Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

My Photo
Location: United States

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"This bowling ball isn't human, it doesn't feel pain, it can't be reasoned with!" - Butt-Head, Beavis and Butt-Head

First picture from Texas. This is the Texas Pain Institute. The Mrs. and I threatened to take The Boy here (or maybe to the Pinching Barn, or the Spanking Factory) if he was not good. I would much prefer the sign say Texas Pain Relief Institute, since Texas Pain Institute makes me think they’re just in it for them, rather than the customer. It’s like flu shots – I’d much rather have a flu prevention shot.

Major note and plug for Wilder Global Domination, Inc.:

The Mrs.’ book is still online and available at Amazon.com at this link. Buy a copy, or, better yet, buy a dozen. Whoever bought a copy of "The Road" by Cormac Mccarthy, well, I bought a copy of that one, too after reading the description. Hope you like The First Seal - I think you will.

A word of warning: The Book isn’t Life in Alaska. It’s more like Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code. I liked it, even after reading it (and editing it) a bazillion times. This is a big day in the Wilder house, and The Mrs. was giddy. If you hate Amazon, you can also get it at Target.

It’s past Christmas here in Alaska Houston. It’s been interesting. The palm trees are still green, as is my lawn. I had expected for traffic to be down during the holiday season, but it actually increased – I regained my senses and decided to stay off the roads, since there is one thing there are two things many things that irritate me, and standing in line is one of them. Traffic is just one long line. Traffic makes me wish that, well, everyone would just get out of my way. And not romp on the accelerator to get from one red light to the next. Go with the flow.™

If an alien were to come down to Houston, he would be convinced that the dominant form of life in this area is the Lexus Grandus. I have seen more big, shiny Lexuses (Lexi?) in Houston than in the entire universe. I think the Lexi come here to spawn, driven and fed by their symbiotic women who have own symbiote, the Cellus Phonus Motorollus Tinius attached firmly to their ear.

Cars here in Houston are just that: new and shiny. In Fairbanks, the average car is 17 years old, been registered in six or seven states, and stays their until it dies. After it dies, it still stays there. And rusts. In Fairbanks, you could expect a car given as a Christmas present to be missing valuable components (say, a working radio). In Houston, I regularly drive by a Mercedes dealership which puts big bows on cars worth more than a house, complete with in-dash machines that manufacture steaming hot lattés out of gold powder and un-baptized children.

But it’s just past Christmas, here, and although I did not get a Porsche that trims my toenails and shaves my back while I drive, I did get the best gift of all. See, The Mrs. sold her hair to buy me a watch chain, but I sold the watch to get her hair combs. This is patently unfair, since her hair will grow back, but my watch chain won’t grow a new watch. Stupid Magi.

Leading up to Christmas, The Boy was nearly insane with “little boy glee and anticipation.” Since The Boy is six, well, all his dreams can be met, and rather easily. He requested a Hot Wheels play set. The Mrs. and I, after quaffing a beer or two, got on our respective computers and began shopping on Amazon (where, by the way, you can get her book) and other points ethereal. I found a play set on Amazon, a big, hulking, four story parking garage complete with its own interstate highway passing by. It looked like it was made of concrete. It wasn’t Hot Wheels, but rather no brand was specified. That worked. The cost of the beast was $19.47, but shipping was $11.07. Nevermind. I didn’t have to fight the crowds at the malls. (There was no free shipping because this was one of Amazon’s affiliates, not Amazon). To make the utter Scrooge-ness of the holiday complete, I paid with Amazon gift certificates that I get from my credit card.

When finally it came time to open the presents, The Boy enjoyed them all, especially those from his Grandparents (hey, it’s good to be six). When he opened the Hot Wheels play set off brand toy car set, he was thrilled. After playing with a multitude of toys, it was time to erect this hulking monstrosity of a toy.

First, it had about 73,421 pieces (some assembly required). All of them were plastic. The instructions had no words, and were drawn in a cryptic fashion. Some pieces of road connected to the next piece with a doohickey. Some had a thingamabob. I decided to do what all good dads do at this juncture: Throw the instructions away and push on.

We finally got the structure together, but I had to dig the instructions out for the important work of decal placement. The cultural differences between wherever made this (Taiwan, in this case) and the US was apparent, since, as this was a mall, the only things available at this particular mall were “Toys, Seafood, and Gifts”. Me, my mouth just waters as I think of going to the mall for mall seafood and unspecified (presumably generic) gifts. As I was putting the parking garage structure together, I noted that there was only one way to get from one level to the next. The instructions clearly indicated that this ramp had a “down arrow only” decal on it. I kept my observation to myself.

Soon enough The Boy piped in: “Hey, if all the arrows point down, how do cars get up?” I smiled a deep, nerdy-dad smile deep inside my nerdy-dad soul. The Boy has The Knack. As he began to play with it, the lack of up arrows was quickly forgotten. Cars don’t drive to the top, they are carried in the hand of a six year old, where they are accelerated by gravity to the speed of sound and shoot out onto the plastic interstate.

Okay, if you're a guy, wouldn't you have killed and gutted Santa to get one of these when you were six?

I have to admit, the mall is cool - it works like a charm. Plus, this mall has a helipad so you can pick up your squid and random gift and then fly off. I bet the helicopter has a doohicky that trims your ear and nose hair.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Patience my friend. He has grown strong. Only together can we turn him to the dark side." - Emperor Palpatine, Return of the Jedi

This was my last look at Denali National Park. The traffic is killer. Oh, you can click on this for bigger pictury goodness.

Major note and plug for Wilder Global Domination, Inc.:

The Mrs.’ book is out and unleashed on the world. It’s online and available at Amazon.com at this link. Buy a copy, or, better yet, buy a dozen. They’re cheap, make wonderful gifts, doorstops, blocking for cars that you want to keep up on blocks, and they’re make from wonderful, sweet trees.

A word of warning: The Book isn’t Life in Alaska. It’s more like Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci code. I liked it, even after reading it (and editing it) a bazillion times. This is a big day in the Wilder house, and The Mrs. was giddy. If you hate Amazon, you can also get it at Target.

One thing that Alaska taught me, for which I am forever grateful, is patience.

Not Patience like the crappy Guns n’ Roses song, but rather the old Zen Master type of patience. When you live in Alaska, well, if you want it, and it ain’t in Fairbanks, you either ain’t going to get it or you’re gonna have to wait. Amazon.com (hint, hint, see above) takes forever to deliver. If you want the house to be warm, you’ll have to be patient. It takes a while for the wood stove to come up to temperature. If you want to get construction services performed, you have to be patient, especially during moose season.

Patience is built into the Alaskan experience.

I really realized how different that I was when I started driving in Houston traffic. Houston traffic is probably not the worst in the world. That would probably be the traffic into Paris Hilton’s bedroom. Take a number? Nah, she doesn’t have time for that. Regardless, the traffic is, well, as thick as the Baldwin family at certain times of the day (do you think that Adam or Alec or what’s his name can even spell? Me neither).

As I started to brave the traffic, I realized something: I can’t drive through cars, unless I get a much bigger car, say, a M1-A1 Abrams tank, or something bigger like a Tahoe. Given that restriction placed on me by physics, I decided to be content in traffic. I achieved this Nerdvana by:

  • Leaving Early to Go Where I’m Going,
  • Looking at the Miles Per Gallon Indicator on the Dash, and
  • Being Old.

I noted that, after getting off the 1600 lane Interstate-Style road, I can get through approximately 1492 stop lights without stopping. I do this through the extraordinary means of

  • driving the speed limit,
  • watching the traffic and lights ahead,
  • keeping a buffer of distance between,, and
  • holding a petrified mummy’s hand and chanting, “Klaatu Verata N’ictu”.

Since the kinetic energy of a car is ½mv², and my car has a mass of approximately 62.5 slugs (really, that’s the English system’s version of mass, if you discount the pound-mass, which is, well, just silly) and a velocity of 40 MPH, then the total kinetic energy of the car is 386,200,000 slug-feet/second². I’m not sure what that even means, but, it’s actually correct. When use my brakes to transfer that 386,200,000 slug-feet/second² into heat, well, that’s 386,200,000 slug-feet/second² of gasoline I could have not poured out onto the pavement. I’m cheap. I don’t like to use my brakes.

While I was doing this the other night, I got lights flashed at me and was honked at by someone who obviously didn’t understand that by jamming on the accelerator and rushing from one red light to the next, having a speed curve of 0mph-40mph-0mph that he would waste that 386,200,000 slug-feet/second² of energy at every red light. I let him pass me. He looked like Vladimir Putin

Figures. Communists hate saving energy. Stupid Vladimir Putin.

Hey, why does my keyboard glow like it’s been charged with 386,200,000 slug-feet/second² of energy?

(Subliminal message: buy the book and Vladimir Putin won’t poison you with polonium.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"I haven't had this much fun since my dad wore his rude t-shirt to parent-teacher night!" - Red Green, The Red Green Show

This is what "down" looks like in Denali National Park. Down is not our friend in this context, given that there's gravity and everything.

So the weather here in Houston is listed as ‘subtropical’ in Wikipedia. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that statement, since for a few months I was listed in Wikipedia as “noted Fairbanks author” and was on the list of websites that pulled an April Fools Day joke. I was the one who wrote both entries, so I know it to be true. All that means that there’s some other yahoo out there who thought Houston was ‘subtropical.’

So far in December, there hasn’t been a hint of snow. Not a bit! I’m beginning to believe all this global warming stuff. The palm trees are still green, and so are most of the lawns. Oh, wait, that’s the way it’s supposed to look in Houston in December. My mistake.

It is, however, like we’ve had the good fortune to have two Fairbanks-style summers back to back, though people down here don’t see it that way. An example:

The Mrs. was picking The Boy up at the local school, and a Para (para what, exactly? I hear the word para and I think, “paramedic” or “paranormal”, both of which are either federally required or federally prohibited from schools under No Child Left Edumacated, I forget which) walked The Boy to the car. As The Boy was buckling his seatbelt, the Para said:

“Now you be sure to bring a big, thick jacket tomorrow – it will be colder.”

As The Mrs. related it, the Para was staring straight at her, as if The Mrs. had just qualified for the coveted “Uncaring Evil Barhopping Trollop Mother of the Year Award” (note – The Mrs. was edged out by Britney Spears for that one).

The Mrs. controlled her “righteous Mommy fury” gene and refrained from pointing toward the front of the car at the Alaska license plate, and then indicating that the Para might want to understand that the average person can walk about in mildly chilly (0ºF, or -273.15ºC) for over an hour and have no lasting ill effects and that she should keep her yob shut when it came to being the jacket-police.

That would have been sooooooo surreal, getting a call from the principal’s office saying that The Mrs. had been naughty, and that she was in detention. If she thought she was in trouble then, well, just wait ‘til she got home! The Mrs. would give herself quite the earful, and then probably send herself to her room, where The Mrs. would be suitably punished by having a nice hot bath while reading a murder mystery and generally escaping the mayhem and smells created by Pugsley, The Boy, and I.

We did finally take The Boy and Pugsley to the beach at Galveston. I think The Boy was mystified when he saw the sea shells, thinking them to be some sort of rock. Things don’t live in water, do they? Pugsley was cute as he waded in the surf. The cross-current would come up at an angle to the beach, making his nineteen-month-old brain compute that though he felt like he was walking on level ground, his visual processing center indicated he was walking sideways up a hill. The end result was a toddler who lurched and lumbered in the sand to the point where he wouldn’t walk straight, and, in fact, did several face plants in the sand.

Is it mean of me to take that kind of delight from the situation? Nah. He’ll probably kick the walker out from under me when I’m older and senile, just because I won’t remember it and will fall for it every time.

The Boy got bored quickly with the water and started to attempt to scam some young ladies who were hanging out near the water.

As it is, I think this reaction to mild temperatures is my first real clue about Houston. If people bundle up in parkas, mittens, and scarves when it’s 40ºF out, that must mean something. I’m afraid that something is that it’s hot enough in Houston during the summer to melt eyebrows.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"This is an empty milk container and they said it could be an apartment house. Good idea?" -Mr. Rodgers, Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood

Downtown Houston. Or downtown Denali. I can't tell. You can click on it for larger pictury goodness (and, yes, we're in the process of building up pictures from Texas).

I still haven’t tossed the new name change up. I was thinking of waiting until the first of the year. Oh, it’ll be all dramatic and stuff. I think I might spend 50% of all the planned future profits from the site on a party. That would make it, “BYOB.”

So I made the comment that moving was “boring” a few weeks back. That’s incorrect, as an astute reader from California noted (oh, and if you just bought a birthday present for your wife, well, I think you’re in trouble, dude).

Moving isn’t boring. It’s exhausting, it’s stressful. But despite being those things, well, it’s mundane, so I thought I’d skip the whole ordeal. Everybody out there who thinks packing endless boxes up is interesting, well, raise your hand. See? I’m not going to win that MacArthur Fellowship for nothing. (Can you believe that one of the winners (Sarah Ruhl) was a “playwright creating vivid and adventurous theatrical works that poignantly juxtapose the mundane aspects of daily life with mythic themes of love and war.” See, I QUALIFY!!! Well, except for the poignant part. I do like that they juxtaposed poignantly and juxtapose. That’s vivid and adventurous.)

The first experience in Houston was an apartment. So, I went from barely seeing concrete in my daily life to having my feet touch nothing other than concrete, my car drive on nothing but concrete, and spotting of some forgotten bit of soil and enjoying the view before a crew of crazed concrete installers found it and poured out the gray stuff to stop the blight of nature from impinging upon the urban area.

Don’t even get me started on the never-ending requests for money by shiftless people hanging out in the street. I didn’t make nary a dime. (See, I’m adjusting. Notice the use of “nary”.) Interestingly, it appears that every single person begging had lots of money as they were taking the bus to their sick mother’s house and got robbed in Houston. I suggested that perhaps a bank might be a better place to keep your money than in a plastic baggie in your flannel shirt, and don’t bother to visit your mother, she liked your brother better, anyway.

Texas looks (at least in the parts of the greater Houston area we’ve seen) much more “Manicured,” in the words of The Mrs. It’s an apt observation. Almost all of the land, all of the features we see on a daily basis are created features. Even the rivers and bayous are contained in massive concrete channels or massive earthen dikes and tamed as they enter and exit the city. It’s like the rivers were very, very, bad and someone put them all in timeout. Forever.

No one can tell me what exactly the difference is between a river and a bayou. I think the primary difference is that “Born on the Bayou” would have sounded really, really stupid if John Cafferty Fogerty¹ had been belting out, “Raised on the River,” or “Child on the Creek” or “Like a Virgin” instead. So, if the word Bayou exists for just that one song, well, I guess it’s okay, even though it’s stupid to have rivers and bayous.

Apartment life has other drawbacks. I’m used to living the life of a lumberjack, bounding from tree to tree, with The Mrs. by my side. Actually, I’m used to Alaskan life driving the consumption of and subsequent use of more calories than concrete stairs, concrete escalators, and concrete sidewalks burn off during a day. Start cutting down the trees in Houston with your chainsaw for a little bit of stress relief and enjoyment, and, well, a twenty-three year old in a blue uniform and shiny badge comes with a gun drawn asking you to “put the weapon down, sir.” Then the concrete people cover the stump with concrete. The nice thing about getting arrested for cutting down trees in downtown Houston qualifies you as “eccentric.” I think they have a special place to put you if you’re eccentric. It’s called, “the box.”

The apartment also has a nice selection of palm trees. Palm trees. The darn things look like tall, skinny pineapples. Cut one apart with a chainsaw, and, well, it’s watery, just like a pineapple. It does, however, not taste like a pineapple.

The biggest culture shock came early one morning. The radio was on, and the local weather was on.

“Bundle up. It’s going to be cold today, perhaps all the way down to . . . 40ºF.”

Sad part? She was serious.

Oh, and now the part where I poignantly juxtapose: “Somewhere nearby, a kitten couldn’t find a fluffy string ball to play with. It meowed poignantly in the night, it’s head juxtaposed at last with it’s fluffy pillow.” Man, that’s MacArthur worthy.

Hey, buddy, can you spare a MacArthur Fellowship?

¹Note that the Ministry of Wilder Information asks that you forget that you think you’ve seen John Wilder make a mistake. Unthink that ungood think.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Maybe we should call in a bomb threat to Houston. I think it's free beer night at the Astrodome." - Mulder, The X-Files Movie

Saw this sheep just eating precious, precious tundra by the side of the road in Denali National Park. Maybe, just maybe he didn't see the fifty bazillion signs saying that nature was far to fragile to walk on, let alone eat. Stupid sheep. They're killing the environment. Let's get 'em and then have some mutton.

Okay, for the first part of life, I’m working on a title for the blog. Life in Alaska seems, well, a bit like being Pamela Anderson Lee Mrs. Kid Rock or whatever she’s calling herself right now – what you see isn’t what you get. Unless you see herpes. Then you’d be getting that.

But, I can announce that visiting Life in Alaska has, unlike Pamela Anderson, been pronounced 99.8745% hepatitis free.

So I need help coming up with a new name. My primary contender for this is, “Gone to Texas.” I like the title, it says a lot, but I just don’t know . . . other things, like, “Wilder by Far,” come to mind. Perhaps I’ll just call it “google.com.” That has a nice ring to it, and I’m sure nobody’s grabbed that url yet. If you’ve got a suggestion that you would like to submit for consideration, well, I’m game. Keep in mind that I can’t pay you for it, and that I own it in perpetuity, and when I win the MacArthur Fellowship and that pesky Nobel, well, be satisfied that I won’t mention you and will have built my success on your cleverness. (Keep in mind I really, really, really want to win this. If I did, well, heck, I might move back to Alaska. If you’re on the nominating committee, please don’t make me beg. Because I will. I really, really will.)

Back to the main question in comments on the last post: Why?

Well, why do birds fly east for the summer? Why does Adam Sandler keep making movies? Why do fools fall in love?

Well, since none of the visitors to the site was ponying up any cash, doesn’t mean that Pugsley (now 18 months and about 158 pounds) still has to eat. (An ironic aside – I got e-mail from an Alaska paper wanting to publish my stuff regularly and kinda maybe pay me and an e-mail from the History Channel wanting background info on Alaska . . . just after I moved.)

Were I independently wealthy, I don’t think I could have been dragged out of Alaska. Actually, that’s not exactly true. I would allow porters to carry me, like a Pasha. Maybe in one of those old-time cart thingys. But mine would be gold. And, really, it would be in Fairbanks.

But, we're here.

There are advantages, writing-wise, to being in Houston. Houston is a bigger, more anonymous place. It may be a steel and glass ant-hill of people who say “ya’ll” a lot, but there were times when I held back on blogging fodder because Fairbanks was just so darn small. You don’t flip off your next door neighbor and expect peace. In Houston, I can branch out a wee bit more. I’m not looking to do dirty jokes - my goal is still to produce writing that would barely pass muster on HR’s radar screen if you were reading it at lunch and the Internet Nazi’s at your business pulled you into a room and said, “Hey, he keeps talking about Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton as if they were filthy tramps.” Then one HR person would say to the other, “Dude, they are filthy tramps. And he never qualified what exactly trampdom was, so, you know, make him sign the papers that said we never beat him.”

So, in the coming weeks, expect a name change. “Wilder in Texas”? “Where’s my damn MacArthur Fellowship, already?” “Wilder Trek II: The Wrath of Texas”?

Hey, I’ve got it: “The Wilders of Texas are Upon You.” That’s great . . . oh, wait, it sounds like a cannibal movie. "The Texas Chainsaw Wilders" isn't much better.


Back to the drawing board.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"Might as well ride along with us. Hell, everyone else is." -Clint Eastwood, The Outlaw Josey Wales

The last picture we took in Alaska. Worth it. Ahhhh . . . wonderful snow.

Okay, I’m back.

Sort of.

Did you ever see the move, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”? Well, I have. I have it on DVD. In my opinion (which is normally right) it is by far Clint’s best flick. I won’t go into details, because this isn’t a movie review column. It’s life in Alaska, right?

Well, no.

The book that “The Outlaw Josey Wales” was based on was originally called, “Gone to Texas.” Gone to Texas was a phrase that was used in the middle of the 1800’s that indicated that someone had headed out to avoid taxes, debt, or some other crap that was enveloping them. Well, guess what.

I’ve gone to Texas.

Life in Alaska, as you’ve known it, is over for now.

Did I want to move? No. But, yet, here I am, in Tejas.

And, yes, The Mrs., The Boy, and Pugsley are here with me. It’s been a whole lot of adventure, and now we find ourselves in the Lone Star State.

The Boy is patently in favor of it, though he cried when he missed his friends H and S. Pugsley? Well, as long as they have food there, he’s good with it. The Mrs. was dragged along, but in the end agreed with the decision. Instead of the 49th star, now we’re in the Lone Star. I’m going to omit a lot of the details, since everybody’s moved (unless you’re still firmly ensconced in your mother’s basement, and, well, “Hi”) and moving is pretty boring stuff.

I’m thinking that the next few posts will encompass the differences that I’m seeing, the culture shock from moving from a state that’s the least populous in the US to a city that’s the third largest in the US. Let me tell you, I’m still reeling. It’s a change in latitude, and a change in attitude.

Houstonians don’t wear shorts when it’s forty because it’s so frikkin’ warm. No. They wear parkas and mufflers and knit gloves. Me, I’m still shaking my head.

I have a palm tree in my back yard. A. Palm. Tree. I know nothing about palm trees. Do they shed?

It’s December, and my palm trees are still green. Is it too early to take my chainsaw to them so that the wood has time to dry for winter?

What are these fire ants, anyway?

Okay, it’s obvious things are changing. But, you know what? I feel like a velociraptor in a room full of kittens. Houston may have a hard time assimilating an Alaskan. Let’s play.

Silktide SiteScore for this website
Blog Flux Directory Blogarama Free Web Counters
Web Counter
Search Popdex:
Humor Blog Top Sites Top100 Bloggers
Top100 uscity.net directory