Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not my first time... quite.

"Are we too late?" I asked the attendant at the gate to the South Rim.

"Oh, no. Though you're probably my last paying customer," said the gate attendant in olive green, with a gold arrowhead on the shirt. "Staying overnight?" she asked, looking at the assorted gear in the back of our '89 Ford Ranger.

"Nope. Just passing through. We couldn't pass the Grand Canyon without having seen it," I responded.

"Well, you better hurry to the rim," she chuckled, giving me my change. "The sun is setting, and you don't want to miss that."

Indeed I didn't. My wife and I had been in transit from Eugene, Oregon to my house in north Texas, where we were going to marry in two weeks. This driving trip had turned into a de facto honeymoon for us. When we saw the turn-off to the Park entrance from I-40 in Williams, we stopped, unhitched our little U-Haul trailer behind a convenience store, and hauled butt north for an hour to go see it, all the time wondering if we were going to be too late, and if this wasn't a fool's errand.

My fiancee and I were a little snippy with each other, not the least because we had argued about leaving that trailer with most of her worldly possessions in it back at the turn-off. I had reasoned that it was a huge drag on the 10 year-old little four-banger, and we might save some gas and wear and tear for our side-trip. She felt that it was an unnecessary risk. When I found that the the tongue of the little van trailer, which we had loaded after putting it on the truck, was too heavy to lift, it only created more stress when I had to get out the jack to raise it off the trailer ball hitch. I am nothing if not stubborn.

The time it had taken to get the trailer tongue off the hitch had eaten up whatever savings we were going to make up in speed, so of course I had the hammer down as we flew up Highway 64, obviously consuming excess fuel, and risking a speeding ticket to boot.

So, while I chatted with the park gate attendant, my beloved passenger was silent. Go. Let's just go, was the mental message that she was sending me. So we hurried up to the South Rim from the gate in silence, and not really the good kind.

We parked close to the look-out, where there were only a couple of vehicles. As we walked down the trail into a surprisingly brisk north wind, we gasped. The sun was very low in the southwestern sky, now, and we were in the late minutes of The Golden Hour. As we came to a stop at the edge of a chasm, the eye was slowly drawn down into the deep pools of shadow, to witness the passage of a the ever-changing Colorado River. But not for long did we stare at the river below, because the long shadows of the setting sun were moving, quickly. Literally, the movement of the rays of light across the structures of the canyon rim would snatch our attention. The contrasts in color were markedly gold against purple. The distant desert horizon was a purple that filled the shadows of the canyon.

One of us ran to fetch my bride's old Canon 35mm SLR camera, and we took a couple of rolls worth of pictures. We first took them just of the canyon, then, reasonably, we took pictures of each other before the backdrop of the Canyon. In our ensuing move, we lost those rolls of film, never to be developed. I would pay a pretty penny for them, now, you may be sure.

After our most proximal star disappeared from view, we marveled at the distant river, now the star attraction. The purples became deeper, and deeper still, as the stars began to come out in the thin, dry air. Twilight gives way to full night fast in the desert. We got in the truck to continue our journey. We were silent again, but for a different reason. Awed. In love. Whatever our previous stress, it was completely forgotten.

We had been in the park for a litle more than 45 minutes.

So it is that we return, 12 years later, to see that marvelous place again. We leave first thing on Saturday morning, and I'm a little excited. If we got that kind of pleasure out of less than an hour there, what will we experience in the better part of a week?

I'm trying not to over-sell it to the kids. Because really, it simply can't be as great as I'm remembering it.

Can it?

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Great American Road Trip.

Somehow, my wife and I managed to get our collective stuff together, and are taking a bit over a week off together to go to the Grand Canyon*. We're going to load up our two girls and go do a bit of camping, and a LOT of sight-seeing.

You are here requested to provide suggestions of Things To Do and Places To See, there and in the vicinity. Tips and advice are solicited!

We do plan, BTW, on touring the observatory and we might as well go to Meteor Crater.

We've not really done anything like this. If I have my way, my kids won't be able to bear spending another second in my proximity for a month after this! It's going to be great.

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*Thanks to my house sitters! Wouldn't be possible without you.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

A loud ringing in the ears.

It can happen to any of us, at any time, if you let your concentration slip.

If you drive a car long enough, chances are that you're going to be involved, somehow, in an incident where there is bent metal and scratched paint.

If you carry a gun long enough, it's very possible that you will have a lapse resulting in a circumstance that will arise, in which you hear a loud Bang, when you didn't mean to.

Without going into unnecessary detail, it's happened to me. No, not recently, but it has happened. My ears rang, and I suddenly felt a very cold sweat, as I rethought my actions and figured out what I had done to make this happen.

While I'm ashamed that I have had this happen committed this act of negligence, I can tell you that The Four Rules work. Although I had violated one (All Guns Are Always Loaded), I had not violated the other three. I had intended to point the gun in that direction, and had intended to pull the trigger. I had considered the target an object that it would not be a TRAGEDY to put a hole through.

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I was amongst a little gathering of friends recently, and was enjoying the company. We got to talking guns, and I asked my friend about his* handgun, and the trigger. He unholstered, unloaded it, and handed it to me. I looked it over, quick-checked the chamber, and aimed at a spot on the floor as I began to squeeze the trigger...

And I stopped.

What had I really seen when I "quick-checked" the chamber? Well, it was empty, of course. Hell, I had just seen my friend unload it. But hadn't I just seen a glint of bright metal where I should have seen black void?

I checked again, and was rewarded with the ejection of a quality hollowpoint round, which I had been about to discharge into the floor, amongst a group of friends. I gave it to my friend.

Now, I believe that I had it pointed in a safe direction. I believe that I wouldn't have hurt anyone, excepting their hearing. But I know that I would have had to have left that gathering, tail tucked, and might not have been able to look some of those people in the eye again, for a long time.

I thought a lot about this incident. I think of myself as a safety person. Well, so does a cabinetry-maker friend of mine who is missing some distal digits. He's obsessive about his methods of keeping the rest of them, and gives direct instruction in his shop. Well, I'm a firearms instructor, and this blog is my "shop," so I suppose I'd best give direct instruction. I have found that personal experience stories are instructive, which is why I told you about this one, today.

What do we learn?

1. Practice all of the Four Rules. If one slips, the others should keep a tragedy from occurring.

2. When you are handed a firearm, or pick one up, check its status, and see what you are looking at. Don't just go through the motions. Better yet, be redundant in your check: RACK the slide back, or push the ejector rod through the cylinder three times. You might not get an ejection, but you're not going to miss seeing it three times in a row.

3. Avoid fiddle-farting with guns among others, except with a designated backstop that you all face, and only handle them at the firing line.

This last one sounds harsh, I know.

There are harsher things to hear, though.


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* The name will be anonymous, and don't assume anything by the masculine pronoun; I flipped a coin before deciding which gender to portray my friend as.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Laundry

I've often said that a defining point in a couple's relationship* is the point where they agree to do laundry together. It's a mix of the mundane and the sweet. The couple is so enamored with each other that they will choose to accompany the other even during a stunningly boring chore that most despise.

There are of course division points within this Waterloo. One is: Laundry Together, Separate Loads. This is safest. It even makes sense: both have this task to do-- why not do it at the same time at the laundromat, and get it done all at once?

(This can pretty much only be accomplished at laundromats. Except for the expense and the hassle of loading up the car and unloading the car, I kind of miss laundromats. When I was a bachelor, I would wear every stitch I owned before finally loading up about five or six loads of laundry to the coin-operated laundromat, and getting it all done-- a month's worth at least-- in about two hours.)

But the Separate Loads method will inevitably evolve into Laundry Together, Shared Loads. Your laundry partner will have just a small number of whites, or delicates, and there you are with your own half-load, and it will make perfect sense to share a load, even if you never leave so much as toothbrush at your Significant Other's residence. Don't want to waste another buck. It's simple economics.

But that way leads to sorting laundry together, which involves sorting dirty laundry together. Friends, I've long advocated not living together until married ("if you're going to act like you're married, get married."), partly because of the issue of sorting dirty laundry. It's an intimacy that some people aren't ready to face, the first time they have to reach for the Spray 'N' Wash to get out a skid mark from their belov├ęd's drawers. A marriage contract can provide the necessary ballast.
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So, back in October, 1991, I met this young lady, and we started going out. We spent a lot of time together, and by spring of '92, we were in that place in the relationship where we did laundry together.

One night, we were at the big coin laundry across the street from the university. My girlfriend and I had about 4 loads, and we got them all fired up. We decided to walk over to the grocery store and get some items for that night's supper while they washed. When we got back, we found that our washers were empty. As I looked around, I was approached by the laundry attendant. He was very direct, and slow. I put his IQ in either the Very Low Normal range, or the High Functioning Retarded range.

"You had not come back when your washers ended, so I took your laundry out," he said.

"Okayyy...?" I responded hesitantly. His shirt was buttoned to the top button and was tucked in carefully. His head was crew-cut with a zero-guard all the way around his head. His tone was initially a little bit accusatory, as if I had left a baby unattended. But he had done something nice for us.

"I put it in those dryers. Now you have to pay for that, and there is a bundling fee," he explained. "You can pick it up in an hour. I will have it ready." He wouldn't shift his gaze from my eyes. Most people don't look directly into your eyes like that.

"Okay... what, um, what's the price for this?" I asked. It seemed kind of presumptuous of him to have taken our laundry out and started up his "service" so quickly, as we had only just missed being back in time. The laundry was certainly not full, and there were machines idle. But something about his manner made us feel like he would snap if argued about. The laundry was kept neat, and he seemed to feel that everything was Just So.

"It is by the pound. I can not tell you how much it is until it is dried and weighed. There are the prices up there," he said, pointing behind him to a board with a schedule of prices for laundry done and folded, by the pound. It got a little more economical for each progressive weight by 5 lbs. Even as he pointed, he kept staring at my eyes. It was kind of creepy.

My girlfriend and I decided to just go to the video rental store next door to pick out a movie while we waited. We surely couldn't afford to eat out, now. (We were both so very poor.)

When we returned, my new simple friend was hard at work bundling laundry. We sat on some molded plastic chairs in a corner, and watched the inane show on the television hanging from the ceiling. Besides my girlfriend, me, and Our New Special Friend, there were only some immigrant ladies and their small children, who ran around unsupervised.

As I paid the guy to get our laundry out of laundry jail, one of the ladies that we had sat with began demanding of her children, in increasingly more frantic tones, "Felipe? Donde es Felipe? Donde es su hermano? Mi bambino!" (Where's Philip? Where is your brother? My baby!)

Everyone began looking around for the baby. I had earlier seen a very little baby sleeping in a car seat/carrier earlier, and was thinking of that kid. He had been mostly wrapped up in blankets.

At just this time, one of the laundry loads got off-center, and began to slam the drum against the housing. Thud. Thud. Thud.

My girlfriend and I looked at each other with wide eyes as we heard "Mi bambino! Donde es mi bambino?!?" and boom-boom-boom, as our New Special Friend stepped into my consciousness and said, "Sir, that will be nine dollars and forty nine cents."

"Boom! Boom! Boom!" went the off-centered washer. Someone must have put in a heavy blanket, or a quilt, or...

"Felipe!"

"Sir, I am going to have to ask you for correct change." I thought about that pile of blankets, with the baby in it.

Our jaws had gone a little slack before they finally found Felipe playing out in the parking lot. Turned out he was about three.

I married that girl on the last day of February, 1998. And even now, my wife of 12 years (as of Sunday) and I can still make each other laugh by exclaiming, "'Felipe!' Boom! Boom! Boom!"

See what doing laundry together can get you into?

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* I almost said "relationship between a man and a woman," but I suppose homosexual relationships have this, too. But then, I'm not so sure. There are vast gaps in my knowledge.

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After a decade of multiple two-minute dead time breaks,

...what do you do with your work partner?

Apparently, if you're a Chicago news anchor team, you invent a perfectly-timed dance that strangely reminds one of synchronized swimming.

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