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..

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Look, there is no virus. You're all just victims of the over-active imagination of a pop-culture junkie loudmouth. - Dante, Clerks, the Series


A tiny frog, with AA battery for reference, or he’s sucking the electricity from the battery to turn himself into Megafrogatron®.

Pardon me for not posting last week - this post will explain it all . . .

It was a dark and stormy night . . . but recently every night had been dark and stormy. It's rained quite a bit in Houston these past few weeks, so the ground and air has been as damp as Ed Asner's forehead after a he ate sixteen pork chops covered in mango sauce.

The Mrs. had indicated that she had downloaded the latest version of Norton Antivirus® and updated the definition. Me? My theory has been that if you have a good firewall (I use Zone Alarm™) and don't visit any website that any sixteen year old would ever visit, you're mostly going to be okay.

Then that dreaded Trojan showed up. The Mrs. double clicked on it (hey, it said it was a greeting card) . . . and then realized her mistake. The Mrs. wisely decided at that point to download the latest version of Norton© so that she could make sure that all things electronic were hunky-dory. This was smart – plus she killed the Intraweb connection. Also smart. The double click on the link to the Trojan program? Could have been any of us.

Well, the smelly, mother's-basement-living, misanthropic hacker guy (yes, I'm generalizing, but I dare you to prove me wrong) had rigged the computer that if Norton™ tried to update - wham - he'd cause the computer to automatically reboot. He even set it up so if I hit Norton©'s website that the machine would transform into a robot pterodactyl and peck at my eyes.

I tried to update Norton©’s, then began the un-install of what Norton™ had gasped between reboots was "Trojan.Peacomm.b". I thought that was a hopelessly silly name, and after further investigation, it really wasn't what my computer had at all, but rather a whole slew of related malicious critters living on my hard drive – not unlike the hanger’s on at Britney’s house.

It took me about ten straight hours to find what had happened to the computer. This was as much fun as watching an all night marathon of “Golden Girls Go to Evening Shade”, plus I missed a night's sleep and the writing of last week’s post. If you received some recent spam about Viagra™, well, I'm sorry. It was our computer.

Did I mention that the smelly hacker was mean?

Note to self - you can really, really, really mess up your computer if you don't save your settings before you start messing with them.

Other note to self - you can really, really, really save a lot of hassle if you have recovery disks made and ready.

Well, I did mess the system up (with the help of the virus) and Sony™ (thankfully) had a copy of the recovery disk. We changed all our passwords, deleted an account or two, and, in general, lowered our exposure to the Intratubes a bit. I still haven’t fixed up The Mrs.’ machine – the last 10 hour session with it made me as skittish as Paris Hilton in church in thinking about messing with it.

I’ll put fixing it on the list.

Sadly, The Mrs. has taken a liking to my machine. Specifically, she’s taken a liking to the latest version of Microsoft© Word™ that I’ve recently installed. The Mrs. thinks it’s spiffy.

I suppose that’s okay, as long as The Mrs. doesn’t invite Ed Asner over. He’d drip mango pork chop juice all over the keyboard.
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

"We managed to stop the other 103 power plants from melting down. That's what America will remember, that we stopped you." - Jack Bauer, 24


Wow, there are literally butt-loads of concrete that need to be power-washed in Houston. Thank heaven that The Boy and I are there! Okay, The Boy mainly fiddles while I power wash, but, you know, he fiddles well.

Today, The Mrs. declared that, since the Wilders were having company, we had to clean the house. The Boy and I were okay with that, since we generally scoot by through leaving The Mrs. and Pugsley to clean out the house while he and I go outside and do guy things. In this case, we decided to power wash the concrete.

Power washing, for those uninitiated, includes connecting your household hose to a big machine that, through the 22,000 power of little itty-bitty elves, increases the pressure from, oh, say 12 psi to 2200 psi (psi is “pounds per square inch” as in 2200 psi would be enough to rip the smile from your face right at the moment you found out you were the illegitimate kid of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and were worth $12billion dollars). 2200 psi is a lot of pressure. You can plug in your own Paris Hilton joke there.

Anyhow, I decided to pressure wash the concrete today, mainly because it was really, really irritating me that the concrete, concrete! for heavens sake, in Houston gradually becomes a whole palette of colors other than light gray under the influence of rain.

The Boy and I began pressure washing the concrete around the house. Even a six-year-old like The Boy can see how wonderful pressure washing is. That must explain the chain of e-mails I got from, well, a pressure washing company:

To: northtoalaskaATmyway.com
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 13:54:57-0600
Subject: links exchange
My name is SOME NAME, I m working in a company
which sells power washers (the name is A WEBSITE and our website is(NOT MENTIONED HERE) and we would like to exchange some links with you. We could actually give youan
article about power washers that you would put on your blog with our URL, and
we would include your blog in our links.
Please, letme know your answer,
Best regards


From: northtoalaska[mailto:northtoalaskaATmyway.com]
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 200710:01 PM
Subject: RE: links exchange
Do I get a free power washer?

--- On Thu 06/28, SOME NAME wrote:
To: northtoalaskaATmyway.com
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2007 12:38:16-0600
Subject: RE: links exchange
No, but you would get a free article about power washer!

My response? Did I gig her about grammar? No, I was still looking for free stuff.

From: northtoalaska[mailto:northtoalaskaATmyway.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2007 8:27PM
Subject: RE: links exchange
How about power washer soap? See, I already wrote an article about power washers.
Hey, perhaps ya'll could put me on salary, then I could write funny power washer stories for you?

Perhaps I could translate this into a job where I made $300k a year writing adventurous power washer stories?

To: northtoalaskaATmyway.com
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:13:33 -0600
Subject: RE: links exchange
No thank you but that’s not reallyinteresting for us! GOOD BYE

(note: all of SOME NAME’s replies are unedited, except for removing name stuff.)

Man, that was worse than when that girl I asked out for a movie said she was busy that night, and I hadn’t yet specified which night or which movies. I don’t think that SOME NAME will call me again soon, and, alas, I don’t think that anytime that the sweet, sweet crazy Intraweb money from power washer sales will be hitting me soon.


Regardless, The Boy and I spent hours outside tonight power washing oodles of concrete. Isn’t that the real basis of fatherly love, anyhow?

Besides, when you have company over, isn’t power washing your concrete your first thought?

Egads, what would the neighbors say if your concrete were not freshly powerwashed?
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Oh, he's dead. You killed him when you left the door open with the air conditioning on." - George Bluth, Arrested Development


Houston. Looks hot, doesn’t it? Did you know that dogs, steel, and The Mrs. melt without Air Conditioning here?

I’ve been asked (on more than one occasion) on why I write. The Mrs. usually phrases this with the “instead of _____” ending, where the blank could be replaced with “talking to me,” “taking out trash” or even “making sure the children don’t get into a machete fight.” Since she discovered Myspace, well, let’s just say The Mrs. doesn’t ask that any more. Why do I write? On most nights, it’s like, well, having a baby (I speak with all the authority of a male on that one). It may be painful, it may suck, but in the end, you always come up with the instinctual need to push it out and have a tumbler of whiskey Pinot Noir.

Oh, sorry, did you miss me? I had to run and check on Pugsley. It seems that Pugsley just chewed the last of the slats from his crib out, and I had to throw in some raw birch for him to gnaw on. You have to do it in the dark, so he doesn’t spring at you in a starving rage. Travelling across his floor is like travelling across that Southern California French field in that WWII movie I watched when I was kid where they had to traverse a mine field, using a bayonet to find them. I stepped on Elmo®. I must admit, Elmos© don’t blow up, but I also must admit I enjoyed stepping on Elmo’s™ face. Is that wrong?

Anyhow, we’ve reached summer in Houston. By summer, I mean “exactly like December” in Houston, except muggier. Our house (having been built back when sweet, sweet oil was the equivalent of $140.32/barrel (that’s €5.00/kL)) has the virtue of being built with two air conditioners to save energy. This air conditioning set up, meant for a much larger house, is there. Thankfully.

One of the air conditioners broke. The Mrs. says it made an awful noise before it took a big dirt nap. Despite much coaxing, I could not get The Mrs. to imitate the sound it made before it went to the big Thermodynamics Graveyard. I went “rrrr, rrr”. The Mrs. said, “No.” I went, “crrrrrrrsh,” and again The Mrs. said, “No.” Finally, I went, “grrrrr – chh – grrrr – chhh,” and The Mrs. said, “That’s it.”

Okay, the bearing on the condenser motor was shot.

Again, thankfully the air conditioning still functioned on the side of the house where people sleep. So, on one side of the house it’s as hot as Sharon Stone, 1983. On the other side, it’s as hot as Sharon Stone, 2013. Yeah, it’s cold on the 2013 side. We drug out a box fan, and used it to push air to the 1983 side. The result: lukewarm Wilders, and waaaay too much Sharon Stone.

When we bought Casa Wilder South, the realtor™ said, “Let’s write a home warranty into the offer.” I think the realtors© get a commission for that, or at least mousepads. We did. At closing, I asked (greedy little Wilder that I am) if we could get the money they’d agreed to pony up for the warranty in cash. No dice. So, a home warranty we have.

I called up the company, and, after verifying that I had a policy, some 18 year old in El Secundo, California said that the AC was covered. They’d get someone right on that.

The company charged with carrying out the warranty came out and said, “bearing on the condenser motor is shot.”

The Mrs. said, “I know it doesn’t work. I didn’t need you to drive here and tell me it doesn’t work. I need you to fix the damn thing. UGH, THE MRS. WANT COLD.¹”

Am I good, or what? Can you judge a bearing failure through imitating noises to your wife?

Anyhow, another week goes by. The motor is on (drumroll, please) order. I’m (at this point) just hoping the air conditioner motor is not made from strontium 90 and Loch Ness Monster fur, and on back order until Sharon Stone has enough surgery that she’s hot again.

Of course, we’re hot.

Another week goes by, in which the kitchen is 132°F (453,349°C) and the bedroom is near -432°F.

Oh, did I mention that the electric meter to the house went out (due to lightning strike) at the same time the AC went down? No? Well, my guess is that the electric company will make a weasel-like argument that I would have paid that much to cool my house, anyway, so, in some sense, I owe them the money as if all of my appliances were working.

Did I mention that I reported the electric meter was out?

Does Pugsley need more wood to eat?

¹Article 3, Section 8 of the Wilder Marital Agreements: “The Mrs. shall never, ever, ever, ever live in Texas unless she has unlimited access and complete control of sweet, sweet air conditioning and utter control of the thermostat.”
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"I love the smell of napalm birch in the morning . . . smells like victory." -Lt. Col. Robert Duvall, Apocalpse Now

Original Post Date July 15, 2005

The pile that you see above isn't sticks. It's real. It's wood. It's four cords of real wood that we got in one weekend. The Boy is standing next to the wood, for scale. As he is over six feet tall at nearly five years old (I think that's 7 metric years), you can see indeed that this a great gob of wood.

Most of it is birch (yes, that's spelled right), and I pulled out my calculator and trusty Alaskan Wood Thermal Output Guide and calculated that this is equal to a whole bunch. Over 12,000 pounds, gotten with just a chainsaw, grit, determination, my pickup, a trailer, The Mrs., and A Visiting Relative. I would count The Boy as helping, but while he contributed, three random sticks doesn't quite make the hall of fame.

Nearly 81,000,000 Btu's (that's three bazillion dyne-centimeters, the oh-so-useful metric measure of heat). A Btu is a British thermal unit, which is the heat energy required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. This is nearly enough wood to heat up enough water to wash Courtney Love squeeky clean, but only half as much as we'll need for heating our house this winter.

(An aside, what does Courtney Love bathe in now? Ham?)

What amazes me, though, is The Mrs.

She is a woman of iron.

What would make me say this? She carried more than a third of said wood (remember, estimated wood in excess of 12,000 pounds). And she had a c-section nine weeks ago. Let me repeat that: major baby pulling out surgery nine weeks ago.

I've posted the picture below before:

Now, though, I'm officially scared. If she has acquired some sort of super-hero like healing ability plus super strength, how much longer is my position in the house secure?

She cooks better than I do, she cleans better than I do (not to mention frequency of said cleaning), and she's also refinished an entire dresser since she's been out of the hospital. Now, she's lifting heavy things.

You see, I at least used to have the monopoly on that one, lifting heavy things. But, this move to the higher latitude of Fairbanks seems to have pulled out some long-dormant quasi-Arctic Norse Valkyr gene (previous post). I went to Dictionary.com and looked Valkyr up, just to make sure I got the spelling right:
Valkyr: (pronounced: The Mrs.) One of the maidens of Odin, represented as awful and beautiful, who presided over battle and marked out those who were to be slain, and who also ministered at the feasts of heroes in Valhalla.
This brings up several questions:
  • Is my father-in-law Odin?
  • Does this mean my cabin is Valhalla?
  • Will my insurance company cover damage caused when Thor and Frejya get into a domestic dispute? Or are those excluded under the "acts of Gods" clause?
  • Should I worry about her marking "slay this one" on my forehead as I sleep with a Sharpie?
  • If The Mrs. ministers at feasts, can she perform marriages?
  • Will Frank Frazetta have to do our family portraits? (a good link to get in the spirit)
  • And, most importantly, will some German write a fifty-hour long opera about us?
Well, on further reflection, she might not be a god, but she is heaven sent. And, Alaska tough. Dang, The Mrs. does need that bumper sticker.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women." Conan, Conan the Barbarian


This is what happens when a running Pugsley hits a stationary The Boy. This, my friends, will end in trouble for all of us.

Okay, the progression continues. First The Boy started with watching the Do It Yourself® non-stop. Eventually he got bored – Bob Villa eventually rubs everybody the wrong way, I guess. Now, he’s discovered his holy grail of television – Discovery Science Channel™.

When The Mrs. and I spoke wistfully of returning to the place in the world we love the most, Alaska, there was more than a bit of anger in The Boy’s voice when he told us, in no uncertain terms, that he would not move back to Alaska if the Discovery Science Channel© were not available.

We’re watching it now. I must tell you honestly, Internet, that The Boy scares me now when he talks about scientific subjects – he asks good questions, and he’s adamant that I should be able to tell him what the Earth’s core looks like, and he’s really, really, irritated when I keep telling him that nobody knows. Mystery is not something The Boy suffers well. There must be an answer. “Check Wikipedia,” he told me.

Yeah, at age six, he’s a science and Internet information junkie – he even has a vague appreciation of the technological pinnacle that we inhabit here in 2007 Houston – he knows that there’s a world without electricity that exists in some vague elsewhere. In short, Internet, he knows too much.

All that would frighten me, since his classmates would pull his underwear up and give him swirlies and call him “nerd”, except he’s a head taller than any of his classmates. I imagine he could lift any of them above his head (he carries in 1.5 times his weight in dog food on a regular basis) and throw his classmate like a toothpick into low earth orbit.

Internet, forgive me. The Mrs. and I have created a very strong, very cool nerd. It’s like I live with a tiny Bill Gates, but one that had steroids in his Similac®. The scary thing is that he actually understands what he watches on TV and essentially (despite our attempts to keep all things written from him) taught himself to read through an act of nearly Randsian will.

The Boy does things that way. Then he was itsy-bitsy (less than one) he’d started off on a few words, “ma ma, da da” and the like. By one he clamped down, and didn’t talk for two straight years. Then he started talking in complete sentences. Like a Twilight Zone episode, we could hear him practicing at night, alone in his crib. Now, despite the fact he would not call The Mrs. anything at all until he was nearly 4, well, his teachers indicate on a regular basis he has a really advanced vocabulary. Dunno if that’s some of the words that The Mrs. says when she’s mad, or if it just means he knows words his kindergarten teacher didn’t.

Despite all of these advantages, The Boy still seems to be nice, except when it comes to Pugsley. Occasionally, The Boy will be a big jerk when it comes to Pugsley. Mean, even.

Pugsley is currently growing at a pace unknown except in virus colonies. I anticipate that Pugsley will, next week this time, be six inches taller than I and be comprised of 220 lbs of solid muscle despite that he’s barely two.

Pugsley, is by nature, very sweet. Unlike The Boy, Pugsley smiles. Pugsley manipulates, as much as a two-year-old can. Pugsley has even picked up The Boy’s earlier habit of early language development combined with intense caloric intake and a strict training schedule.

I worry, Internet, that Pugsley will have all of the mental abilities of The Boy, twice his physical abilities, and just a wee bit of pent up rage from being bitten by The Boy for not keeping out of his Legos®.

See, I think Pugsley will eventually be Pugsley the Conqueror, first Emperor of the Americas – he will trample the capitols of the Western Hemisphere under his feet. To think, we owe it all to the Discovery Science Channel™.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"How about a turtle? I love those leathery little snappy faces." - Buster, Arrested Development


The amazing leaf-backed turtle, Wilderosi Magnifici. Actually, I spent an hour attempting to find out what kind of turtle this was on teh Intarwebs, but the closest I came up with was the Fidelcastros Eensies, a Cuban turtle that produces no cigars. Not many people know this, but the turtle is nature's suction cup.

I’m often reminded of Diane Fossey’s work with chimpanzees sororities Jon Bon Jovi gorillas when I deal with The Boy and Pugsley. Here are these perfectly cute little mammals, and, yet, they couldn’t fix a copier if you gave them a sledgehammer and a bottle of SuperGlue®. In fact, if I came back after leaving them with those simple implements for an hour, I would find both of them and the hammer stuck to the drywall of my ceiling above the shower with a matching set of perplexed looks on their faces. Plus, the shower door would be broken, and both of them would deny doing it.

Makes me want to give them a bottle of SuperGlue™.

Anyhow, we had our own Diane Fossey moment the other day. We have a cement pond pool at our house (no, not rich, just try to find a house in Houston without one). The Mrs. takes responsibility for cleaning it, The Mrs. finds a sort of Simon and Simon sort of Zen® (maybe even a Magnum P.I.® sort of Zen©) when she cleans it. Occasionally The Mrs. comes across some amphibian as dead as Fran Drescher’s career, and then uses some combination of tools from my shop (last time it was the table saw) to remove it from the pool area.

But what happens when it’s alive?

Umm, that means it’s a turtle. We had one living in our pool for about three days last week. When The Mrs. went outside it would dive like Rosie O’Donnell for the last Danish on the dessert tray for the deep end of the pool. The Mrs. didn’t want to deal with it.

Me? I’m contractually bound by provision C.2.8.j.f of our marriage contract to ”deal with all things smelly, icky, and amphibian that may heretofore or at any future point whatsoever come into contact with anything. Forever.”

So, in addition to cleaning penicillin from the fridge, I guess that includes turtles in the pool.

I got home and The Mrs. pointed out the four-legged-shelled interloper. I sighed. The Mrs. quoted C.2.8.j.f. chapter and verse. I got out the net, and snagged our little turtle friend.

Turtles go “thunk” when you bounce them on concrete? Did you know that?

Me, I have as much experience with turtles as dolphins have with hang gliding. Where I grew up there was some sort of desert horned-toad (that I’m sure is now on an endangered species list – if an 8 year old can catch one, they shouldbe extinct) that we used to regularly capture and put in boxes and feed insects until they died.

Turtles? Some of them are snapping turtles. They can chomp off parts of me I love. Some of them can turn into fire breathing dragons like Gamera. Some are just robots in disguise waiting to eat cars, like Deceptiturtle.

In short, I know a much about turtles as Kyrgyzstan knows about vowels. I put on steel-toed boots, grabbed a net, and scooped the turtle up from the bottom of the pool in a single smooth motion. Success. As I looked it at, heck, it looked like a big green discus, with all legs and head tucked into the shell. It reminded me of a paperweight.

We threw it as far as we could onto the neighbor’s lawn in the direction of the local bayou.

No longer our problem.

Diane Fossey had gorillas in the mist. We had turtles in the pool.

I just want Bill Paxson to play me in the movie version.
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Sunday, July 08, 2007

"So long and thanks for all the fish." - The Dolphins, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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The Boy and Pugsley stare at lots of tiny fish. Lots of tiny fish.

Since my in-laws decided to live in a place accessible only by submarine, we stayed in Houston all week. I took off some vacation time (that I had been planning anyway) and we decided to do what George Lucas decided to do with the last three Star Wars™ movies, namely, just coast.

The rain that has been plaguing Texas to the north finally decided it was Houston’s turn, and dropped in for a visit – every day of my vacation except for today, it has rained, and in most cases rained heavily. What to do? Too wet to go out and too cold to play ball, so we sat in the house and did nothing at all. All we could do was sit, sit, sit, sit. And we did not like it, not one little bit.

So we went to the aquarium. I know, pouring buckets of rain, and all we could think was to visit the aquarium. We drove downtown and found the aquarium.

The first thing that bothered me about the aquarium was that they wanted $6.00 American dollars to allow me the privilege to park my car on their lot. Not good – the only thing that I would pay $6.00 for parking to go and see would be Ronnie James Dio¹. Ronnie wouldn’t ask, either. He’s cool. Since The Boy wanted to see fish, well, I’d pay it anyway.

The last aquarium I had been to was in Albuquerque, and it was a fine, fun facility where you could spend hours looking at all manner of icky swimming things. This building we were walking toward was smaller than your average Starbucks® (not the one in the lobby of the Starbucks©, but the one Starbucks™ with the Wells Fargo© in its lobby).

The first sign of trouble that I saw at the aquarium was that it wasn’t owned by the city or the county, but rather it was owned by Landry’s Seafood Restaurants, as it said in teeny-tiny fine print . In my mind, that’s similar to the dude who makes fur coats owning the zoo – it’s just a conflict of interest. I also began to question the quality of exhibits that we were going to see – would all the fish be filleted and fried on a nice platter with coleslaw?

We finally found the tourist fleecing station box office and paid – about $26.75, not counting Pugsley, because they charged no admission for critters as small as he. We made it into the aquarium. The first exhibit we saw was . . . sea bass – does Landry’s just scoop out the exhibits and feed them to the diners in the restaurant above the aquarium? My suspicions were being confirmed. I was expecting to see the next tank full of hush puppies, which I believe are the larval form of Pop Tarts®.

Alas, no, an actual aquarium was next. The Wilder enjoying the show the very most was Pugsley. What goes through a two-year-old’s mind as he stares at fish swimming, well, he won’t tell us. But he was amused. We saw alligators, lots of little fish that wouldn’t even fill a fish stick (but they would have been colorful fish sticks), and some swimming things that look like they should have been Muppets®, rather than real living creatures. I kept expecting to see vats of tartar sauce.

After five (really, five) rooms of various fish tanks, we were confronted by that great denizen of the deep, the Great Albino Tiger fish. Actually, two living, breathing, bored as hell albino tigers were stretched out, reading the paper and watching CSI: Congo reruns. Did I miss the high school biology lesson where tigers were classified as fish and should thusly be placed in an aquarium?

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An albino tiger with, I assume, Buddha. In this version, Buddha lost his razor and has been on Slim-Fast®

Around the corner, the gift shop loomed – filled with – stuffed albino tigers, albino tiger t-shirts, albino tiger panty-hose, and albino tiger Pez® dispensers. Oh, and there were some fish thingys.

The nice thing about the “aquarium” is that it didn’t take all that long, and since it was raining, neither The Boy or Pugsley could complain that we weren’t going to go and hit the “aquarium” Ferris wheel.

Did we have fun? Sure. Going back? Ummm, not unless Ronnie James Dio is playing there.

Rock and fish? Makes more sense than tigers.

¹Ronnie James Dio is a rock and/or roll singer.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

"We're tired of your phony fireworks." - The One True Shatner, Star Trek

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A batch of Black Cats in Fairbanks.

We’d planned on taking a bit of a vacation this week to visit The Mrs.’ family. We had planned to sneak out of Texas, and drive to the Midwest to see an old-fashioned Fourth of July fireworks show. Up where The Mrs. originally hails from, you can buy decent fireworks, in that apparently the Mothers Against Fun have yet to get them banned in this locale. My threshold for decent is pretty low, since where I grew up, bottle rockets, fire crackers, and anything more threatening than a sparkler was banned (watch out, you could get a tiny burn from a sparkler).

I grew up in the mountains in a touristy part of the world, and tourists would bring in contraband fireworks that were so potent that your typical Winnebago with Texas license plates had more destructive power than the entire Bolivian military. My guess is that’s still the case – I imagine most Texans travel with a fifty caliber machine gun in the back of the fifth wheel.

Often, they brought in the big mortar shells, and would put on truly amazing (and utterly illegal) Independence Day displays that I would watch from my backyard. Now, there is nothing, nothing more envious than a fourteen year old boy watching people play with explosives and not being able to do so himself. All boys like destruction. On the rare occasion I could get my hands on fireworks, they immediately made their way into a model car or some other thing I’d like to see explode, and pretty soon I’d happily see a red 1964 Jaguar that I’d spent four hours cutting, assembling, gluing and painting reduced to a puddle of twisted and burning melted plastic.

So, when I first visited my in-laws on the Fourth of July a decade ago, I found that I could purchase actual fireworks, along with actual mortar shells. I was transported back to being that fourteen year old watching fireworks from afar – now it was my turn. I would tell you that as I lit the fuse on the mortar shell that I’ve grown up, and didn’t take raw animal enjoyment from the resulting explosion. But that would be a lie. My only regret is that I couldn’t figure out how to make the explosions bigger.

I was looking forward to that again this year. But, no. There happen to be floods of historical proportions going on in the Midwest this week, so, I’m not even sure we could get out of Texas without a submarine. Oh, sure, people everywhere are suffering due to the massive damage, but this is about me not getting to play with fireworks.

The Mrs. is worried sick about her parents being cut off from all manner of things civilized amid a tide of rising floodwater, but I just don’t see her priorities. I can’t play with fireworks this weekend. Which do you think bothers her more?

No. It’s her parents. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand that woman.

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