Category Archives: My Life

Trivia Night, Taco, And The Power Of 8

Friday night was the 16th annual Trivia Night to benefit the Center for Autism Education. We have been participating in this event for at least a dozen years, probably a couple more.

The greatest challenge of Trivia Night is not answering the questions, it’s putting the team(s) together. Each team sits around a long table, 4 chairs per side. That means you can have a maximum of 8 people per team. You can have fewer, but you’re still going to pay the same amount for the table so you might as well max it out if you can.

The tables are crammed into the Elks Lodge and if you have 8 people it’s going to be a tight fit, especially when you factor in winter coats, purses and snacks. You wouldn’t want 9 people even if you could have them.

27990576_10155916164430856_562729201_o (2)In the beginning it was just me and my Journal peeps. (Laurie goes to volunteer and occasionally sneak us answers. This year she was in charge of selling tickets for the booze basket. She didn’t sneak us any booze. That’s why they trust her.)

 

 

Over time we grew out of our table because someone would have to drop out one year so we’d bring in someone new but then the original person would want back in the next year and we couldn’t just punt the new person and we’ve never had the same lineup 2 years in a row, so, you know…expansion.

And then Laurie’s friends decided they wanted to participate so, you know, expansion. And then I wound up at the ARC and people there wanted to participate so, you know, expansion. We have it pretty much down to 2 tables a year, with lots of mixing and matching of people. Fortunately we all get along.

Usually I take charge of putting the teams together but last year Laurie jumped the gun on me, which was fine by me — let her deal with it. And all worked out fine, except she forgot to invite my ARC pals, and I heard about it later. So this year I made it a point to invite all the usual suspects and we quickly had our 16 participants.

Then Trent decided we needed 1 more.

“I’m bringing a friend. Is that OK?”

At first I thought she was joking. We went through this same conversation some years back and I had to politely explain to her how math works. As she continued to press the issue, I realized that she was serious.

Since we usually have at least one person bail before showtime, I just let it be. Sure enough, a week before the event Mary Beth had to bow out. And then Trent had to excuse herself as well. And then Yellow took a pass — for reasons that were TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. “I had to work hard today and I’m tired” is not a valid excuse for leaving your teammates in a lurch.

Meanwhile, I started thinking maybe I should invite my new Etrailer buddies. After all, as long as there are enough of them for their own table, it should all work out. I invited Leah, who didn’t know what a trivia night was, then Amy, who used the excuse that she would be having a baby about that same time, then Victoria, who said she would be celebrating Christmas that night. Some people will do anything to get out of trivia.

I had given up on the idea when I was talking to my editor, the other Leah, who expressed interest in putting a team together. Does the CAE appreciate all that I do for them? I think not, it’s all about Laurie and how she volunteers all the time.

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Team Etrailer

Now I had to tell my current teammates that, in addition to competing with a bunch of strangers for trivia glory, we would be competing with Team Etrailer.

“Are they going to beat us?” says Erica.

“I doubt it. Unless there is a category on trailer hitches and automotive supplies we should be good. Besides, this is their first time — we’ve got a dozen years professional experience over these guys.”

Game night finally arrives and plays out like usual. It was the same guy running the show as always and creating the same issues: too many horse races, too many needless videos, too much time wasting in general…the thing just goes on too long. Is anyone at the CAE reading this? I point this out Every Year. I couldn’t even get everyone in the team photo because they were all in such a hurry to leave when it was over that I missed some people.

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27654966_10102482333545794_2611231809675373539_n (2)Still, it is a fun time. My team started out strong but then we fell a few points behind and once that happens you can never dig yourself out. I blame Yellow and her slothfulness. She probably knew who Taco was.

Stevie’s team maintained a solid lead for most of the show but stumbled in the final rounds. I think it was Sports that did them in. And Taco.

So who came out on top in our group? You guessed it. Team Etrailer, in their first year of competition, finished in third place.

Once I let my jealousy subside, I pretended to be happy for them.

(In case you’re curious, Taco is the one-hit wonder who recorded a synth-pop remake of Irving Berlin’s classic tune “Puttin’ on the Ritz” back in 1982. You didn’t know that? Neither did anyone else.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The MOD

You may recall that last year the Executive Committee Holiday Dinner took place at MOD Pizza. We chose the location for 3 reasons:

  1. Everbody loves pizza.
  2. It was fairly close to home.
  3. I thought the place was named after me (my role in the EC is Mean Old Dictator) and I would get free pizza. It didn’t work out that way.

This year we decided to return to MOD Pizza for the following 3 reasons:

  1. Everybody still loves pizza.
  2. It’s still fairly close to home.
  3. Yellow was too lazy to come up with an alternative.

And so it was that Thursday night I drove the fairly short distance to MOD Pizza. I arrived to find Stevie and Gabe had already staked out the big table. Good for them. The place was more crowded that I remember from last year. Erica and her family had staked out a booth nearby because the big table was too big for her small children.

We were soon joined by Melfy, Fagan, Trent and Yellow. Cindy was, well, who knows where Cindy was? Rachie was sick. Prewitt had to work. Pokin lives in Springfield, so he might as well live on the moon. And Spaulding might as well live on the moon for all she cares about the EC. So overall, not a bad turnout.

I devoured my buffalo chicken pizza while chatting with Stevie and Melfy. I then left the big table to visit with Trent, Erica, Pete and the kids. Had a nice long visit then decided I should check in with Yellow and Fagan back at the big table.

“What’s going on?” I says

“We’re all freaked out,” Yellow says

“Why?”

“Don’t turn around now, but right behind you there is a guy sitting by himself and staring strangely at people.”

“OK…”

“And he has a gun.”

“Well, this is Missouri. He’s probably not the only person here with a gun. Heck, Pete probably has a gun. How do you know he has a gun?”

“He’s not concealing  it. You can see it. Is it even legal to carry unconcealed guns?”

“So it would be OK if the creepy, staring guy had a gun but you just didn’t know it? That does it, I’m leaving.”

“We are too.” And everybody at the big table stands up and starts putting on their coats.

“Whoa, there! I was joking.”

“I’m not. I have a very bad gut feeling about this,” says Stevie.

Everyone else at the big table also had a bad gut feeling. I thought maybe it was the pizza, but then I felt fine. I mean, I’m the biggest coward alive but I’m not really afraid of being shot to death at MOD Pizza.

So now I’ve got to go to the booth and tell Erica and the others that we’re leaving. And why.

“There’s a strange loner in the corner with a gun,” I says.

“Well, this is St. Charles,” Erica says.

“That’s what I said — only I said Missouri. But your point is even better.”

Erica didn’t seem too concerned, despite having the most to lose if it all went down, what with her husband and two offspring in tow. By this time the others had already left the building but Erica still had to bundle up and corral two kids and all their stuff. I had to decide whether to go out to the safety of the bitter cold and wait with the others or take my chances and risk my life staying in the warm restaurant with mysterious loner with gun.

As I waited for Erica’s clan to get their stuff together, the man in question walks past us with his tray. Someone says “Hi,” he smiles and says “Hi” back. He dumps his trash and puts his plate away. He walks out the door, into his truck, and drives away.

Why the f— are we leaving?

Still, once you’ve bundled up the kids and their crap it’s too late to back out, so we went outside to join the rest of the gang. Took the annual group photo, then debated what to do next. Erica and family left for home, as did Melfy. After some talk, we decided it was too cold to debate outside so we headed back to MOD. Turns out, as soon as we had walked out the door, they closed the place up. Apparently my friends were not the only ones afraid of mystery loner with gun.

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We eventually settled on regrouping at Trailhead Brewery. We each had a beer and talked about TV shows, the RFFC and the dangers of living in New Town. I’m guessing we won’t be going back to MOD Pizza next year, which is OK by me because it doesn’t look like they sell T-Shirts. I really want a “Keep MOD Weird” T-Shirt. But I don’t want to have to work there to get one.

Happy New Year. Stay safe.

Away In A (smelly, cold) Manger

When it comes to church, I am a strict traditionalist. I want to sit in my pew, stand when appropriate, sing from a hymnal, put a dollar in the collection plate, listen to a sermon, take communion, go home, repeat next Sunday. I don’t want to wave palm fronds around, get my cues from a Powerpoint presentation, or bang a tambourine.

But my kind is on the verge of extinction, and I accept that. Grudgingly. I currently attend a church that is very into non-traditional worship. It’s a long story of how I ended up there but the bottom line is we really like the minister. So I put up with “Our God Is An Awesome God.”

So I wasn’t necessarily shocked when The Wife came to me and said,

“Tonight’s worship service is taking place in a barn.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s to bring us closer to the Baby Jesus.”

“Have you been in a barn? Because I’ve been in barns. They are dirty and smelly. They are hot in summer and cold in winter.”

“That’s the point.”

“I don’t need to be reminded that the Baby Jesus had it hard. I know the Baby Jesus had it hard. I’ve read the Bible story. I don’t need to reenact it.”

“Well, we can either go to the barn tonight, or go to Christmas Eve service tomorrow night. But if we go tomorrow night, it will cut into our time at Caroline’s dinner party.”

“Point me in the direction of that barn.”

In our family we do most of our Christmas celebrating on Christmas Eve. There would be a big dinner followed by present opening. For many years Laurie’s mother was in charge and then eventually it fell to Laurie. A couple of years ago, our niece Caroline decided she wanted to take over. Laurie gladly handed over the reins.

Caroline decided to forego the traditional turkey, ham and green bean casserole. The first year she threw a Mexican fiesta. last year it was Chinese, this year it’s Italian. Traditionalist I may be, but I am fine with this. I get my fill of turkey and stuffing over Thanksgiving. I’m good with tamales or pot stickers or veal parmigiana for Christmas Eve. Besides, we eat more traditional fare the next day.

So no, I wasn’t going to miss a minute of Caroline’s X-Mas Eve extravaganza. So yes, last night I drove all the way out to Pacific, Missouri, to sit in a barn and worship Jesus. It was cold in the barn. It smelled of horses in the barn. There were horses in the barn. Straw bales are not comfortable to sit on (although to be fair, neither are pews. But it’s easier to get up from a pew than from a bale of hay).

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Now at this point you’re expecting me to have my Grinch moment where my heart grows 3 sizes and I have a religious awakening and I tear up and tell you what a wonderful experience it was and how I was forever changed for the better.

But the Baby Jesus would not want me to lie.

Oh, it was fine. I’m glad I went. The sermon was good. I enjoyed watching the horses. I’m sure they were wondering what the heck was going on. I’m sure Andrew was wondering the same thing. But at least he had the foresight to wear a cap and gloves. I foolishly thought this was going to be a heated barn. It’s possible that the Holy Spirit flowed through me but I was too numb to notice.

But hey, The Wife enjoyed it and Andrew seemed to have a good time and any experience I can get a blog post out of is a good experience, right? Now, bring on the pasta and wine.

Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men. God Bless Us, Everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

RRandom Thoughts This Holiday Season

When did people stop sending Christmas cards? Most of what I’m getting now are postcards with family photos plastered on them. Have we really become so narcissistic? If I want to see pictures of your kids, I’ll log onto Facebook. The only baby I want to see on a Christmas card is the Baby Jesus.

xmastreeMy HULK Christmas tree does not have a Thor ornament. HINT. It is also missing a Wonder Woman ornament, but she does feature prominently on the Superfriends lunchbox ornament that Gena gave me. 

Top 3 Christmas movies:

  1. Batman Returns
  2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  3. Die Hard

The worst Christmas song of all times is not “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney. It is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. I actually become angry whenever I hear that song start playing.

Christmas tradition I miss: Nun Bowling with West Pod.

Favorite Christmas present this year (so far): A post-it note with the words “I appreciate you” written on it by Amy. It’s the little things.

We did not make it to Kansas City this year, but that’s OK because not all holiday traditions need to take place every year. 

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We did, however, make it to Bass Pro Shops over Thanksgiving. They have alligators and a free merry-go-round, which they don’t have at the Plaza. We didn’t buy anything. We (or rather, she) would’ve bought a lot of stuff at the Plaza.

If shopping malls are dying because of online purchasing, why can’t I find a parking spot at the Galleria?

Dear whoever is in charge of Marvel’s marketing: I would really like a nice Marvel Christmas sweater, but not one with Deadpool. Why is Deadpool on all the Christmas sweaters I find when I go out shopping? And why are there no Batman Christmas sweaters anywhere I look? Shouldn’t that be a license to print money?

(Yes, I am aware you can get a variety of Marvel Christmas sweaters and Batman sweaters on the internet, but I don’t like to buy clothes online. I want to see it, hold it, check it for flaws and make sure that it fits before I buy it. I’ve been burned before.)

It seems like a waste to spend 2 days decorating the house for the holidays when nobody comes over to see it.

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We were a day late for Wreaths Across America at Jefferson Barracks, but that’s OK. I prefer to be there when it’s not crowded.

Sometimes I can’t believe we’re still doing the Executive Committee Holiday Dinner.

Christmas isn’t as much fun as it was when I was a kid. Thanksgiving is more fun as an adult.

3 animated Christmas specials you should watch every year:

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  3. There really isn’t a third

I don’t need anymore post-it notes with thoughtful sayings on them. That ship has sailed, cheapskates.

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Star Wars And Me

There is a new “Star Wars” movie coming out this week. I should be more excited, but I’m not.

Pretty much all of my enthusiasm for the latest “Star Wars” trilogy died when that goth loser Kylo Ren shoved a lightsaber in Han Solo’s chest and let him fall into blackness.

Yep, I should be more excited about a new “Star Wars” movie but I’m not.

It wasn’t always that way.

A long time ago

The year was 1977. My brother drove my sister and me to the Tower theater in Springfield to see this new sci-fi space adventure, “Star Wars.” Words cannot describe. I walked out of the theater wanting to walk right back in.

I feel nothing but a great swell of pity for everyone who never saw “Star Wars” for the first time in a movie theater in 1977 when it was all pristine and new. If you experienced “Star Wars” for the first time via videotape, DVR or TNT — you have my sympathies. You simply can’t imagine what life was like before “Star Wars.” Science-fiction space adventure movies were crap. It was as if a whole new universe had been opened up for us, thanks to George Lucas.

A few weeks later we went to Columbia to pick up my other sister from college and we saw it again. It was even better the second time. Keep in mind we were poor country folk, we rarely went to the movies at all. Let alone the same one twice.

star_wars_hildebrandt_artI was 15 years old at the time — the prime age for the merchandising machine that would follow. I bought the poster to hang on my bedroom wall (the Hildebrandt version is still one of the all-time great movie posters) and the soundtrack album (which I didn’t listen to much because, you know, it’s just instrumental). I got a watch for Christmas.

I loved “Star Wars” but it didn’t become an obsession. I didn’t buy any action figures, I didn’t bother with the comic books, I didn’t read the novels. The movies were enough.

Like all right-minded people, I believe “The Empire Strikes Back” is As Good As It Gets. The perfect mix of drama, humor, special effects, character bits, Yoda, the giant worm in the asteroid, surprising revelations, Lando, and those giant Imperial tanks that look like dinosaurs.

Sitting through the third film I started to feel that, yeah, maybe it is time to wrap this up. They’re taking down a Death Star — again? Why are trained Imperial stormtroopers being taken down by walking teddy bears? Why teddy bears? Getting a little tired of the Emperor going on and on about “the power of the dark side…”

A Bad Feeling About This

Lucas claimed early on that the plan was for three trilogies and the next one would be a prequel to the original. It took so long to get around to making the prequels that I began to think it would never happen. When “The Phantom Menace” finally showed up some 16 years after “Return of the Jedi,” the expectations were high. The disappointment would take a while to sink in.

starwars-02I don’t need to recite all the ills of the prequels, but let’s go over the major ones:

  • Darth Vader, one of the great villains of cinema, is reduced to a precocious child and a whining adolescent. I’m sure Hitler was a precocious child and a whiny teenager, but I don’t want to know about it.
  • The Jedi Knights, once thought of as samurai cowboys wandering the galaxy fighting evil, are reduced to clueless politicians sitting around debating what the hell’s going on and never figuring it out.
  • Ridiculously complicated plots involving trade federations and clones and the machinations of Palpatine.
  • The worst love story in the history of film.

You’re probably wondering why Jar Jar Binks isn’t on this list, but I think the hatred of JJB is overblown. He’s just another witless comedy relief character. He serves the same role as C-3PO but nobody complains about him.

The prequels do benefit from superior special effects, but here is where I learned that there is more to “Star Wars” than awesome FX. All the pretty planets and weird aliens and exciting space battles don’t mean a thing if you don’t care about the characters. And I just didn’t care about anybody in the prequels — except Obi Wan. And maybe Mace Windu, but even Sam Jackson was wasted in these films — and when you’re wasting a talent like Samuel L. Jackson — you’ve done something seriously wrong.  (I also liked Qui-Gon, but they kill him off in the first film).

For me, “Star Wars” isn’t about lightsabers, odd hairdos or the Millennium Falcon (although those are all important) — it’s about Luke, Leia and Han.

There is Another 

With the tepid reception to the prequels, and anger over Lucas tinkering with the originals, it seemed unlikely we would ever see that third trilogy. Then Disney bought out Lucasfilm and the next thing you know — Everything’s Star Wars.

starwarsjpg1445279779When I learned that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford had signed on for the new movies — I was excited about “Star Wars” for the first time in a long time. Oh sure, they’re older and they’ve been through the wringer, but then, haven’t we all? I just wanted to see Luke, Leia and Han all back together, cracking wise and fighting the dark side, one more time.

And then that f—king Kylo Ren shoved a lightsaber in Han Solo’s chest and let him fall into blackness.

I mean, seriously? Han Solo and Princess Leia have a son and it’s this loser? We go from the great Darth Vader to this loser? I’d be more scared of the offspring of Jabba the Hut and an Ewok than I am of Kylo Ren.

The rest of the additions are fine but I’m not in it for them. I want The Beatles, not New Kids on the Block. Which leads me to my next great analogy.

Let’s say The Beatles announce they are planning a reunion concert (I know two of them are dead — work with me). You’re excited, right? You mortgage your home to buy a pair of tickets. You show up at the concert hall. The curtain goes up and there are Paul, George and Ringo playing all the hits. You’re enjoying the show, but at the same time you’re thinking “Where’s John?” Intermission. Act 2 begins and there’s John! with George and Ringo. But now Paul’s missing. You’re enjoying the show, but at the same time you’re thinking “Where the hell did Paul go?”

In the end, you did see The Beatles, but not all four together like you were hoping and expecting. Still a good show, but still somewhat disappointing.

And that’s where I am with “Star Wars.” I suppose they could bring Han back somehow but there’s no bringing Carrie Fisher back, so I’m not going to get what I really wanted.

At any rate, I’ll be sticking with “Star Wars” to the end (although now that Disney is in charge, I doubt there will ever be an end). I am excited to see Luke again and see where he fits into this strange, new galaxy. And I need to know what happens to Leia. And I am pretty fond of Rey. Maybe there is hope.

But I’d still like to see the Fab Three again.

 

Thanks

That for which I am thankful, 2017:

We have survived Year 1 of the Trump Administration

A&W Root Beer (and Cream Soda)

A fine year of superhero movies (even Justice League)

People who don’t touch my stuff

People who do

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Insurance

Olives

Drugs that don’t have negative side effects

People who stand for the National Anthem

People who take a knee

golden nuggets

Leah

All my musical favorites who haven’t died this year

The music left behind by those who did

real news

And, as always

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A Gallrein Farms Family Reunion

So I’m sitting on the couch watching Marvel’s Inhumans (it’s really not that bad) when The Wife comes to me and she says,

“Can we go to my family reunion?”

To which I reply,

“You have family?”
To be honest, I did know that Laurie had family. We’ve spent a good deal of time with her parents, siblings and nieces and nephews over the years. But we haven’t spent much time with her extended family — aunts, uncles, cousins. I’ve run into a few at the occasional wedding or funeral, but we don’t spend a lot of time together. Mainly, I suspect, because they’re scattered across the country.

It’s a different story with the Roy/Montgomery clan. In my family you can’t escape the aunts, uncles and cousins. Probably because most of them never left southwest Missouri. We don’t hook up like we used to since most of the previous generation have moved on, and us young people just can’t keep it together.

So yeah, I had no problem spending a weekend with Laurie’s family. If nothing else, I owed her for all the times she’s put up with my people.

gfarm16Laurie’s mother was a Gallrein, and the big event was to take place at Gallrein Farms in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

So last Friday afternoon we drove to the Holiday Inn in Shelbyville. Remember last month when discussing how luxury hotels don’t offer near the amenities as economy hotels? Well, here’s the proof: the Holiday Inn gave us free wi-fi, 5 HBO channels, a coffeemaker in our room, and complementary bottles of water, coffee, cookies and punch down in the main hall. And free breakfast. Take that, Harvey’s Casino and Resort.

That night we went to Cousin Eddie’s farm house for a pizza party and to visit (or in my case, meet) the family. Had a good visit and good pizza. Eddie had a really nice farm house with a large front porch which he had declared a “cellphone-free zone.” Cousin Eddie is my kinda guy.

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Gallrein Farms opens at 9 a.m. and we were told to get there early if we wanted decent parking. I figured he was exaggerating, but sure enough, it turned out everyone in Kentucky converged on GF for a day of fall fun. We spent the morning riding the train, taking a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, checking out the petting zoo (I felt a little bad for the pig that they had penned up next to a barbecue tent, but pigs aren’t too smart so I figure he didn’t know what was going down nearby), climbing the hay pyramid, and getting lost in the corn maze. We skipped the haunted house.

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After a few hours we had seen and done it all and it was time for shopping. At Gallrein Farms you don’t use shopping carts — you use wheelbarrows. Laurie managed to fill hers with pumpkins, donuts and honey. I got a cap.

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We went back to the hotel to chill for a while that afternoon, then returned to the farm that evening for a delicious barbecue feast and more visiting. A good time was had by all.

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