Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SOLD to the Lady in Purple . . . .

Yup, Hults' are taking over this little town. Hults Grove Mills, they'll soon be calling it. Gramma continues to settle in, despite being technically homeless until the 28th. AK, she and Ben just got home from the Amish Market/Grocery Auction where great deals were had on AK's bushels of beans, ears of fresh sweetcorn, and Gramma's plants for the small raised bed you see in her front yard.

Plans are being made for the big moving day, volunteers are hopping onboard to help. Gramma is thinking of putting green decorative shutters on the sides of those windows. And just what flavor of street-side mailbox she'll get is the subject of much deliberation & consideration.

Stay tuned. . .



Saturday, August 18, 2007

Waffling Over Used Skis and Cookie Shooters

Gwamma likes yard sales. I'm sure they have yard sales in CA, but maybe she never had the need. And as a very scholarly and spendtrift friend of mine once observed, only about half of the yard sales are worth attending. This is because poor people selling their stuff need the money, rich people selling their stuff need to get rid of it. One type of yard sale has higher quality and lower prices than the other. For whatever reasons, Gramma and AK came home this morning from their tour of the yard sales gleeful as kids at Christmas time.

Legitimately, Gwamma needs a dinette set. Her old one was old, rickety, uncomfortable and smoke-stained so I pronounced it dead when we cleaned her place out last Spring. Of the new pieces of furniture/appliances she'll need, the dinette set is the most expensive (although we are giving her one of our fridges, and she's buying the seller's old washer/dryer cheap for the time being. . . ). Furniture stores are right up there with used car lots when it comes to sleazy sales people and profit margins so big they should be illegal -- so it didn't take long for AK and Gwamma to decide Estate Sales would be the place to shop for a dinette set. Estate Sales are a cross between Yard Sales and Estate Auctions. Quality furniture is a little harder to find than at an auction, but if you DO find a "find" chances are much better you'll get it for a deal than at an auction where everyone else has also found your find. In any case, this is no doubt the excuse they'll cling to: "we were looking for the dinette set!" -- if they come home the next few Saturdays as loaded-down as they did today.

I applaud them on the as-new window AC unit they got for $20.00. And they did get Gwamma's home seller (breaking every rule in the realtor's book, just casually dropping by the seller's house becuase AK thinks the seller is THE CUTEST thing in the world and just HAD to introduce him to Gwamma. . ) to say he'll probably leave her his dinette set, so that will save a lot of money and allow for a less-frenzied Dinette Set Search. And I am loathe to criticize the canning jars because as YICKMOCIOUS as it is to see them muckied up with what was surely at one time SOMEONE ELSES FOOD -- I'm awfully partial to what AK does with the canning jars and would hate to be barred from the wall of canned yummies in our living room.

And. I'm pretty sure the rest of what unendingly poured out of the car (how did all that FIT IN A PT CRUISER??? Where the PT stands for "PRETTY TINY"???) falls into what I'd call The Crap Category. Door mirrors, kitch display cases, used skis, alarm clocks, funny-shaped & pretty-colored cooking pots, GD canning jars. Baskets of all shapes & sizes (for, um, Easter?). Many large yard leaf bags full of stuff I don't even know about. Used hankerchiefs, used scout mess kit. And right before I decided it was too much for me to take, right before I retreated into The Mancave, in the kitchen I swear I saw "The Amazing Cookie Shooter! As Seen On TV!!!"

Now let me say: the prices seemed to be right, it doesn't sound like anyone paid much more than a buck for any one thing (though AK may have briefed Gwamma on the need to lie to me about the prices. . . .). This is important, as anyone who's passed 3 yard sales has seen 6 sets of used skis for sale and know you should never EVER pay more than 25 cents for a set of used skis. And I can see where some of the items may, at some time, perhaps once or twice in our lifetimes, be handy. And they did bring home baked goodies for us men (we did protect the house from, um, terrorists while they were gone. . . ). And I very well may get kicked by Gwamma, and otherwise denied freaky-love-down-by-the-fire by AK because I told the whole internet about how they brought home crap. But I am rightfully concerned about setting a precedent here. If I admit that yes they found stuff that a)we needed and b)was in great shape and was c)at yard-sale prices? They'll be out every Friday and Saturday, driving ever-farther to get the deals, trading in the Pretty Tiny Cruiser for a 26-Foot Pense truck so they can buy more, and I'll be stuck at home HOLDING OUR OWN YARD SALES TO GET RID OF ALL THE STUFF THEY BOUGHT AT THE YARD SALES!

This is my concern. Ya' feelin me?

I'm going to sneak upstairs & see if any of those baked goods are left. . . .

Tune in later for photos of last nights dinner which was almost entirely home-grown, and photos of Gwamma's "SOLD" sign!



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Home again home again, jiggity jig.

. . . . something something something about a little fat pig.

That's what my Dad used to say when we arrived home. This is me not knowing what it means.

The drive from Des Moines to Chicago was thankfully short, and I had a lovely evening with The MacMac Family. Mrs. MacMac took pity on my truckstopped-up guts and made us the most tasty hearty homecooked meal. Mr. MacMac introduced me to his neighbor, who took us for a trip back in time in one of these. . .

Then there was Little MacMac who is not nearly as little as he was just last Summer and had a tremendously less-little voice and struck fear into the pit of my soul as he forced me to realize that this too was very likely to happen to my very own Number One Son.

The last day's drive was icky. Should have been just 12 hours, but was closer to 16 due to a truck blowing up right at the exit I was supposed to use to get off of the seemingly interminable I80. Only 8 miles from my exit, the one I'd been counting down to all day, I saw this. . .

and this. . . .

But my homecoming was so worth the long day's drive. After unhooking the PT Cruiser in the elementary school parking lot at the bottom of the hill, I drove it home to find a big-fat-little-boy-made POSTER on my garage door! Then coming in the door I got huge gratuitous hugs and loves from ALL the Hults boys. In between, and lingering long after, was the lady who missed me the most: Emily. AK gave smooches too. Hers were less sloppy and she smelled considerably better, but you just can't beat the enthusiasm of a standard poodle who's been missing her big, brain-scratching alpha male.

Monday found me and four members in good standing of The Mormon Mafia emptying the covered wagon into a storage facility. The whole affair took less than an hour. So I had NO excuse for driving away from the storage facility WITH THE DOOR WIDE OPEN SO AS TO SHARE ALL OF GRAMMAS BELONGINGS WITH ALL OF THE STORAGE PLACE'S FINE CLIENTS. They called the next day and we fixed it. And that reminded me that I'd left the keys for the storage lock and the trailer lock ON THE KEY RING WHICH WAS NOW SAFELY IN THE HANDS OF THE PENSKE TRUCK PEOPLE. Fixed that, and was happy to see many other truck keys with people's lock keys still on them. It would seem I was still a little shmoopy from the trip.

Gramma has been dealing with all the exciting/frustrating parts of moving, with mostly AK's help. I've been trying to get back to work and to get caught up. I've been trying to get back into a groove. As assurance that all is nearly back to normal, here is Max in his 25 cent Nittany Lions hat from this morning's garage sale down the street. . .

I told him he looked like Gilligan and showed him a picture of Gilligan. He promptly got on a red shirt and this particularly gilliganny expression for me.



Friday, August 10, 2007

One Hundred Seven Degrees in Nebraska

Makes you wish you were me, huh? Well, just add 107 degrees to your long list of reasons not to visit Nebraska.

After a pre-dawn smack-down with the snooze button, The PA Train drove East into an awesome sunrise. Awesome. It was all downhill from there.

One lowlight was my time-consuming effort to have a sanitary bowel movement in a non-toxic environment in the late morning hours. Think of all the truckers on Interstate 80. Now think of each of them drinking a Refillable Bladder Buster Big Gulp of coffee, the equivalent of 421 cups of fresh-brewed columbian diuretic/laxative. There aren't enough toilets in the northern hemisphere for this daily teamster bum-rush. Now imagine a large, bald-but-surprisingly attractive man, driving from truck stop to truck stop with intensely clenched buttocks and cursing with increasing volume at every stop. Ultimately I gave up on finding places that I could park, and just started walking (quickly, in full clench) from fast food place to gas station to whatever was adjacent to the truckstop. Sheesh. I just looked it up and Mapquest says todays trip should take 8.5 hours, I guess I shouldn't be surprised it took me about 12.

Lowlight two was an indirect result of my mid-morning poopventures. Because I'd wasted so much time NOT driving in the planned direction, I chose to eat my lunch wherever I could get gas. I considered myself fortunate to find a truckstop with a Wendys in it, and didn't even cringe as I paid 26.94 for a double-burger and large diet coke. Well, that was the slippiest, slidiest, shiny-with-grease Wendys double I've ever seen. It came back to haunt me as I passed through Omaha. Every mile of Omaha's freeway is constructed with concrete plates that are held together with joists like a bridge. While any modern car's suspension will gobble this up, my covered wagon's buckboard shot me into the cab's ceiling about 90 times a minute. This is not unusual, it happens on several different road surfaces. But Today it had the effect of darn near sending that Wendys Double onto the dashboard.

Which brings me here to Des Moines, where I will camp until tomorrow's short drive to Chicago. Mapquest says it's a 5 hour drive. It will probably take me 20 hours at this rate. I'll get up at 2am for an early afternoon ETA and hope for the best.

I didn't take any photos today, because getting out of the truck's air-conditioned cab was tantamount to taking a stroll on the surface of the sun. I would have been instantly incinerated. So here is another Sparksian Feral Equine. . .



Thursday, August 09, 2007

Opewation Gwamma Twansplant

Where were we? Ah. Well, 2 weeks ago Gwamma Gaye sold her house. One of the seller's contingencies was that Gwamma Gaye get all her gwamma things out by last Tuesday. So we've kicked into Moving Mode, and for the first time in a long time I've actually been glad that AK and I have done so much moving! We're good at it, almost. Not much time for bloggage, so I'm actually about half-way across the country right now with all of Gwamma Gaye's gwamma things. Behold, The PA Train. . .

Yes, that's the same cantankerous and slow 26' truck that I wrangled across the country almost 3 years ago. This one is not packed so tightly, and it's only towing a small car instead of a small truck which was itself packed with 3 small motorcycles. This trip is a little more hilly, however, having Sierras & Rockys & all sorts of speed bumps in the way to slow me down. And slow it has been, I'm wrapping up my 3rd day on the road and I'm only in Cheyenne, WY. But I get ahead of myself. . .

MONDAY had Cousin Rob, Uncle Bob and I making very fast work of loading the truck. Nary a Mormon showed, I must be falling out of favor with The Mormon Mafia. Then Mom & I wrapped up the last few errands and signed her closing papers before checking in to a Martinez hotel. Not much sleep for either of us, too tired & wigged about the coming travel perhaps.

TUESDAY started early with a delightfully traffic-free trip to the airport, where Gwamma Gaye was postmarked for Pennsylvania and shooed into the 4-mile-long security line. Then a leisurely get-to-know-the-truck-again drive up the Sierras to vist longtime college friends in Sparks. Kristen and I sampled the local faire (Black Rock Pizza = So Good You Know After One Bite It's Not a Chain) and I got to know her staggeringly cute 3 year old Rhys while we caught up. K had Mommy Things to do, so I seized the moment (and the PT Cruiser) and did some exploring in and around Sparks. K's hubby/college friend Rob does both Geocaching and Road Biking so he hooked me up with some interesting places to explore. I found the following fauna. . .

About 30 wild horses hiding in the hills. This is a colt & it's mom, one clearly a little more concerned about me than the other.

The quail is California's state bird, but it would appear they all cashed in on the real estate boom a few years ago and bought large houses in Sparks. This is one of about 3400 that I saw during my short excursion. I hope he's not thinking about dumping. . .

I have no idea why this Llama was in among the sheep. He seems to have no idea why I'm visiting his Sheepdom. But he looked like a speckled, smelly king there surrounded by his sheepish subjects so I had to take his picture.

I spent the rest of the evening with S and her husband J and their very charming and GQ-handsome boys N and M. That was pleasant beyond words. The whole day made me all the more committed to once again getting on a bike and riding all over. These are friends worth staying in face-to-face touch with (also had awesome visit with college friends J & M, J and I having been each others best men, but that was before Monday so. . . . ). And while motorcycles are good for many many things, I'm pretty sure that in my life they are meant for keeping me close with all my great friends who don't live in PA.

WEDNESDAY found me driving the covered wagon. . . er. . . truck to Park City, UT and actually about 20 miles south since every hotel room anywhere around Salt Lake City was booked. Breathtaking scenery just east of SLC, but I was too tired to take it all in. I didn't stop in SLC at all. I'll have to stop at Cheap Charlie's LDS-For-Less on my next trip, they're advertising 4 Quads for the price of 3, with a FREE EFFEMINATE QUILTED BOOK-PURSE!

TODAY was a pleasant, short day of driving. The scenery was stunning, albeit jumping around a lot. It's a jumpy country when viewed from a buckboard (moving truck has no suspension, my spine absorbs a good deal of the road's irregularities. . . . )

"Dark Mauve"
-Rhys' response to the question "Who's the bad guy in Star Wars with a red double-light-saber?"

"Daddy, I don't want you to kiss me anymore"
"But you can phone kiss me"
-Milo, on the phone with me

-Max, after I told him I was passing through Winnemucca, NV. They boys are moving a little yellow moving-van-shaped pin across the country as I go :).

NOTABLE MONDEGREENS (misunderstood song lyrics)
"There's a bathroom on the right. . . ."
Gwamma Gaye herself shared this one with me, from Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising

"Oats in the man, where 'ya gonna run? Oats in the man, where 'ya gonna run? All along that day. . . "
From The Seekers version of the folk song "Sinner Man". I'm on a folk kick, and listening to this reminds me that for most of my childhood I wondered why the man had oats in him.

#1 The Truckstop chains Flying J, Travel America, and Pilot are -- if not owned & operated by Satan himself -- then surely are overseen by senior members on The Satanic Board of Directors. I have frequented these establishments for the past few days because they are the only places I can get cheap diesel from a wide-mouth hose (quickly) AND have room to turn my aircraft carrier around to get back on the street. There I am surrounded by the very cogs in the capitalist machine: men working hard to make their way. These are people who put in hours above & beyond to earn their money and somehow manage to be models of road manners at the same time. They spend a day or two draining the 150 gallons their trucks will hold, only stopping and getting out for a few minutes of humanity in these truckstops. And how are they thanked for their $500.00 gas purchases? With filthy facilities, awful food and criminally high prices. I'm a little bitter about the food because a)it used to be my very favorite kind of food and b)now that I really can't eat it anymore it ticks me off that I have to make ANOTHER stop if I want food with my gas. So forget the style of food they serve, surely it's what the customer wants, but how about fresh? Cleanly prepared? Generous portions? Nope. And I'm sorry, $2.00 is too much for a warm 20 oz pop. Not even the airports do you like that, mostly. Any of the items they sell, if it can be had elsewhere, can be had for substantially less. It stings at the airport, or at the movies, and I'm used to that. I just don't like seeing these guys getting stung because I know how hard it is to make a living their way. Hmm. Although, you can't shop at Target or anywhere else really in your pajama pants, so maybe there is some value there.

#2 Use Penske, not U-Haul. AK did the research 3 years ago and read all the horror stories about people's U-Haul experiences. I heard just enough of them to gladly pay whatever Penske was asking. And on Monday I didn't think twice when Sparky at the Penske Rent Place told us more scary/funny U-Hault stories. But moving is hard. In the middle of all that hard stuff, other hard things happen. The very hardest of hard things, I imagine, would be having a bad rental truck experience. On this trip I've seen 2 U-Haul vehicles broken down on the side of I80, one a large truck (yes, it did have a lower deck than mine. But that didn't keep it running. . . . ) and the other a trailer that appeared to have a broken axle. I also saw a medium sized but newer U-Haul today spewing gobs of deathly black smoke from it's exhaust. This was not your usual flooring-it-in-a-diesel smoke, this was I-can't-see-the-road and somebody-call-the-EPA smoke. Yes, the ride is rough in The PA Train. But I have no doubt that the Train will keep going.

#3 Television is Eeeeee. Vil. Blame it on the reality shows that are ubiquitous now. There is no end to the sappy sensationalism in every corner of TV programming. There must not be enough drama or suspense in fiction anymore, because on every channel on every show they are trying to milk some drama or suspense out of "reality". And it's pathetic. Remember the advertisiments MOCKING the sensationalism? "SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!! Loud trucks, big noise, dirt in your beer, women in tight shirts!!!! ONLY THIS SUNDAY!!! MMMMMMMMONSTER TRUCKS at The Cow Palace!!!!" I watched a Discovery Channel show about moving big sharks from Taiwan to Atlanta last night, and it made the old monster truck commercials look like C-Span. At every turn we were told how LIFE THREATENING this was and how DANGEROUS that was and how THE SHARKS. . . COULD. . . DIE!!!!! Sheesh. I did see a good show called "How They Make That" or something. They peacefully showed you all the things you wondered about, letting the subject matter be interesting on it's own. Thank you for showing me the big machine that grooves and stains and laminates wood flooring. Thank you for letting me see the grooving thingy cutting the wood really fast, that was interesting. Thank you for not yelling at me about how "IF one of these helpless workers so much as SLIPPED and stuck his WHOLE HEAD in the machine he'd be *pause* paralyzed for the rest of his life. Never again able to run with his chocolate lab Splootchypoo, never able to do ANYTHING that requires a head. . . .

#4 Wyoming in the Summer is beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed the sights today, and right now I'm watching the most breathtaking lightning storm. Thank you for the reservations, AK! I'm on the 5th floor, I can see for miles and it's like having a front row seat at God's own rock concert. It feels like a gift.

Now is time for logging off. I've caught up now, so tomorrow I leave early. The plan is to do an insanely long and miserable day of driving across Nebraska and hopefully some of Iowa. This will leave me time for more visits on Saturday. And, if I can make it longer and miserabler than the drive from Chicago to home, then that last day (driving from Chicago to home) will seem less sucky. Will suck less. Will exude less suckitude. Will be relatively suck free. . . . whatever.

YOU KNOW that can't nobody stop the PA Train. . . .



Thursday, August 02, 2007

Is this irony?

There is a Flash animated advertisement for Honda motorcycles that you can see


. . . though you may have to refresh a few times to get the ad to show. It starts showing a bleak, dreary & oppressive office environment, then it says "roll over to FREE YOURSELF". When you roll your pointer over the ad, the office image cracks like glass (a relatively cheezy effect) and turns into an open landscape, a road into the horizon, and a big red Honda cruiser motorcycle.

The bleak, dreary & oppressive office environment? It's a photo of the Honda headquarters.



Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.


Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.



Max is smart and handsome, with a big heart. He is not only growing like a weed, but he has the attention span and concentration abilities of a weed. Despite my best efforts, AK keeps feeding him and he keeps growing. Our plan is to keep him so busy with school, sports & the arts that he won't notice he's a teenager and is supposed to hate us. T minus 2.5 years to teen launch, so far so good.



 Ben and Milo are phenomenal little creatures who remind us minute-by-minute not only how little control we have in this world, but why we should cease our controlling efforts and just laugh at all of God's jokes. Lately, Milo likes to dance and is good on the piano. Ben likes to mimic Max and enjoys manipulating adults and anyone else who has no idea how quietly brilliant he is. Both of them would love your full and complete attention. Really, stop reading silly blogs and join the fan club now. Ok? Ok.








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