawling around. For ten days it remained in the chrysalis in the pupa stage of life. The transformation having taken place it emerged a butterfly. My niece was very excited at the beautiful creature she was able to watch up close fluttering its wings and testing its new parts.

The day came to release the butterfly. A beautiful bright spring day. Mom and daughter went to the back yard for the butterfly’s release. It would fly out into the world from whence it once crawled along inch by inch.

The box was opened. The butterfly did not immediately bolt out. It took its time as if to say, “Hey, thanks for providing me with a safe peaceful home while I was so vulnerable for those few weeks. You guys are all right.”

With that it achieved lift off for the first time in the wild. In less than one minute of flight, a bird swooped down and snapped it up. All gone.

“What happened, mommy? What happened,” asked my confused niece.

Oh, well. It was a nice effort. But the circle of life prevails. Enjoy spring.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


[Note to the gentle reader: Carnage follows.]

June 1997

I had a morning work appointment that necessitated the traversing of 50 miles of freeway. Expecting a drive thick with traffic I got an early start. But traffic was surprisingly light and I made really terrific time.

Arriving more than 30 minutes early I decided to sit in a nearby park and read Sports Illustrated for a while. The magazine was employed daily for my lunch time eating / reading routine so I had it on hand.

While reading I observed a wasp hovering around my foot. Just hovering there. With the heel of my black leather wingtip shoe on the ground I lifted the front of my shoe an inch and pondered silently, ‘I wonder if I might be able to step on the guy.’

Before long, it flew underneath, I stomped, got it. ‘How curious,’ I thought. Returned to reading my magazine.

Then a spectacular thing transpired. Another wasp came, same place as if to observe the carcass. It hovered by my shoe, lift, underneath, stomp, wasp down. Then again. Again. Each one being successively crushed. During that one sitting, ten minutes, I managed seven corpses all in this same manner.

When there were finally a dozen or so hovering wasps and no longer relegating themselves to ground level, I opted to walk away. It wasn’t yet time for the appointment, but I felt my own safety was beginning to hover somewhat precariously.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Football Lost in Europe

September 1995

A European vacation with seven chums. I brought a football as such a thing is imminently entertaining to huck back and forth. Plus with the seven of us the hucking opportunities should prove robust. Instead, it proved to be a source of sadness.

We had purchased Eurail passes allowing us to ride the train through several European countries at no additional cost above this one time purchase fee. Each traveler toted a single duffel bag stuffed with his gear. The football was an accessory shared amongst the group and carried out in the open. By football I mean, naturally, the American-style oval brown leather with the white laces along one seam rather than the round football kicked around for use in soccer. American football, not futbol.

During the train ride from Munich to Salzburg we had stowed our gear, including the ball, on the overhead racks. The time came to unload ourselves from the train, which we did, but neglected to also unload the football. The mood became temporarily somber at the realization of having lost that lovable symbol of our American heritage. This sadness was not for ourselves for having lost the ball, but sadness for the ball itself. Yes, the inanimate object.

The ball is accustomed to being lofted with a crisp over the shoulder arm motion coupled with a deft flick of the wrist. American boys learn the motion at a young age to create the spiral effect. It will be found by a European boy unfamiliar with the intended throwing and handling protocols of this odd leather ball; ‘odd’ as it will seem to this continent. The finder will likely be reduced to tossing the thing underhand to a friend in an effort to play with it like some rugby ball. Kicking it won’t suffice as its movements upon the ground will be far too erratic to induce fun on account of its oval shape. The vast bulk of European boys probably haven't the ingrained over the shoulder muscle coordination needed for the proper lofting technique simply because its an unusual motion for any game on that particular hemisphere. Much like the handling skills for a soccer ball are familiar to European youngsters yet foreign to so many American youths. Soccer is king in most parts of the world. The charm and entertainment of a football is lost here.

The ball had gone from ownership where an eager collection of guys would be delighted to engage it, to the unfortunate reality of ending up a mere oddity in someone’s awkward hands. A sad ending for a ball of such sporting potential.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Incredibles

Kids can commonly become obsessive about their favorite movies. It can be annoying when they request the same video again and again. It can also be amusing in the reactions it brings about in them.

When the boy was two years old it was the animated movie Dinosaur (2000) that caught his attention. He couldn’t talk yet, so when he wanted to watch it he’d point to the tv and roar like a dinosaur. Then he discovered Toy Story (1995) starring the animated character Buzz Lightyear. He was just starting to talk, but was not yet flourishing in that regard. The guy couldn’t say his name so he’d ask to watch a ‘bideo’ and say that he wanted ‘Bee’, that’s what he called Buzz. As his speaking skills matured he was later able to muster up ‘Bud Lightyear’.

Our daughter’s favorites have been Monsters, Inc. (2001) (you know, she likes monsters), Candyland the movie, and anything with Hello Kitty. Monsters, Inc. is a good film, but the others, oh boy, the theme music’s enough to make me cringe. Too bad for the boy, though. When it’s her turn to choose the video with snack before bed he’s got little other recourse than to watch it or walk away.


Our daughter was just a baby when the movie The Incredibles (2004) came out on DVD. The characters in the movie fit our family’s configuration just right what with Mr. Incredible (dad), Elastigirl (mom), Violet (older sister - we haven’t got one of these but the dog filled in), Dash (the boy), and Jack Jack (the baby). Our son assigned us all the corresponding name of the movie characters. The dog alternated between Violet and Frozone (another superhero from the film).

Pretty nice when my boy was calling me Mr. Incredible. Put a little boost in my step. After a week or two, though, he got bored and wanted to mix things up. He started calling me Bob Parr, Mr. Incredible’s street name.

Oh, well. What’re you gonna do?

[Postscript: The Incredibles and Toy Story are great films and both have standing amongst my Top 99 favorite movies. Honest.]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Picky Eaters. A Hopeful Update.

A food breakthrough? Our boy and girl ate chicken breast Saturday night!The kids are both picky eaters and getting them to engage new foods outside their strict self-imposed eating regiments is a struggle. [See post from January 22 for details.]

The kids were both invited to a birthday party on Sunday, one of our daughter’s classmates. We told the boy that he could go if he ate some chicken for dinner on Saturday night. He did not immediately discard the idea. This surprised me. So from here we went on the offensive.

“There’s going to be cake there and probably candy. If you eat the chicken you can go to the party and you can even have a soda,” the bid was made.

“How much do I have to eat,” putting his feelers out.

‘We got him,’ I thought to myself.

Food is often a negotiation with this guy, except for the items where he remains steadfast (i.e., hamburgers, tacos, burritos, beets). His frequent opening lines to negotiation: “How much do I have to eat?” or “What happens if I don’t eat it?” Open ended questions.

Our daughter, four years old, operates along different lines. She sees food in very clear black and white terms: “No.” “I don’t want to eat it.” “I don’t like that.” She doesn’t allow much room for counter bids.

But this Saturday at dinner she saw her brother complaining and realized that she had an opportunity to glow at his expense. Seeing him struggling with the idea of whether or not to eat the chicken she chimed in, “I love chicken, Momma, can I have some?” She could. She did.

The guy’s resolve weakened. Mild complaining, lots of coaxing, ranch dressing to dip, he held his nose to dim the taste receptors . . . mission accomplished! Hope we’ll be able to retain chicken breast as a regular.

The peer pressure provided by his baby sister helped put him over the edge. Victory was attained for this meal. I’m sure he’ll prove again to be a worthy foe at a meal very soon in the future.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Free Vend Day

How much coffee, hot chocolate, and hot tea do you drink in a day? How much would you drink if it were free? How much would you jam down your gullet if it were free for nine hours? I found out my answer one day at work.


My employer had numerous small ways to thank its employees. There was not always a specific employee, department or even task designated for which the company was saying thanks. There were periodically generic employee appreciation days.

One such appreciation day was Free Vend Day. Free vend courtesy of our employer! The vending machines that offered hot drinks was issuing its product at no charge for the whole day! This did not include the prepackaged items such as soda pop, milk, sandwiches, chips, and candy. Free vend was from the machines where the disposable cup drops down and you watch the selected beverage dispense from the machine filling said cup. Free all day long. Game on.

I was not one who ever engaged these machines. I’m not a coffee guy nor much of a tea guy. Hot chocolate, though, I’m good. But still, I just never made the purchase. But on free vend day I discovered the beverages to be absolutely delicious. At least the first several times I visited the free vending machines. Even late into the afternoon when it was no longer delicious due to overexposure I was helpless to cut off my patronage.

My cubicle neighbor and I were, and remain today, quite good chums. We’ll call him McBride. Every hour or so, “Hey, let’s go get a free vend,” he’d suggest. It wasn’t, ‘let’s go get a free coffee or hot chocolate’, but ‘a free vend.’ I offered no resistance.

I took down many free hot chocolates that day. I even tried a few coffees. By late afternoon the free vend had lost it’s excitement, but I couldn’t deny my buddy. Let’s go again.

Looking back it seems like a silly, yet smartly inexpensive, way to thank folks. Regular price was only $.50 per cup, I think. Regardless, I got my share of appreciation. Probably about four bucks worth.

Friday, March 13, 2009


[Note to the gentle reader: Graphic violence follows.]

I worked at a fast-food franchise in my youth. I was in high school at the time and the job furnished me with gas money for the stationwagon that I shared with my big brother and funds for entertainment activities. I rode my red moped with matching red helmet to work at this corner of Grandview and Glenoaks in Glendale, CA. A park with a nice baseball field was easily visible across the street from the restaurant.


It was a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant had lost electricity. Heck, we can’t cook anything what with their computerized controls no longer operable. So we locked the doors and waited for the power to come back on. We waited and talked mostly. One guy was watching a ball game that was in progress across the street. There was a good turnout there. Then something exciting happened.

“Oh [expletive]! Look at this,” amusingly exclaimed my supervisor still looking out the window toward the ball field.

To our immature delight there were two guys at the park engaged in fisticuffs. One guy was clearly bettering the other. The champion would punch several times, knock down the other guy and walk away. The other would get up, charge the champion and offer a few floundering punches. Champion would deflect the floundered offerings, return fire, knock the guy down again, and walk away. ‘Ohh’ and ‘Oooh’ we’d vocalize with each blow.

Over the course of a few minutes, and the champion continually walking away, the physical challenge that started across the street at the park and was now right in front of our restaurant! We were watching the action from 15 feet away!

The champion, under assault again, offered one last punch delivering the other guy to the ground.

Champion looked at the two of us watching from inside the store. He shrugged his shoulders at us as if to say ‘What gives? He keeps coming back.’ Then he walked away. His shirt was filthy. Blood.

The other guy eventually picked himself up off the ground. He didn’t look at us. He walked in the opposite direction. His face was filthy. Blood.

On this particular day, my minimum wage was a steal.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adventures of Tedesco - A Prehistoric Visitation

This is the second in what may become a series of adventures with the character based on my boy. [Please see the entry dated Feb. 15 for the first ‘Adventures of Tedesco’.] He’s my in-house fact checker when it comes to all things prehistoric. I read him the draft the other day. He liked it, but politely advised me that the mammal I used in the draft was in the wrong time period. After double checking I confirmed the veracity of his input. Exit the predecessor to the horse (Hyracotherium) of the Eocene epoch, enter Lesothosaurus of the Jurassic.

Adventures of Tedesco - A Prehistoric Visitation

It was a bright summer day. Two more months of no school! He’d be starting 3rd grade in the fall. Tedesco was a lolligagger during the school year trying to get him out of bed and downstairs for breakfast by 7:00. But now that there was no school he was regularly up by 6:15 downstairs and watching cartoons or a dinosaur related DVD before anyone else was even awake.

Today was Saturday. Picnic day. ‘After dad makes pancakes and mom has her hot tea with breakfast she’ll pack a cooler of tasty grub and we’ll get this show on the road,’ he thought to himself. Meanwhile he hunkered down on the couch watching his program while eating a bowl of cereal without milk.

Tedesco liked picnic day. The park was big and there weren’t usually many people. He really enjoyed the playgrounds and going for hikes in the park’s hills with his dog, Kira.

They arrived at the park and got a great stretch of grass near a good playground and trails leading into the hills. There was practically nobody else nearby so dad let the dog off leash. Tedesco and his sister, Jackie, ran immediately for the playground, slides, and swings. The dog followed at a leisurely trot. She was a good dog and was very protective of her babies, even though Tedesco was now bigger than Kira.

Before long the kids were called in for lunch. Tedesco, always the busy guy, was often impatient with the task of eating but he knew it was a bootless discussion to say he didn’t want to eat. He’d lately taken a new approach, ‘Eat the meal so I can get to something good.’ The ‘something good’ was usually dessert. But on picnic day it meant that he could return to playtime.

With no further adieu he knocked back his peanut butter no jelly sandwich, a cheese stick, yogurt, half a banana, and two juice boxes. Jackie, a consistently lackadaisical eater, was barely underway. His mom and dad hadn’t even started eating yet.

“I’m done. Can I go play,” Tedesco blared with peanut butter smeared on his cheek and a blotch of yogurt on his shirt.

“OK, Chief, but stay where we can see you, please,” offered his dad looking forward to his bratwurst on toasted bun with ketchup and sweet mustard.

Immediately bolting for the nearby trail he dashed off into the trees. Kira followed at a gallop tongue hanging out the side of her mouth.

They quickly went off trail and were deep in the trees and underbrush. Tedesco saw a pond. The water was very murky and the shoreline muddy. How tempting for a little guy. He saw a rock in the middle of the pond with a turtle on it. He also saw the No Trespassing sign. A sign, but heck, certainly a turtle is more important than the sign, he figured.

“Kira, let’s get that turtle,” saying to his dog thinking he could walk on the mud all the way there. But not so. His first step yielded a foot that sank up to his ankle.

“Oh, no. I’m busted,” he said out loud looking down at mud covering his shoe all the way to the bottom of his jeans. “Well, I’m already muddy, how much worse can it get. Come on, Kira,” proceeding toward the rock with no further restraint.

He took three large steps trying to reach the rock and ended up belly deep in mud, far deeper than he expected, and he was sinking. His dog had immediately followed with three large leaps and was now also submerged up to her neck and chest and she too was sinking. And they were sinking fast. Tedesco, really scared, called to his dog, “You’re a good dog, Kira.” Then yelled out for anybody who might hear, “Someone help us,” and he took a breathe before going under. Kira, with two barks, was also gone.

Feeling groggy, wet, and covered completely with mud he and his dog awakened on the muddy shore. This did not look familiar. The two sat down trying to gather their senses. Tedesco looked around trying to think what to do. Where were they?.

A dragonfly flew by. But it was a surprising 12-inches long!

“Freaky,” said Tedesco still too groggy to be scared. Continuing to look at the scenery he noticed a few things that were odd. There were no buildings, roads, cars, or people. Even the plants didn’t look right. There was no grass. There were no flowering plants. Something’s wrong here. “Kira, where are we,” starting to comprehend the depths of their troubles.

Kira had also gathered that something was very wrong. She stood up and started smelling. Taking wafts of the air and then the ground around her and then more snufflings of the warm breeze that had enveloped them. She bit at Tedesco’s muddy pants, gave a little tug, and let go. She hustled toward an outgrowth of shrubs, stopped, looked back at her Tedesco until he stood and followed, and then continued quickly into the bushes.

From their vantage point they could see out onto an open plain with only a few unusual trees and low lying plants. A large plant eating dinosaur had appeared almost a football field away! Stegosaurus! Easily identified by the plates along its back. It was a large lumbering dinosaur whose body was larger than a car and its tail extended even longer. There were a dozen or so plates that stood on its back perpendicularly to the ground. Its tail had four large spikes at the end. They were as long as drum sticks but thicker and very pointy. It was grazing on plants.

Tedesco had spent much time studying dinosaurs. He had numerous books and videos in his personal library plus he’d checked out all the dinosaur books from his local library, twice. He knew it was a plant eater and it did not worry him. But the lack of concern was fleeting.

From the other direction came an Allosaurus, a fierce meat eating dinosaur! The Allosaurus stood on two legs, looked like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and was taller than a house! It roared horribly and showed off its large teeth that were as sharp and as long as steak knives. Through his diligent studies he recognized the Allosaurus by the three claws at the end of each arm, the T-Rex had only two. The Allosaurus was the predecessor to the T-Rex by many millions of years.

Tedesco knew his prehistoric timeline. Both these dinosaurs were alive 203 million to 135 million years ago. They’d been extinct for over 100 million years! How was he going to get home from the late Jurassic Period?

His senses had now returned as did a significant degree of fear. Not only was there a meat eating dinosaur on the front, Tedesco knew that he would be prey if it saw him.

With the appearance of the Allosaurus a number of other smaller plant eating creatures huddled into the bushes next to him and his dog. One animal he recognized was the Lesothosaurus, a three foot tall plant eater that looked like a lizard that walked and ran upright on two legs. Kira was too worried about the two large beasts ahead to give any attention to chasing these smaller animals.

The dinosaurs engaged in battle. The Stegosaurus with its back plates flared up colorfully in red to send a signal to the meat eater that it was not backing off. It waged war with its rear end facing the Allosaurus so that it could get the four spikes at the end of its tail near its adversary. It swung its tale and spikes fiercely back and forth.

The Allosaurus had seen this many times before. It was being patient, waiting for the opportunity when the Stegosaurs might be off balance and the Allosaurus would be able to run in past the spikes and chomp away at the ample flesh.

After a lengthy scuffle neither was gaining an advantage. They both backed away from each other to a safer distance, though neither retreated. It was just then that five Compsognathuses, meat and insect eating dinosaurs the size of chickens, charged the plants where Tedesco, Kira, and the other animals were trying to hide in silence.

All the animals quickly scattered. Only Tedesco and Kira remained. The size of a chicken, yes, but fierce like nothing they’d seen before. The Compsognathus was as quick as a striking snake and knew no fear when traveling in larger groups such as this, even in the face of two animals that were twice as large as they were.

Kira stepped in between her boy and the little meat eaters. There was growling and roaring from the commotion and the Allosaurus turned to look. Tedesco and Kira were now out away from the bushes and stood in the open. The Allosaurus charged and covered ground very quickly.

With the Compsognathuses on one side and the Allosaurus nearly upon them on the other Tedesco backed away in the only other direction available. Back into the water from whence they came. He then realized it wasn’t water so much as it was mud.

“Kira, come,” worried for his dog. He knew his dog wouldn’t back away if she thought Tedesco was in trouble, so he called again with a little force in his voice. “Kira, come!”

Keeping her eyes on the predators, large and small, she backed toward Tedesco who was knee deep. He saw a rock at the center of the pond and . . . was that a turtle on the rock?

As they backed into the mud the dinosaurs stood on the shore, not even touching it. Tedesco and Kira sank in deeper with each step but neither had any inclination to stop. With one final stretch Tedesco tried to reach the rock. He did! But he was slipping . . . and sinking. Kira was right there struggling to reach him. Tedesco clamored at the rock and reached up grabbing for anything to get a hold of, but the sinking was too much. He was still engulfed up to his chest and lost all energy. Hopeless, he sank. Kira was already gone. He took a deep breath and thought of his family.

The two woke up on the muddy shoreline in the shade. There was a No Trespassing sign. They were covered in another coat of mud. They stood up, recognizing immediately they had returned to Picnic Day. They both ran back to the picnic.

“I’m sorry I got my shoes dirty! I’m sorry I got my shoes dirty,” yelled Tedesco fifty feet away from his parents and running at a full sprint.

“Whoa, what happened to you guys? You’re not coming home in that condition,” said dad very unhappy at the prospect of trying to clean them both well enough to get them in the car.

“I missed you guys so much,” Tedesco blathered on not even bothering to wipe the mud from his face.

“You guys didn’t leave more than two minutes ago,” said dad who had not even taken his first bite of bratwurst.

“Hey, what’s that in your hand, you dirty animal,” said mommy to her mud-laden boy.

Noticing for the first time the very unusual turtle shell that he must have grabbed at the prehistoric pond. Holding it up in his hand it was only the shell. The animal inside was extinct 100 million years ago.

“Kira, stop it!,” yelled Jackie as her dog shook mud everywhere.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Accidental Lawn Mowing

May 2001

It was a bright, beautiful, and hot Friday afternoon. Wife Klem was eight months pregnant with our first child. Driving home from work that afternoon I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the busy weekend we had lined up. We were entertaining guests and there remained chores to complete before they arrived. Plus I wanted to carry the bulk of the load to compensate for that thing was in her belly.

On the drive home from work I had formulated a game plan to tackle the chores. The winning plan started with a quick lawn mow immediately when I got home. Start with some momentum and carry through to victory.

I pulled into the driveway and saw that the front lawn was already mowed, trimmed, and looked great! ‘Wow,’ I thought to myself, ‘She mowed the lawn!’ The lawn had a slope to it and was difficult in some areas. I was in awe of her effort and determination.

Smiling at the strength of my teammate I walked up the stairs and saw a note on the front door. “I’m sorry. I mowed your lawn by accident,” it read.

Our neighbor had a new gardener. He just got confused as to what lawn he was being paid to mow and nailed us by mistake. That was a nice treat! Even though the slacker didn’t accidentally also mow the rear.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Amusing Parental Observations

Sure is good times being a parent. Well, I mean for the most part. Sure there’s a few conundrums and crummy tasks along the way, but the potential for amusing anecdotes is ever present. I submit a pair of ours for your review.

(my son was four years old at the time)
July 2005

Wife Klem and I both check the kids before going to bed. I was rearranging the blankets on him to secure proper coverage when he sat up in a sleepy daze.

He turned to me and said, “Daddy, Uncle Mike protects me.”

“That’s right. Uncle Mike protects you,” I reassured.

“Uncle Mike protects me from silly bad guys with balloons. Silly bad guys that jump around and stuff,” he clarified.

And with that he rolled over and went back to sleep. What kind of dream was the guy having it makes me wonder? Possible leftover brain activity stimulated from playing in the pool today at grandma and grandpa’s house?

(my daughter was three years old)
June 2008

We’d been having a difficult time with her at bedtime. After we tuck her in she’d get out of her bed and go to sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed. When we tried to move her later she’d wake up crying and end up back in our bed. That makes for a cramped slumber. In conversation with her I came to understand that the source of concern was that there were monsters in her room. After a brief consulting with a friend at work he provided a great idea. Monster spray.

That evening before bed we let her squirt a solution of ‘monster spray’ in all the problematic areas of her room. We let her wield the spray bottle of tap water (aka monster spray).

“Where are the monsters,” I asked.

“Over there,” pointing at the corner.

“Go ahead and spray.” With a large smile, and with me holding her dolly, she sprayed.

“Where else is there a problem.”

“Over there,” she continued to the other corner. This continued for the closet and one more corner and she went to bed smiling.

The monsters have not burgeoned since.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Klem's Book of Observations, excerpt iii

It is common to see signs requiring that dogs be kept on leash. Much of humanity could do with similar restraints.

Grade school. I don’t miss diagramming sentences.

If I could talk to the dog I’d lead with, “Would you like something to drink other than water? You know, for a change.”

It’s best to remain above the fray lest you become part of it.

Belts or suspenders. Choose one. Never both simultaneously.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Night Movie Night

Friday Night Movie Night is a weekly tradition in our home. Kids are in bed by 8:30 and the lovely Wife Klem and I indulge ourselves where for two hours we can turn our brains off and let our parental obligations rest while we enjoy a film.


Wife Klem and I were dating and living 100 miles apart and saw each other almost every weekend. Typical Fridays in the late afternoon we’d walk to the video store for two films (this was before Netflix) followed by a walk to the grocery store for our dinner fixins. [A favorite meal of mine remains homemade chicken burritos with Wife Klem’s special mango salsa!]

After cooking dinner the first of the two films would be viewed with the meal. Clean up, do dishes, and spark up the second film. Good times! Before long Friday Night Movie Night (FNMN) became an immovable entity. Turns out we like it that way.


The stork delivered the first of two Klem children. We happily accepted, even though this necessitated a modification in FNMN protocol. We decreased the number of films from two to one. We found that we couldn’t start the viewing as early with a moppet under foot plus it turns out being a parent can be exhausting. Knocking back two successive films would stand good odds of rendering this fella asleep.

Thirteen years after inception FNMN remains strongly in force. Wife Klem and I both look forward to it as our reward for muscling through the necessary legwork to achieve this weekly culmination. Depending on how the week is progressing anticipation and encouraging words commonly fly on Thursday (i.e., “We’re almost there, FNMN tomorrow.”)

We’ve already discussed its future. When the kids are older we’ll get back up to two movies. The first movie to be viewed as a family with dinner. A Friday night treat, if you will. Then send the kids to bed and Wife Klem and I can turn our brains off and let our parental obligations rest while we enjoy the second film.

On tap for tonight we’ve got Transsiberian.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Luggage Incident

Summer 1978

It was summer vacation! We were driving from California to Michigan. Yes, driving. Mom and dad both had much family there as it’s their home state.

With us five kids piled into the rear seats of the steaming pile, the brown station wagon’s affectionate moniker, and mom and pop rocking the helm we set off. The seating arrangement had the three older boys in the middle row of seats and the two youngest in the rear as these seats were somewhat diminutive in dimension. Where was all the luggage? On top of the car on the luggage rack tied down in a large weatherproof luggage ‘bag’.

Trip started smooth with a nighttime departure; the idea was that the kids would sleep through the night. To induce sleep the middle and rear seats were folded down to make a flat sleeping platform and we headed east. [Seat belt laws were different then.]

With the five of us kids laying down in the back in varying phases of sleep barely two hours into vacation dad pulled the car over. Seemed odd. We were in the middle of nowhere on the open highway and it was the middle of the night. The only light was the moon and occasional headlights of passing cars. We were deep into the high desert east of Baker. [Baker is east of Barstow on the way to Las Vegas. It’s blank territory. If you’re familiar with the area you’ll quickly concede that we were in the middle of nowhere.]

An 18-wheel truck had signaled to dad while we were still driving. Dad somehow managed to figure out that the signals meant that the luggage bag had been compromised and the contents were spilled onto the highway scattering clothes abundantly about. Plus the truck that signaled had run over our stuff, too.

I remember mom and dad exiting the vehicle to commence the dangerous task of running around the 2-lane highway picking up what clothes and luggage they could see. I asked mom at one point if I could help. She adamantly indicated that all the kids were to stay in the car. Mom and dad would come to the car with an armload of clothes, toss them into the car, and go back out for more.

The next day we went to a K-Mart and bought new luggage. My oldest brother insisted for the balance of the trip that his luggage was to stay inside the car. Write that off to the privilege of being the oldest. Request was granted for him alone.

With each passing year my siblings and I are continually happier with this memory. The inconvenience at the time of the luggage fiasco has by far been outweighed by the laughing and silly amusement gained with every recounting.

Thank you, mom and dad, for trudging forward instead of folding up the tent and canceling vacation that glorious summer of ‘78.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Letter to Campbell Soup

Have you ever just been outraged on account of a product’s ‘New and Improved’ label? Or just disagreed that the advertised change indeed rendered the product ‘improved’? Rummaging through a few old computer files I came across this letter I wrote to Campbell Soup some years ago. There were no kids in my life then which explains how I had the spare time to write the letter.

The catalyst was that Campbell had advertised that it’s Chicken Noodle Soup was improved due to the fact that it now had ‘33% more chicken meat’. I disagreed as to whether this ranked as a product improvement.

## S. Oak Knoll Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101

Camden, N.J. 08103-1701

April 16, ‘97

Customer Service,

I have recently purchased and consumed a can of your Chicken Noodle soup. I have enjoyed your soups for many years, but I had some concerns when I observed the ‘33% more chicken meat’ emblazoned on the can. My concern was not that I couldn’t take down an entire tin of the condensed concoction, but rather that the quality of the chicken would remain not conducive to ingestion.

In short, the updated formula necessitates that I must now remove 33% more chicken meat prior to eating the soup and tasty noodles. Hoping the next product variation may involve an enhanced chicken noodle soup boasting ‘33% less chicken meat’ or ‘33% better quality chicken than before’.



Their chicken soup, I do enjoy, but the quality of the ‘chicken meat’ has seemed to me more like skin, fat, ligaments, and entrails as opposed to actual meat. I usually pick much of the stuff out, not eat it.

The letter yielded no response from Campbell.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Wife Klem!

December 1995

A work related move took me from one office to another 60 miles away. My first day in the new office I met a cubicle neighbor, he and I got along well, and we went to a burger franchise and got acquainted over a couple of Whoppers.

Returning to the office he introduced me to some new work cohorts. He also introduced me to my neighbor across the aisle. She was beautiful! I did what I could to maintain my cool before departing that afternoon.

My neighbor across the aisle and I were both single. A combination of me being shy and leery of an in-office romance I fostered a friendly, though clumsy, familiarity. Brief chit chats about weekend events and social goings-on was the typical conversation.

Six months later she turned in her two-weeks notice. She was leaving the company. Mustering up my strength I managed to ask her out. I got strength in thinking that if she declined me it would be only an awkward two weeks, then it’d be over and she’d be gone. But to my eager delight she smiled, wrote down her phone number, folded the paper in half, and handed it to me.

We dated for a year and on June 13 (it was Friday the 13th) of 1997 I asked her to marry me at Lacy Park in San Marino. She accepted! We were married in 1998.

Today is Wife Klem’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea. I love you. Thanks for the delightful ten plus years!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lasorda’s Autograph

I grew up on baseball, watching and playing. I remember as a little guy on Sunday mornings during baseball season spreading the Sports page out on the floor and hovering over it for an extended time reviewing player’s statistics. I liked numbers and I liked baseball. This combination of the two presented in a delectable spreadsheet of baseball statistics was to be savored. [Hard to recall a time where a player’s statistics were more than a click away on the computer.]

As a youth I played baseball in a league through the YMCA. My big brother and I were on the same team for a few years. Good times. Heck, I even enjoyed the practices.


An event had been organized through the YMCA where the players on my team and parents were going to get a tour of the local baseball stadium, Los Angeles Dodger stadium! Mildly stated, I was pretty excited! At the prospect of possibly seeing some professional baseballers I brought my Dodger baseball cards and a pen.

We got to walk on the field which was a thrill. This is the exact spot where my baseball heroes have stood! The Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda, as if on queue, came out to greet us while we were in the dugout! Too good!

After a brief chit chat he saw my baseball cards and offered an autograph. I was very pleased with myself for having the Dodger team card ready along with a pen. But very sadly I didn’t think it through. Baseball cards have a waxy coat to them that is not conducive to a ball point pen. That’s what I brought, ball point. Manager Lasorda patiently made a few efforts to sign the thing but it looked pretty splotchy and crummy, though well indented from the rigorous contact with the ball point.

I remember a year or so later watching a ball game on tv. A commercial or public service announcement came on starring Tommy Lasorda. The message was something to the effect that ‘If you are coming to the ball park and want an autograph be sure to bring a pen that works.’

Honest, that message was on tv. Must’ve been in conjunction to an upcoming Fan Appreciation Day. I felt like he was talking directly at me. I felt beat down for a second time. Bummer, the reminder of being so close but pulling up lame.

I still have the card. Can’t read the autograph.