Monday, February 28, 2011

Disneyland: Getting There Is One-Eighth the Fun

I'm going to Disneyland!

That's what I was saying a couple of weeks ago. "I'm going to Disneyland!" Sounds like fun, doesn't it? It was. But that doesn't mean it was easy. Taking a vacation can be hard work.

The week before the trip was full of a lot of prep time. There was shopping and packing and laundry and more packing. (Here's a laundry tip: Before washing the children's clothes, make sure there are no diapers or Pull-Ups mixed in with the clothes. Not fun.)

The Wife's parents, Grammy and PopPop, were going on the trip with us, which was great because when wrangling two kids, the more adults the better. They met us at a little after 5:00 AM on Friday morning to drive down in tandem with us. Unfortunately, that morning Grammy discovered that the hotel reservations they thought they had did not, in fact exist. It didn't matter at that point, because they were coming hell or high water. (And it turns out there was actually some high water.)

We took off and drove to our first stop, St. George, Utah for some fuel. And some caffeine. (Between my weird work schedule and getting ready for the trip, I had gotten less than four hours of sleep the previous two nights.) My caffeine of choice is Mountain Dew Live Wire, an orange-flavored soda. Unfortunately, it is a limited flavor that I can only find in southern Utah. So I loaded up. (And while in St. George, Grammy was frantically on the phone and was able to get reservations at a hotel a half a mile away from ours.)

The next stop was Las Vegas. Except we didn't stop there. I'm not a "Vegas" guy. I don't like to gamble. I get as much entertainment out of flinging change at random strangers as I do shoving it into a slot machine. So, we saw no need to stop in Vegas.

The thing that interested me most about Vegas (besides the large, gold-plated buildings) was the billboards. There were a lot of billboards, and they were mostly divided into two categories: sleazy strip club/casinos or sleazy personal injury lawyers. And while it's true the sleazy strip club ads showed more skin and cleavage, it doesn't mean that the lawyers were any less sleazy. Who knew they needed that many personal injury lawyers in Vegas? Maybe they're working together. People stare at the strip club billboards, get in wrecks, and need to call the personal injury lawyers. (It's possible.)

And why is it personal injury lawyers feel the need to have rhyming slogans? Here in Utah we have "One call, that's all." The one from Vegas was, "Enough said, call Ed." I guess I answered my own question: the rhyming ones are the ones I remember.

Anyway, I was able to keep my eyes on the road just enough and made it through Vegas without the need to call Ed.

We decided we could make it all the way to Barstow, California before we needed to stop for fuel and food again. The freeway between Vegas and Barstow is a bit troubling. It is mostly two lanes and sagebrush. And there is a lot of traffic. I cannot for the life of me understand why they don't make it three lanes. (I guess we have to score one in the victory column for the Sagebrush Presevation Society.)

The only real town between the California border and Barstow is Baker. Baker promotes itself as the gateway to Death Valley. It gets hot in the summer. Now, our van does not have a GPS, so it had no way of knowing where we were. But, I kid you not, the air-conditioner automatically turned on as soon as we hit Baker city limits, even though it was the middle of February. Somehow it knew.

The road between Baker and Barstow is the location for some kind of temporal disturbance. How else to explain how traveling a distance of 60 miles at 80 miles per hour can seemingly take two and a half hours? (I've seen enough Star Trek to know a temporal disturbance when I see one.)

As if the road between Baker and Barstow wasn't bad enough, ten miles out of Barstow the good people of California have put up a Fruit Inspection stop. They force all cars to pull over and inspect any fruit you might be bringing with you to California. At least, that's what they do in theory. They had the road down to two lanes. In one lane they were letting everybody through without stopping them. Of course, this was not the lane I was in. Most of the cars in my lane were getting through without getting stopped, too. Except, of course, for me.

I pulled up and they asked if I had any fruit in the car. I said yes. So, I had to stop, go around to the back of the van, find the fruit and show it to him. He "inspected" it for about half a second, then sent me on my way. Grammy and PopPop, in the vehicle directly behind me, had the same problem. Except that when Grammy went to the back of her vehicle to retreive her fruit, it was buried behind all of their suitcases. Upon seeing this, the "inspector" decided it was too much hassle and sent her on her way. So, obviously, their inspections must not be too serious. Why bother at all?

I guess it could have been worse. It could have been a Fruit of the Loom inspection stop.

We finally arrived in Barstow and stopped for lunch at McDonald's. Next door to McDonald's was a place called Tom's which featured on its sign a cartoon of a Mayor McCheese-like hamburger headed man, except the only thing this burger man was wearing was a snug Speedo swimsuit. There's something to be said for the comfort of McDonald's.

While in Barstow, it was warm and sunny. More than one person in our party commented on how absurd the forecast for rain in Anaheim seemed. We laughed at the possibility of rain. (You can see where this is going, can't you?)

We then needed to fuel up, but couldn't immediately see a Chevron. (My wife and her family will only fuel up at Chevron stations. They belong to the Cult of Techron.) So, Grammy said she would find one using her GPS. I was to follow her. She immediately made a left turn and had us heading back north on the freeway. Luckily we were able to get off and turn around before making it back to the Fruit Inspection station. Meanwhile, we found where the Barstow Swap Meet and drive-in theater are, information that could come in handy, well, never.

We finally found a Chevron, fueled up, and made our way to Anaheim. And hey, there's nothing like driving on an unknown freeway in a big city during rush hour in a heavy downpour of rain. (Sunny in Barstow and rainy in Anaheim! Who'd a thunk it?)

We made it! We found our hotels, checked in, and got ready to attack Disneyland in the morning. The only thing left to do was find the guy who sang that song "It Never Rains In California" and go punch him in the face.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sharp Dressed Man?

As the song says, "Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man." And yet, The Wife married me anyway. (Just one more reason why I am very lucky. Possibly even the luckiest.)

Don't get me wrong, I've got style. It's just not good style. And what little style I do have is from around 1985.

Have you ever noticed how a lot of people (espcially guys) lock into what was "cool" in their youth, and get stuck in that style for the rest of their lives? You'll still see some guys sporting the Miami Vice jacket-over-t-shirt, no socks look. Or women at the gym wearing Flashdance-era leg wamers.

Sometimes, people get locked in to styles that were never cool. There is a truck driver I see occasionally at work who is still sporting the John Denver look, with the straight bowl haircut and the round little glasses. I have to suppress a laugh whenever I see him, and usually end up singing Thank God I'm a Country Boy for the rest of the day.

Me, I'm stuck in 1985. That was the year I left home for two years to be a Mormon missionary. Mormon missionaries usually leave home with two sturdy, dull, bland suits, and three or four dull, bland ties. When I got there I found that one of the popular activities for missionaries on their one day off a week would be to go to thrift stores to try to find good-looking used suits and stylish ties. (When you wear a suit and tie every day, it's nice to have a little bit of choice.)

What everyone was looking for were zoot suits with narrow lapels, and pants with pleats and cuffs. And the ties needed to be skinny. The skinnier the better. That's what was cool when I was 19 years old. So that's what I still think looks good. Much to The Wife's dismay.

Now that is a sharp-dressed man!

She doesn't like my skinny ties. She thinks they look silly. Over the years I've gotten rid of most of them, but I kept four or five of my favorites. Last summer when The Wife was off visiting her sister, I wore one of my skinny ties to church. And nobody openly mocked me. At least not to my face. (I'm sure the snickering was for some other reason.)

I try to tell her that skinny ties are coming back into fashion. I tell her that the guy on the television program Bones wears skinny ties. She replies that if I were as good looking as the guy from Bones, I could get away with wearing skinny ties, too.

The Wife also thinks my pants with the pleats in the front make me look fat. I disagree. I think it's my fat in the front that makes me look fat.

But, The Wife is a lot more tolerant than most women would be. Back when I was single I bought a green suit. I think it's a pretty good looking suit, so it probably isn't. But it's green. Very, very green. (And if even I think it's too green, you can be sure that it is way too green.) I wore the green suit, even though my Aunt Maxie strongly warned against it, back when The Wife was still just The Girlfriend. And yet, she still married me anyway.

She may not like my "style," but she lets me wear whatever I want, with only an occasional eye roll or exasperated sigh. She's wonderful.

She's also lucky, because it could have been worse. I could have gotten locked into the tight-white-suit John Travolta look. Or the dirty sixties hippy look. Or the MC Hammer shiny baggy pants look. Or that silly John Denver look. Thank God I'm not that country boy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shields Up!

I always wondered on Star Trek why they had to keep saying, "Shields up." Shouldn't the shields always be up? I mean, they're traveling through the unknowns of space, never knowing when a Klingon might de-cloak, a nefarious nebula might appear out of nowhere, or some robe-wearing near-omnipotent species might decide to toy with them. Shouldn't they expect the unexpected and always be prepared by having their shields up?

Why am I thinking about this? Because I let my shields down. Twice. Each of the last two nights I've taken a crippling shot to the groin from my two-year-old daughter, once from her knee and once from her big toy microphone.

I thought I had my shields up. I've been around kids long enough, both as a father and as an uncle, to know that when kids are climbing around I need to keep that certain area guarded. Especially when they are using me as a jungle gym.

But, it doesn't matter how guarded you think you are, they are going to get a shot or two past the defenses. It's like they have superhuman speed like The Flash, Superman, Quicksilver, or Dash from The Incredibles. Or something.

Given time, one of those feet will connect with that crotch to inflict pain, unless the shields are up.

And it's not just the speed. It's the targeting. I think they know the exact spot that will cause the most damage. It's like that climactic scene from the first Star Wars movie. (You know, the first movie that is really the fourth movie, even though they made it first, not fourth.) Anyway, the movie where Luke Skywalker has to use the Force to shoot his shot in the one tiny little place in order to blow up the Death Star. It's like these kids use the Force to find the one spot that will inflict the most crotchatic pain.

The other night The Girl's knee struck with a speed and precision that I thought were a once in a lifetime shot. Until the next night, when the toy microphone struck just as quickly and just as precisely.

Now, my guard is constantly up. I'm expecting crotch shots at every instant. The Girl is halfway across the room, but if she were to move, I'd flinch. This is no way to live. I can't walk around the rest of my life with one hand covering my private parts. People would talk. (And they wouldn't be saying nice things.)

I guess that's why the Enterprise roamed the stars without their shields up. Yes, it's good to be on alert, but you still have to live your life. It's impossible to be on full prevent mode all of the time. I just have to try to put what's happened behind me and move forward from here.

But, the next time she climbs onto my lap to have me read her a book, you can be sure that the Nard Guard will be on full alert.