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


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.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Owl Jr. is of a decided picky bent when it comes to eating. Plain carbs, yes. Chicken strips and fries, yes. Gravy on chicken? NO. He's the sort of boy who eats apples all day long and polishes it off with a long tall drink of juice. And like any First World parent I worry about him eating enough. Tale as old as the post-industrialization-enabled abundance of food driving sprawling urbanization and  a dangerous reliance on genetically invariant foodstocks.
It's funny because I was never a picky eater. I was more like Owlet. Undiscriminating, enthusiastic, and like Owlet, maybe just a touch... dense for my age (not that she knows). Owl Jr. is just a ball of yelling screaming, jittery energy. He doesn't go anywhere, he bounces, he jostles, he judders.
So, so, so, I gotta, like a grandmother from country that is resolutely trying to get into the EU, fatten him up. He does like pancakes, of all things. I stuff it with blueberries and chocolate chips and I cram him with them during the weekend. Discs of carb and sugar and more carb. Owlet, for whatever reason, actually doesn't really like pancakes, so she gets eggs and sausage.
It's usually only Sunday that I do the breakfast. But every breakfast, my kids, looking up from Netflix, ask me what I'm making for breakfast. Adult life stretches out in routine, time crunches together and before you know it you are grumbling about your pension and taking a baffling interest in fly-fishing. What I'm saying is I'm not entirely sure how long I've been doing this breakfast, but we've gone through at least two of those Costco "Oh Look Now You Have To Feed The Street Dance Party After the Lowerr Middle Class Youth Sports Team Beats The Rich Kids Across The Lake"-sized pancake satchels. Awhile, in any case. What are they expecting me to say? Beef tartar with honey lemon confit?
People, generally hate change, kids doubly so. I can only asume they want assurances that their breakfast as per usual will not be altered. Or maybe they simply forget after five or six days. The flurry of pans and smoke and dicing and whatnot is, I've found, no concern of theirs. Results. And to be honest there have been a few dinners I've tried, hounded by some mysterious guilt to get my kids to try new things, that have been far too adventurous, ending with Mrs. Owl and I really enjoying it, our kids having a bite, then having some innocuous leftovers instead.
I guess its less of a question as an interrogation, a line drawn in the sand that they remember, and will no longer tolerate a repeat of the Sundried Tomato Incident. Plain carbs. Plain meat. Plain veg. Please and thank you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Oil Change

My parents came from hot countries, where the smell of uncatalytic-converted exhaust under the oppression of humidity make nostalgia. Countries where far too many people usually carrying far too many infants lash themselves to vehicles that could nominally be called motorcycles. If a 250cc Honda breaking every Federal Vehicle Safety Standard (and some yet to be written) while careening between two larger buses (with not so much blind spots as blind panoramas) could be called  a motorcycle.

Car maintenance was not a well-covered subject.

I can still remember my dad showing me that when the oil was low, you just add another quart. It's quite alright, feel free to recoil visibly from the screen.

It wasn't until I had my own car that I learned about things like timing belts and oil changes and all sorts of filters. So now, of course, I get regular oil changes.

There are things that cause aggravation, however. Sitting in the car, having the oil technician explain all sorts of things to you, positively cowing you with technical jargon you only ever hear about every 5000km. And it's always said in such a way as it's assumed you have any idea what fluid they are talking about. "Oh yes, the flambgerge diatcontatenator, of course, that needs to be flushed!". "Why wouldn't the triambulating kraanstenmeter be refiltered with a synthetic proformance lubricant?!".

And it was in a flee from this technical brow-beating that I endeavoured to learn to change my own damn oil.

It's not horribly complicated. You get the type of oil your car needs in sufficent quantities, you get the model of oil filter it needs. You get a car jack to hoist your many thousand pound amalgamation of steel and rubber hoses above your squishy, fairly clueless skull as you wriggle beneath it and try to find which nut, exactly, sets forth a gloopity schlupp of old, dirty oil. I may have devolved in Seussian terminology there and that's mainly fear induced. The filter and oil all make sense to me, marginally. The Hoist Really Heavy Thing Above your Head gave me pause.

It's reassuring, the heft and weight of the entire jack system, with the.... feet.. things... and the wheel stopping things. But something about my complete lack of most vehicular knowledge plus my confusion at society's misplaced trust that I'm certified or in any way trained to hoist an entire car above my head does get me somewhat squirrelly at times.

That whole process I'm constantly looking for the adult to be supervising the activity and find, most worrisome, that it's me.

Contrary to all common sense or laws of causality, I've changed my oil twice so far without any major incident. But, most importantly for me, without anyone asking "If I really think I should let the ammonium dioxicraft stay in the defibrillated counter-position past 3000km".

Whidbey Island Part 2

As a challenge, for the questionable glory, just to say I Did That on my death bed, and, most importantly, to have a free pass on having to do cleanup or *shudder* outdoor activities (maybe even sports!), I offered to do all the cooking. For 17 people. For two days. 

To make it somewhat manageable I squished breakfast and lunch into a meal I  like to call Very Late Breakfast. And dinners were all dishes I'd done before, just on a much grander scale. With so many burners and ovens going it's a game of efficiency, the  "What can I have going at the same time as the other thing while at the same time being something that I don't have to worry about burning oh god I forgot that other thing now everything is late by three hours" game.  I ended up like Rainman, counting out numbers to myself and staring at the clock. Sauteeing one thing while counting down the time for something else to finish in that pan over there. It was, for a certain slightly not quite right frame of mind, actually pretty fun.

On Saturday there was bacon, sausage, home fried herb potatoes,  fruit, eggs over easy, crepes with apple pie topping. Then roast chicken with roasted root veggies (onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes) and gravy for dinner. Sunday was eggs benedict, bacon, sausage, fruit, toast for brunch. For dinner a
rather involved stew that featured an entire bottle of wine and garlic bread. None of those items by themselves were horribly complicated, no puff pastries or souffles and the like, but the sheer quantity made the cooking experience... lively?

Our 21st century kids were, I think, exactly the way I would be if I had interactive touch screens chock full of all sorts  of games JUUUST within reach. Conniving, planning, and sometimes just plain whiny, trying to get 'screen time' . Time when playing games was allowed, in other words.  We, being 21st century parents were equally chockful of guilt with allowing them too much screen time. But there would alway s be one parent, at some time or another, who's guard would be down, too tired or too cranky or whatever, and the kids would pounce and wheedle away an hour or 30 minutes of uninterrupted Minecraft or Angry Whatever. 

And other times the kids, in their gaggly, wild way, would invent borderline maiming activities that were probably better for them in the long run than any number of touch screen devices. Games like Roll Down the Stairs and Laugh For No Apparent Reason. Or the never old Scream and Run and Make Far Too Much Noise game.

There was also campfires and unevenly enthusiastic sing-alongs. By the end we hadn't all melted down into a horrible mess of strained relationships and awkward silences. Which is a win, I think.