Monday, July 24, 2023

Grandkids Can Give You The Blues

I consider myself blessed I get to spend part of my time hanging out with my grandkids. Along with the expected joys that come from hanging out with these terrific small humans, I get to share things they are excited about. Recently, it was a cartoon called Bluey.

Bluey is a cartoon out of Australia that centers on a family of Blue Heelers. The family consists of Mum, Dad, Bluey (six-year-old daughter) and Bingo (four-year-old daughter). Besides those characters, there are also uncles, grandmothers, friends, neighbors, and more. Most stories focus on games played by the children with their parents, and occasionally with relatives.

It is a lot of fun to watch how the parents react to being included in the games. Of course, this is fantasy, so they can always drop everything to take part with the girls and they always participate wholeheartedly. The Dad, Bandit, has a keen perception what's going on and immediately jumps into the fantasy the girls have concocted. He gives characters made-up names while playing the game. For instance, Bert Handsome for the hair salon, Romeo McFlourish for the fancy restaurant, and Telemachus for the hospital.

Some examples of the games include the floor is lava, the pizza shop, going shopping, robot Dad, Dad is a newborn, and statues. They also have event episodes like when the girls fixed Dad's birthday breakfast, and going to the hardware store with Mum. There are lessons to be learned as well, and if a parent does something wrong, they figure it out with the help of the girls. Eventually, everything is made right. In a small way, I guess, each episode is it's own lesson if you pay attention closely enough to find it. No problem with that -- they are also entertaining.

I like the artwork of the show. There are things in the background that make the world of Bluey more believable and more like your home. Minor details like outlets, window cranks, and the miscellaneous stuff on a bookshelf all make the program more immersive. The best part is that I get to enjoy watching most episodes with my granddaughters on my lap, as we laugh together at the funny parts.

The show has been around for three seasons, and is catching on in America thanks to a streaming service picking it up. As more and more people are familiar with it in the United States, you can occasionally get away with slipping a reference from the show into a conversation. I had such an experience during a recent coffee shop visit.

Me: I'd like a large nonfat cappuccino with whipped cream and one Splenda.

Barista: Absolutely name for the order? 

Me: (after a moment's thought) Telemachus.

Barista: Uh, could you say that again, please?

As I was about to speak, the barista standing next to the first one, took the cup from her.

Barista 2: It's okay (as she wrote on the cup) I got this. 

I thanked them both and then stepped aside to wait for my order to be prepared. After a few moments, Barista 2 nodded toward me as she extended the cup in my direction. Taking the cup from her, I spun it around in my hand to get the mouth hole in the right place. Then I noticed what name she had written upon it... Bluey's Dad.

I guess it could've been different, the Barista could've written Son of Odysseus and Penelope instead.


Monday, July 17, 2023

The Legend of Chris Towel

Almost everyone has a tale about that person who hung out at your house so much they became part of their family. It’s usually due to a friendship between them and someone in the family or maybe it was a boy/girlfriend situation that morphed into a whole family thing due to personalities. Of course, dogs, cats, and other animals often become family as well. This story is different, it’s about a towel that became if not part of the family at least part of the family lore and legend.

When one of my sons was working as a lifeguard at a community pool in Missouri he discovered after arriving for his shift that he’d forgotten to bring a towel. Rather than going without, he searched through a bin of Lost and Found items that had been there for over a month and pulled out a towel. As towels go, it was what you’d expect it to be. It was well made and larger than a bath, but smaller than a beach towel. It was medium gray with the name Chris and the silhouette of a fish embroidered on it in red.

When he brought it home that evening, he threw it in the laundry basket and explained how he came by the towel. I thought because of the fish emblem on it that Chris was probably part of the swim team or some other aquatic collective. The towel was washed and put away with our other towels and without fanfare Chris Towel, as it became known, started its journey with the family. 

The rest of the time we lived in Missouri, Chris Towel became the go-to tog. We’d take him with us when the destination was less than stellar, more nature than civilized, or when there was a possibility, a good towel might get stolen. It was the expendable towel. It was also the towel used to mop up things off the garage floor or elsewhere in the house when dry was needed, but you didn’t want to risk a high-dollar towel. Looking back, I have to say that Chris Towel always performed well and after going through the wash it returned spot and stain-free every single time. It was never lost. I guess monogrammed things have less of a propensity for being ripped off unless someone named Chris is walking by. 

Chris Towel could’ve lived out his days in Missouri, serving its intended purpose until worn out, but fate had other plans. When we moved to Germany, he made the trip with us. From there, Chris Towel traveled to the Netherlands, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and all over Germany. As the expendable towel, it was always understood that if space was needed, Chris Towel would be left behind. He never was. Chris Towel also went along on Boy Scout camping trips at Camp Freedom and Kandersteg International Scout Camp in Switzerland. When my youngest son went to an Outward-Bound style camp in Austria, Chris Towel went along. 

There were times he faced extinction as closets were cleaned out and decisions were made about what might get disposed of or donated. Chris Towel always made the cut. He came back to the United States where he went to various water parks and a few more Scout camps before he was relegated to the back of the closet. 

When I deployed to Kuwait as a reservist, Chris Towel went along. Later, when I deployed to Kuwait as a civilian, Chris Towel once again packed his bag and went with me. At the end of my tour in Kuwait, I once again looked at Chris Towel and thought about leaving him behind, but thought better of it and he returned to the US with me. 

When my youngest son was putting together his own household, after getting married, Chris Towel went with him. I suppose explained Chris Towel’s family legacy to his wife, as she also refers to him by name. Since that time, he’s been blessed with two awesome daughters who’ve been dried off by Chris Towel. He continues to serve as the solution for a wet body coming out of a lake, a pond, a bathtub, or a sprinkler. 

Like most folks, over the years, I’ve picked up a little of this and a little of that from everywhere I’ve ever been. But I have to say that one of the most constantly familiar objects has been Chris Towel. 

Now and then, I think about wanting to return the towel to its original owner, but I have no way of locating them now any more than when he first arrived decades ago. Chris Towel had been with us so long I’m seriously considering adding them to the family tree. I wonder how the ancestry sites will feel about that.


Monday, July 3, 2023

Damn It, That Elk Is Dead Jim


There are a lot of good things about being a grandfather, but one of the best is being able to relate the events you have lived over the course of a lifetime. Grandchildren often find them entertaining and you get a chance for a little one-on-one time while being the hero. It occurred to me while I was telling me stories that my life is been separated into different segments. Depending on the age of the grandchild, I pick which segment from which I choose the story being told. One story I recently told tell was from the segment of my life where I was heavily in involved with Boy Scouting.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the Scouting community that was very active. We camped at least once a month, and then did additional trips and adventures throughout the year and summer camp. One of those adventures was a canoe trip down a segment of a river. As near as I can recall, there were seven canoes, each with three scouts. A scoutmaster was in the lead canoe and one at the tail end to keep an eye on everybody. During the day, we would swap positions with the person sitting in the middle of the canoe getting a break while the scouts for an aft did the paddling.

The scenery was mostly boring for a kid. Lots of trees. Occasionally we would see a deer or some other wildlife in the woods near the shore, but they would dart away as soon as our noisy crew got near to them. One of the more interesting things we passed was a dead elk that was near the shore. Looking back, it must've been dead a few days, as it was severely bloated and that was why it was floating instead of being underwater. It wasn't moving along the river with us because it was caught up in some trees which were also in the river along the bank.

Everybody stared at the carcass as we floated past. Most of the canoes were off to one side, so we weren't ever closer than ten or fifteen feet as we slowed for a bit to look before paddling on. As we meandered on downriver, we suddenly heard the voice of the scoutmaster who was bringing up the rear of our crew yell out "Don't you dare. Get away from there." Looking over our shoulders, we could see that one canoe had broken ranks and was paddling toward the dead elk. He continued to yell, and they continued to ignore him until their canoe was parallel to the carcass. Then, the stupidest thing I think I've ever seen in my entire life happened. The scout in the middle of the boat grabbed a spare canoe paddle and raised it over his head, aiming at the body of the elk. The scoutmaster's final plea of "NO!" echoed down the river as the paddle was brought down with force onto the abdomen of the elk.

Never before, and certainly never since, have I ever seen anything like it. The carcass of the elk exploded as the pent-up air from its decay was suddenly released. I swear you could almost see the green funk rolling down the river as the smell of the rotting carcass set upon us. We all stared in disbelief. The three scouts in the canoe were then treated to a torrent of decayed flesh, and maggots fell like rain upon them. The look on their faces went from disbelief to disgust as they realized what had happened. Being so close to the smell, their reaction was instantaneous, and they all puked in unison. Because it came upon them so suddenly, they didn't have time to lean over the edge of the boat. As the disgusting rain of insect larva and rotten meat slowed, all three of them stood up at once, and flailed as they tried to brush the disgusting mess off.

There is a reason you never stand up in a canoe. That rationale becomes even more clear when everyone in the canoe stands up at once and in short order the canoe capsized. They landed in the water, surrounded by everything they were trying to escape.

We had enough people to help with the rescue, which avoided an even worse situation. None of the three ever lived the incident down, as it was retold every time any of them showed up around the campfire where any witness of the event was also present. The story became more exaggerated over time, and eventually including the dead elk seeking revenge for its desecration.

When I get to tell one of these stories, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have had a life that was full of interesting things like that to pass on. It is great to entertain them for a few minutes as we sat around a table playing Uno. However, I sincerely hope none of them ever whack a bloated dead elk with a canoe paddle while passing it by, but that they will have the opportunity to do so just the same.