Friday, October 30, 2009


I went to college at UC Santa Barbara in the late ‘80s. Great community for a youngster to experience a few years of growth, education, and play. With a large number of students living in such relatively close confines there’s ample opportunity for playful interaction, partying, ridiculous behavior, and hooch - legal and illicit. Going to class, studying, and taking exams are also sprinkled in to round out a well balanced college experience. This young populace was a key factor in a well known UCSB tradition. Halloween.

The street along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Isla Vista, the neighboring residential community immediately adjacent to the UCSB campus, is Del Playa, or known by locals as DP. There are apartments and rental homes lining both sides of the street.

On Halloween thousands of visitors descend upon Isla Vista (IV) for a vigorous round of this fabled Halloween partying. In my years as a UCSB student one was not allowed to drive their car into IV unless they had a letter addressed indicating an IV mailing address that matched their ID. This was done because it is a tiny community that is quickly congested with cars and people creating a sickly logjam if everyone who wanted to drive in for Halloween were allowed to do so.

Once all the Halloween party goers have assembled they commence with the drinking too much and otherwise inebriating themselves. As the darkness of night sets in so does a comfortable level of bravado as the youngsters don their Halloween costumes and walk along DP looking for more hooch and parties. So crowded is the street of Del Playa for a mile that you can’t walk without first considering the people in front of you and on all sides. Really, shoulder to shoulder pedestrian traffic. And let’s face it, tempers sometimes flare when drunks from different groupings commingle in passing.

I was witness on one very special Halloween galavandering to unusual and amusing fighting words. One guy, dressed as Gumby - a popular claymation character from the ‘60s and ‘70s - had apparently offended a fellow partier of another group.

“I’m gonna kick your ass, Gumby,” loudly blathered the offended one. After the laughter died down from those within ear shot there was no actual no fisticuffs.

Halloween at UCSB. Fun times. Happy I don't live like that anymore.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

THE Vending Machine

It was a machine well beyond any reality that I could comprehend. 30 years I had lived to that point and such a mechanical device I had not imagined. Perhaps it was the culture within which I had been raised. Issues of legality would make the device difficult to wield. But let the record reflect that it exists. I saw it.

August 1996

I was vacationing with friends in Barcelona, Spain. A night of drinking Spanish hooch was safely winding down despite having engaged inebriation. The hour was late and we had walked back to our hotel. We were standing out front when we saw it.

A vending machine in the lobby of the neighboring hotel caught our eye due to its unique merchandise. The oddity was not immediately distinguished, yet something about it caught our attention. We locked visuals on this machine and approached. It was a mere ten feet away behind the locked glass lobby door. The lobby was well illuminated with the machine occupying a focal point as if mocking us with its cool majestic indifference. From this vantage point our observations were digested. A beer vending machine!

Yes, you enter your peseta [‘peseta’ as this is pre-euro] into the slot and remove a cool bottle of beer . . . if it were not for the unfortunate locking mechanism keeping us apart from this product of impeccable ingenuity. We were not drunk, though certainly not in need of more beer. Heck, we were just going to go upstairs and be asleep soon. But this machine beckoned with its offerings of golden suds.

A security guard sat in the lobby shaking his head ‘no’ indicating that we were to be denied the pleasure of this desired commercial transaction. This guard, I thought later, was he guarding the hotel lobby or the vending machine? Guarding it from any harm that might be issued from such fingers as my own tainted by their desirous hankerings? Either way, this control he steadfastly declined to compromise. Even when we offered to buy him a beer for allowing access. Damn his gumption!

A beer vending machine. It exists. I saw it. It’s in Spain.

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Steps

Infants are curious beasts. You never know for sure what they’re thinking or what they’re gonna do.

June 2001

My son took his first steps at exactly one year old. I got home from work and Wife Klem was in an especially good mood.

“Come here,” she said with a large smile as I entered the house. “Your boy has something to show you.”

With help from Pretty Mommy the boy rose to his feet. With one hand on the hall wall to maintain his balance he took a step and started to laugh. He took another step and continued laughing. [Laughing why? Happy with his newly gained altitude? Walking’s more funny than crawling? Just pleased himself maybe.] He walked down the hall. As he walked by me I thought two things: (1) Wow, he’s walking well, and (2) Where’s he going?

He turned the corner into the office, still laughing. I followed him in and saw that he was walking toward his dog’s toy bin. He approached, looked in, and started tossing the dog’s toys out onto the floor.

The guy finally attains some degree of walking ability, substantially upgrading his mobility, and that’s what was on his mind? The dog’s toy bin? Silly animal. But he’s our silly animal.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Klem’s Book of Observations, excerpt viii

‘How does it feel to be a wage slave?’ asked the sign I saw overhanging a freeway while driving in the course of work. Rewarding, I say, to be able to provide for my family.

I’m glad that cockroaches don’t have teeth.

Overrated: Food described in terms of its visual presentation rather than taste.

Reenactments are asinine. A poorly outfitted reenactor moving about on artificially grainy film is poor viewing. Tell the story, show a photograph or depiction of the character in question, and move on.

If given the choice, I’d rather have ESPN than ESP.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My First Memory

What is my earliest memory, I got to thinking one day? A memory prompt, I figured, might help bring me back to my earlier days. I came up with the following memories.

I liked baseball as a kid, so what’s the earliest World Series that I remember? Dodgers versus A’s in 1974. I was 7. Super Bowl? Steelers versus Cowboys in 1976 with Lynn Swan’s beautiful catch. Nine years old. Grade school, 1st grade, and kindergarten I can all remember in descending degrees of detail. I even remember one impressive crying bout I had in preschool. Yes, preschool. I wanted to climb the fence and get outta there on one particular occasion. Four years old, was I for that embarrassing episode. GP, our pet Guinea Pig, again four years old. I came up with another four year old memory. It is possibly my earliest. The birth of my baby sister.

October 21. Glendale, CA.

The day struck me as odd. My two older brothers and I were at home and the only adult with us was Grandpa Tedesco. He was babysitting us. We loved gramps, but babysitting? Even at four years old it didn’t seem to be anywhere near his comfort zone.

What extreme circumstances necessitated this? The birth of my sister, the fifth and final Klem offspring. Mom, dad, Grandma Tedesco, and my younger brother, still just an infantile little fella, went to the hospital.

I remember gramps walking nervously around the house while we sat on the dark green shag carpeting watching tv. I can only guess what the instructions were to gramps, ‘Just keep these three alive. We’ll be back as soon as we can.’ He did.

Happy birthday, JQ. I’m glad you arrived.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

That’s Not My $10,000

It’s a familiar day dream that we’ve probably all had at one time or another. Free money. You go to the ATM and it shoots $20 dollar bills at you. Or the bank makes and error and adds a zero or two to your account balance. Fun thoughts. But what if it really happened?


I’m not overzealous with daily or even weekly balance checks on our investment and retirement accounts. Quarterly, that’s the typical frequency I’ll tune in for a review plus a once per year overhaul, as needed. But this particular evening I logged in, out of schedule, and discovered an irregularity. An irregularity in my favor. $10,000 in my favor!

I immediately logged off and walked away from the computer. Could I just leave it there, pretend I knew nothing, benefit from someone’s error and keep it? Could they track the error back to me and reclaim the money at some future date? Would another customer actually be out the $10,000? Or would the financial institution cover the error? Those were questions I would never have answered. A guilty conscience got the better of me. Ten minutes passed and I logged back into the account online and called a customer service representative.

I advised the phone representative of the error. After a short review, he countered by advising me that the error was mine, the $10,000 belonged in my account, and could he do anything else to help. I was then in the amusing situation of asking to speak with someone else to insist that the errant $10,000 be removed from my account. This time, the message was heard and my request was followed through with a thanks. My good samaritan phone call was rewarded by being credited a free trade next time I bought or sold stock. I accepted the token of thanks, street value about $15.

My day dream henceforth changed. No longer ‘What if my account is credited erroneously,’ but rather ‘What if I found a large paper bag of dollar bills?’ Heck, that’d be cool! No electronic tracking, just a guilt-free sack of money. Hot dog! That’d be fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Allowance Revisited

We have revisited the weekly allowance for the kids, specifically the amount of remuneration. In speaking with a few parents from school, it sounds as though our positions of $1 for a third grader and $0.50 for kindergarten may be on the low end of the allowance spectrum.

The updated compensation level for the boy proposes $3 per week based on him cleaning his bathroom and keeping his room clean. Failure to meet with compliance yields what is now considered a meager $1. He has performed adequately so far at bathroom cleaning which includes emptying the bathroom’s trash bin. His Achilles Heal has proven to be cleaning his room. The first few weeks under this program his remuneration has been a lowly $1, I’m sad to report.

The problem, you see, is the guy’s Hot Wheeling inclination. He likes making Hot Wheels tracks. He especially likes incorporating his entire room, desk, dresser, his dinosaurs, dominoes, and all his other toys into the landscape of the tracks. It really is all encompassing. So much so, that before I check on him before I go to bed, I can’t get to him without stepping on some portion of the track. He maintains that the track must remain standing until all his cars, of which there are about 100, have driven it. He then immediately sets out to modify the track which necessitates that he repeat the process with all the cars. The room never actually gets clean because there’s no down time between tracks.

As for our daughter, she’s been bumped up to $2 weekly. Her responsibility in return is twofold:
(1) She practices writing her alphabet. The task is supposed to be done daily, but my diligence sometimes falls short. The capital letters have been mastered and she’s working on the lower case. The ‘j’ has proven problematic for her as to which way it curls.
(2) She practices her numbers daily. This entails a variation of writing her numbers from 1 to 30 and counting by tens to 100 or counting to 100. She’s really gathering steam here, although that ‘50’ is sometimes elusive.

They’re good kids, but let’s not tell them that. Wouldn’t want to spoil them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Compiled Quotes, x

“Zeal without knowledge is fire without light.” Thomas Fuller, English rector and historian [1608-1661]

“If you have a clear mind and an open heart, you won’t have to search for direction.” St. Paul, apostle [?-65]

“Hey, Lasorda,” one fan once heckled the robust Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, “is that your belt or the equator?”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


My father-in-law passed away last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Any pain and suffering from the illness was his secret until six weeks before he passed away.

We’d regularly taken trips to a beach a short drive from his house, he and my family. He liked to take his grand kids to look for sea life in the tide pools and watch them play in the gentle surf. It was on one such beach trip in August the first signs of trouble appeared. He lost his balance a few times and was uncharacteristically out of breathe. The hospital visits began shortly thereafter.

Opa, as the whole family often preferred to call him, grew up in W.W.II Germany. He was a very mature 12 years old by the end of the war as one might imagine such experiences shaping his youth. As the oldest of three siblings one primary responsibility was to look out for the safety of his little brothers and sister.

He left Germany in 1954 after an apprenticeship in electronics. One time over coffee and Wife Klem’s blackberry cake, of which he was so fond, he explained why he left Germany, his family, and all that he knew. He said simply that he wanted to see ‘how the victors made out.’ He was twenty years old and ready to engage the world, make his way. With that he departed for Canada and entered the U.S. a year later.

He was a man of numerous exciting and entertaining tales, many of which I’ve written down to pass on to our kids. When they get older and curious about their family history they’ll be better able to know the life of their Opa.

He was a good dad to my wife and I couldn’t have asked for a better father-in-law. He was very involved with his grandchildren and consistently took full advantage of a grandparent’s privilege of plying his grandchildren with candy regardless of whether or not a base of strong food had first been consumed. It was always a Happy Opa Day.

Peace to you, dad.