Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 5 : Ecola Park


Our last day there we went to Ecola State park, which while also sounding vaguely like a non-lethal intestinal bug was apparently the place we went last time to take our family photo. It's high up over the beach and quite pretty. Wheeling gulls and ocean-wind swept vistas and the like.

There's a rather involved drive where you follow a twisted road. I'm sure it was laid down before any sort of laws were passed about turning radius, minimum shoulder width, and all things that make the average North American road not make you want to grip your steering wheel white-knuckled. At all times, anyways.

I was constantly reminded of professional drivers: truck drivers, delivery drivers, and any and all who have to operate multi-ton vehicles in anything more tricky than the Bonneville Salt Flats --who have a sixth sense where their vehicle is, bringing their tire within an eighth of an inch to the curb or building or small child running for her red ball -- apparently without worrying and sweating and accidentally hitting the horn twice and the high beams once in the process.

This was the sort of road made when men like THAT made roads.

You can imagine them, hacking away at the Pacific Northwest forests, making what they perceive to be a perfectly reasonable path and that would not tax at all the abilities of the average office worker whose trickiest spatial reasoning he has to make is how ergonomic, exactly, IS he sitting.  Optimistic, perhaps a little too generous with those who don't have an easy swagger, and skin made from calluses and rugged individualism.

The pictures were taken, with more squint than was desired, as these things tend to go. The camera balanced inexpertly on a camera bag, inches from the sort of fine sand you should ABSOLUTELY keep from your camera at all costs.

It turned out. It's funny how pictures like that tend to turn out, even when they turn out poorly (well, back in the days of no-preview film), it's poorly in a nostalgic way. The way your cousin is blinking and how dad's hair is something medusa would feel a little self conscious about, these become features and not defects. Mental watermarks on a day that only seem to get better in hindsight.

After that bit we went back tot he cottage for one last day just hanging out and, for whatever reason, not going to the beach. The kids can get in a rhythm where they actually enjoy playing with each other, and it's kind of the magic you want to keep going, not interrupting to go do this or that activity. It also perfectly suits my loosely realized vision of Hands Off And Lazy Parenting. Also known as 80's Parenting.

The cottage is tiny, even smaller than our townhouse, but because it has a somewhat odd layout and there are bunkbeds this makes for a WONDERLAND of fun, apparently.Sure it's a small boring bedroom, but it was a small boring bedroom with a bunkbed with a window that looks out into the family room, how CRAZY is that? Very, apparently.

So we let them have their fun, running around slightly different layout with odd choices for rooms made by budget rather than aesthetic. I'm sure it'll help them develop that spatial reasoning that will only atrophy in time; a skill they'll wish they had when, 20 years from now, they are driving white knuckled through some federal parks' idea of a reasonable road for drivers in 1932.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 4 : Rides

On the fourth day we went to the tourist city, Seaside. Where all the distractions that appear cheap and absurd in your adult's eyes will hopefully be magical to the kids. The tourist boardwalk . Replete with what I assume to be reconditioned rides from carnivals that have long since folded, merry-go-round, saltwater taffy shops, t-shirts shops that show their political bent a little too readily, an arcade, of all things.

Oh, and the standard small train ride that raptures every boy and some girls below a certain age. An age that, I think  Owl Jr has sadly passed. Actually, we steered him well clear of it because we only have so much energy to wait in so many lineups. It was all the way across the street, for god's sake, I used up all my overachieving in high-school.

There were bumper cars though. A ride I always preferred in my youth, favouring a ride in which I had some say in the matter notwithstanding the 22 year old 11th grader who seemed expert in all things mildly violent (a detail that was infuriating to kid-me, and not tragically sad to adult-me). Owl Jr was of the same opinion.

Owlet was fine with me driving, and screaming and hollering as we slammed into and were slammed by various other cars. Owl Jr actually drove, with startling malevolence, accuracy, and bloodlust. Where do children learn how to drive? What is this instinct to bash and crash coming from? It was the first, and probably not the last time one of my children drove me somewhere. The abuse of prescription painkillers in the elderly is no longer a mystery to me.

In the other bumper cars were the other dads and the alternately timid and wild teens.  One quickly finds who is perfectly acceptable targets (most), and who aren't (the kid who's just there trying to obey the rules of the road, for some reason).

Then the tilt-a-whirl. This was what Owlet seemed to enjoy the most. This thing went fast, fast as in "Am I in a reboot of The Right Stuff and/or hurtling towards dangerous re-entry and humming "Battle Hymn of the Republic"" fast. Fast as in I start to wonder at what speeds does the brain develop instantly fatal aneurysms. Fast as in the very vivid thought about how Mrs. Owl would make a striking widow. Fast as in my entire faith (never that much) in the FDA or whatever regulatory body that regulates the speed and safety of worn-down carnival rides housed in long-forgotten tourists traps in a desperately eager beach-town crumbled dust.

Of course I had to maintain what little cool I possessed. It's a well known fact that dads must, generally, Maintain Their Cool. Regardless of me clawing over my children to make sure they didn't get flung into the ether. Small whimpers of terror must be overridden by what I think are robust, devil-may-care laughter. Like from a war-bassoon, or, something equally manly and not at all made up.

They put this bar.. thing, which I think is supposed to simulate some sort of control? But I couldn't ascertain -- in the blinding minutes on what I'll generously call a ride and not "A Machine That Makes You Seriously Consider Life Insurance" -- how exactly it worked. Illusion of control, is what I'm guessing, like traffic signs or gun safeties or elections.

Later we made a trip to the toystore. 'Mass-produced junk mostly made for nostalgia and largely forgotten 15 seconds after purchase store' being too wordy, if accurate. Many items in the store were obviously put there to hook the nostalgia in the parents. Silly Putty, Slinkies, Simon Says. You can just feel the embittered pleas as Gen-X parents try and get their kids play with an archaic toy (only really fun in the 80's because of the inexplicable cartoon tie-ins). And the trains, and puzzles, and the sorts of toys you would've swore were banned in the 70's because of eyes being poked out or lead based paint or a bit of both but some factory in the hinterlands of China never got the memo and is still pumping out GoBot knock-offs with military grade spring-loaded missile-launchers.

Owlet took a sizable portion of a geologic epoch to decide, having been given a budget, and what seems like one quintillion combination and possibilities. Owl Jr lasered in on Lego Star Wars. Not the last time I've been grateful for otherwise heinous media empire cross-overs.

We finished it off with ice-cream, because, you have to finish off a tour of the tourist trap town with some ice cream (ardently-assured to be Real with just sugar/milk/cream and NO ADDITIVES like you have in the city what with your Sushi and hybrid cars).

It's a day I hope my kids will remember with nostalgic fondness and not a wry cynicism. Wonder, exhilaration, joy. And if they have even a smudge of that in their memory, then it was well worth it; Fond memories that will stay with them through whatever they decide to become, anytime anyone mentions the beach or Seaside.

At least until the FDA shuts it down.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 3 : Less Windy

Pacific Northwest Beaches aren't usually the type where all the men are in euro-speedos and all the women in two-pieces that fit with varying degrees of accuracy. It's more like a warmer version of what I think everyone thinks of New England. With better sand and more neutral accents.

We went to another beach at Ecola Park. Which was supposedly 'less windy'.  'Less windy' than the opening scenes to 1996 disaster movie "Twister", the last time Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton were remotely relevant, is not 'not windy'. Also, by meterogical fate, the wind WAS blowing directly onto the beach. Nobody was digging out their loved ones from suddenly appearing sand dunes, but nobody was peaceably perusing a newspaper, either.

Everyone mills about in Gore-Tex or capris and strolls up and down taking a sudden interest in tidal wild-life and various sub-species of gulls.

There are also surfers. Pacific North West Coast surfers, to be exact, in their Subarus and faux-hippie attire and rigourously distressed boards. I often wonder if these surfers get defensive when confronted with a Hawaiian surfer  or anywhere in which the size of waves can be measured in 'number of galleons that it can capsize'.

There are those who obviously insist on experiencing the beach as they imagine it, if we were 10 degrees lower in latitude. Shorts and frolicking in the sort of water they use to prep for cryogenics, I assume.

Invariably these off-seasonals are kids. My kids.

They spend some time making the sort of lumpy no-form sand castles that can only be made with perfectly dry sand, and then decide they want to play in the waves. Sensible parent that I am, I steer them to a calmer area, where the waves won't immediately claim them in a deceptive undertow. Owl Jr. becomes grumpy, because, of course he wants the life-threatening ones, populated entirely with wet-suit wearing Pac NW surfers.

And here, amongst water that makes my toes candidates for hypothermia-relatd amputation from an enthusiastic 1800's naval surgeon, they are most happy. Running to and from the waves. Surfers doing their surfer thing. Me, squinting, the wind and the sun being a bit much for my introvert ways. Mrs. Owl is far back where the dry sand is, being one of those regular people who seem to enjoy sunshine and just, 'relaxing'.

(It's impossible to 'relax' while being assaulted by a bracing wind and a sun that insists it's the middle of summer, is my general take on things. On a couch with the gentle impulse engines of the NCC-1701-D, maybe. )

But boy, do the kids scream alot. It takes a practiced ear and a tense-nonchalance to determine if this is 'screaming because we're having so much fun' or 'screaming because a severed head has just washed ashore'. Context and probability help me out, usually. And this is their game, running to the waves. running away from the waves. Owlet, being a girl who could get dirty taking a bath, would switch up the running and screaming and make extremely muddy lumps of sand and build a sad moat around them, and become pseudo-distraught when the waves washed over it. The things that kids find fun.


And the wind, not noticeably less, didn't seem to bother them at all.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 2 : Arrival

We got a place at Cannon Beach, not Seaside, where we stayed previously. It was by lack of planning, but we ended up liking Cannon Beach more. There is a spurious commercialism, a worn-out carnie atmosphere with Seaside. It has a generally charming crassness but it can start to show through over time, only to be expected of a town that manufactures delight one season every year.

The tired local kids who must wither at the sight of more and more tourists invading their town. Rebelling against everything that kids rebel against every year, but set up against the blare of souvenir shops and saltwater taffy makes it particularly dismal.

The young people, with their loud music and cat calls and impossible displays of athleticism on the beaches, unsustainable choice of cars,  and general aura of invincibility that grates anyone who isn't them. I'm not sure at what point people are emulating what they see on spring-break themed movies and TV, and at what point it's the other way around. It's a McDonald's of sameness, though, from Fort Lauderdale to Venice Beach to here, it's all pretty much the same, the finally pent up and sudden release of all those hormones upon the unsuspecting public, and multiplied by the expectations to do so.

Cannon beach, on the other hand,  is the home to the semi-famous Haystack Rock. It's quieter and settled but you suspect there is no way any town can support that many art galleries. The vast majority of the businesses must be subsidized by the owners, who I imagine to be far too well-off older women who have left their high-powered jobs to get back to roots which involves 'getting back to roots' with other just-near-retirement women and opening an art galleries.

There are restaurants, the sort that usually don't bother showing prices on their menus, or have everything neatly lumped into whole dollar amounts. Complete with horribly over-informed foodies and the forced casual free-ness of men stifling under t-shirts when they clearly would be more comfortable with at least a collar, ideally with cufflinks and season appropriate blazer.

To be clear, both are lovely places, for the right crowd, my family isn't exaactly the right crowd for either.

The house we rented was just right. Overpainted, far too many American flags, a sense of whimsy with regards to what, exactly, is a level floor. Old furniture that didn't so much as not belong together as they were all from exactly 35 years ago, but from as opposite styles as could be imagined. Somewhere there is a Salvation Army whose furniture section has been reduced to a single ottoman.


We decided, after arriving, to just take a look at the beach.

Just stroll, maybe.

Don't bother putting Owlet and Owl Jr. in swimming clothes, it's too cold and too windy and it's just a quick look. We told the kids we'd just look. Owlet asked if maybe she could put her toe in the water. Fine, fine, what could go wrong. Just the toe. 30 seconds later and our attention elsewhere, both the kids are drenched, covered with the wet sand, laughing, and we are glad to be within walking distance of a shower and dry clothes. Owlet has, and we know this, an amazing ability to take whatever small allowances for a given activity, and, particularly if there is dirt involved, increase it until she looks like she's advertising for a new Ultra Cleen Tide brand. The before picture.


Oregon Coast - Part 1 : The Drive

I'm not sure if going a second time makes a trip to a certain area a 'tradition' yet or not. But going to the Oregon coast, seems, in my  memory, something that my parents did with us more than once, so it's close enough to tradition for me to call it one.

Second generation immigrants can't be picky about such things.

In any case we went to the Oregon Coast again, this time to Cannon Beach, isntead of Seaside. Not because one is more tasteful and less bustly than the other and we prefer our beach visits contemplative if not outright Thoreauesque but because we planned late and that's where Mrs. Owl was able to find a beach house. A house near the beach. We are not of the tax bracket where beach house is both literal and figurative.

I get lulled into a a sense of ease when Mrs. Owl tells me it's a 6 hour drive. Doesn't seem so horrible. But it's 6 hours as the crow drives. If the crow didn't have kids and bathroom breaks and the border and eating and nausea and lack of GPS. And, you know, if crows were allowed to drive cars and retrofitted their cars to handle beaks and feathers and if they had the cognitive ability-- you get the idea. The TRIP is actually about 8 and a bit. 

8 hours seems to cross the line for me from 'that seems reasonable' to 'how much are airline tickets, really?'. It's also the length of time I remember my dad driving when we went on road trips. An interminable span that starts in the dewy moment of naivete and stretches to INFINITY.  It's an ADULT amount to drive, and I'd always wonder how the hell my dad did it. Something gets stronger or some mayfly need for novelty dies out when you get older, I assume, that makes the drive doable. I'm still surprised when I do it.

And being this adult-like person, I tend to have a very low tolerance for whining, usually from Owlet, who has a prediliction to car-sickness. It's absurd, my impatience, stemmed both from my current day form of Being Who Can Withstand Boredom and Guy Who Had To Do Drives Like This As A Kid Without A Tablet Showing Movies. Mrs. Owl has to intervene, and apply some patience and listening. It's a small armageddon when both of us have run out of patience. Events that always lead to massive guilt and apologies.

Oohhh roadtrips.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Swimming

It's a little known fact, well, known only to parents, that parenthood consists of facing and planning for obscene horrors. Yes, there is all the schmaltzy stuff that gets posted on your Facebook wall or gets chain-mailed from your mother or aunt or whatever (eventually all coming from a devout but curiously bigoted church lady in Nebraska) , but there is that other thing.

Especially true for dads, I'm guessing. Evolutionarily it's dad's job to keep everyone from being consumed completely by a random sabre toothed tigers (I want to say T-Rexes of Velociraptors but for some reason feel compelled to adhere to scientific accuracy when spouting out a hyperbole (and weaker, but still strong, is the revulsion of using sabre toothed tigers, which I'm sure I've used before)). Not that this can't be mom's job, but she was likely much busier rearing the children and feeding them and whatnot.

Where was I?

Oh yes, horrors.

One of these horrors is swimming, in a  pool. My kids have juust got past the stage of requiring life-jackets. But before that there was a very strict protocol for getting that jacket on before they even open the gate to the complex's outdoor pool. Visions of Owl Jr. slipping headfirst into the deep-end and drowning before I can say "Did you remember to put on the jacket tight?" are not uncommon.

I almost never have to go to the pool with them, usually because there's cooking that needs to get done and Mrs. Owl doesn't break out in hives when confronted by the one-two punch of sunny weather and small talk that will extinguish my will to live quicker than some time in a SE Asian tiger cage.

The kids though, love it. Even when there isn't anything to play with or any other kids there. They just kinda noodle around. I've perhaps lost that joie de vivre that helps me appreciate fully submerging myself in chlorinated water while my parents look on. How was that ever fun? Of course, I don't take a huge joy in playing with action figures or taking the latest Mattel Product Placement Animated show seriously either. A net loss, I'd say.

It's a complex swimming pool. So you get a wide range. Young families, surly teenagers, far-too-tanned retirees, young people of a certain age that you are sure they should be living downtown or somewhere else where 11pm isn't thought of as rather late.   And there is always a weird policing where you have to balance rowdiness and age and general endangerment to everyone involved. Because, horrors, drowning, desperate CPR on the side of the pool, etc.

There are cannon-ballers and little babies swimming with their consciously non-chalant parents. Your primary school kids who splash even when they don't mean to splash and find it an act of superhuman willpower NOT to run and their parents who are just too damn tired to keep reminding them.

There are sometimes even parents in the pool, with no babies to bring in with them, those not self-conscious and who have that sort of devil-may-care attitude about how they look nearly naked (exact opposite of me). That's something I've always envied, the complete disregard (usually men of a certain age) have about their well, let's face it, office job and hyper-abundance of calories and general sedentary lifestyle cobbled body that are, well, rounded.

Maybe it's something about  being a former hefty kid, now merely love-handle gifted, that finds the prospect of taking off my shirt outside of a bathroom to be insurmountably terrifying. Maybe all the guys who don't mind brandishing their trophy to 20 years of cubicle living were jocks in their youth. Forged an iron self-esteem that will not bend to the realities of donuts and gravity.

The kids have become nut-brown from all their time in the pool. They've expressed their dislike for me being a different shade. Enough for me to look decidedly unrelated. I might be forced to face the true  horror of extended sunshine exposure, if only to maintain their unfettered joie de vivre.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Why does this dog like walking around with limes so much?

  • It was the last thing his mother gave him before she was shot dead in broad daylight for standing up to El Jefe AND city hall.
  • It reminds him of the infinite fragility of planet Earth, with its whorls and eddies of life and  the gusts of inequities visited upon the weak and the strong; the shuddering tidal wave of death that evens everything in the end. Also IT TASTES FUNNY.
  • He was the runner-up to represent 7UP for their Hong Kong sub regional ad campaign 3 years in a row and just cant. Let it. Go.
  • It reminds him of the last clown to ever tease him.
  • He' s a recovering alcoholic whose poison of choice was tequila.
  • He was the last surviving member of an all-dog around the world sailing expedition, all of who, except for him, died of scurvy.
  • He's part of a Labour Union Iniative for Mtn Dogs and is sitting in solidarity for oppressed and exploited citrus workers of Southern California.
  • He has canine onset diabetes and this is the closest he'll ever get to nuzzling all his body dysmorphic issues into a club sized tub of Lime Skittles.
  • He was raised in an abandoned  furniture warehouse, making his living paw-raising rare desert chinchillas, and, after all his wandering, that was the only time he was truly happy. Himself, the citrus furniture polish in the air, the mewling of chinchilla pups in his ears, oh, and the high keening death throes of the latest rooster to die in his on-the-side cock-fighting ring.
  • Sniffing it is the only way  he can get the overwhelming taste of human blood out of his mouth.
  • It's gotta hatch sooner or later.