Sunday, April 30, 2006

First Communion Time.

We spent the day at my Niece's First Communion today.

My Niece-in-law? Whatever. She is My Wife's Brother's Daughter.

A Beautiful Day and the kids looked perfect in their little mini-bride-and-groom outfits.

Next week we have another as my Sister K's Son gets dressed up.

This one was held at Mother of Divine Providence Church in KofP which reminds me of Garrison Keiler's "Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility" from prairie Home Companion.

The priest was a major thespian. This guy was had it down. Every move seemed calculated to go with the show. Even Youngest Son said the guy gave him the creeps. Mrs F said he reminded her of George Segal was wasn't creeped out by him.

It all reminded us of Oldest Son's First Communion.

He had a hard time swallowing the wafer during practice runs with the Priests and would choke.

literally choke.

So the priest that was running the whole show told him: "You go last and I will hand you the host and you can take it back and swallow when you are ready".

So the big day came.

Oldest Son dutifully lines up last, takes the host in his hands as shown in this picture and then seconds later gave the priest two big thumbs up.

Two big thumbs up.

I missed the photo because I had just taken this shot and the digital camera couldn't take two pics in a row.

Later there would be "the incident" with the host and Oldest Son.

Friday, April 28, 2006

NFL Draft time

The biggest, most expensive gaming table of them all is will be on view this weekend in New York when the NFL holds it's annual draft. Teams from around the league will square off to inject fresh blood into their line ups with the best and brightest in college football today. The only problem is that they have no idea which players will actually help their teams or will end up being a very large headache. Will they bring NFL glory or minicams, spotlights and microphones in the face of the coach asking "what happend to Ricky?"

No one knows.

Take the 1999 Draft for example. The first two overall selections were Tim Couch and Dononvan McNabb. Tim Couch is sitting on a couch and McNabb is the Philadelphia Eagles franchise QB. Yet the Cleveland Browns (at the time) thought that he would make a better field general than McNabb. Snake eyes and you are out. Also in the first round of that draft were Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown.

Unbelievably, only McNabb and Culpepper remain in the league and McNabb was actually booed at his selection by Philadelphia Eagles fans that had wanted Ricky Williams!

So lay down your money and see what happens. It's a crap-shoot.

Good luck.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Happy Birthday K.

Happy Birthday to my favorite little sister. K turns ?? today.

Hey I can't believe you are ?? today. I remember when Mom and Dad brought you home. I was holding your little hand while you were in the cradle I remember thinking "how small".

I remember how excited you were when you recognized yourself on the family slide show. You were little, I want to say 4 and Dad was showing pictures of vacation at the beach and you were there in the your little two piece. You were screaming/gigling/laughing at yourself.

Who can forget High School? Three older brothers, all telling you "You are going to wear that to school?"

Every week you had a new best friend.

We grew up in the same house, same family yet you never had bologna? You had cars to yourself. Things were different.

Now you are a Mom to two great kids.

Happy Birthday.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A visit to DC.

The boys and I went to visit our Nation's Capital along with our Boy Scout Troop. We actually camped in College Park, MD.

Yes, camped. Yes, in College Park.

It only seemed like the medial strip of the intersection of I-95 and I-495 but it was actually a commercial camp ground. There were overhead power lines, the sound the distant Interstate traffic and of course the prying eyes of the NSA's radar.

Luckily, Mr C, one of our assistant scout masters, rendered our camp site invisible to their prowling radar with strategically placed pieces of aluminum foil and rope looped around sticks.

We spent a rainy Friday night in the stealth camp site listening to the overhead power lines hum from the dry comfort of our tents.

In the morning we ate a quick breakfast and headed to the minivans to make our way into L'Enfant's nightmare.

I have gotten lost every single time I've driven in D.C. but we made in OK because we headed in on Connecticut Ave through 8 million traffic lights and two traffic circles.

We lined up with the other temporary vagrants on the federal dole, looking for free handouts in the form of tickets to the Washington Monument. We got 16 tickets for 2 PM and a block of cheese.

Next we headed off to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution at the National Archives. Funny, I didn't remember a huge line in front of the building when Nick Cage went in to steal the Declaration of Independence in National Treasure. We waited in this line to see the famous documents which the founding fathers had the foresight to write in a special ink that disappears with flash photography. Fortunately, ones with real ink are available in the gift shop for $7 and not the $35 like the movie.

After a quick lunch in our temporary hooverville,
we headed off to the Lincoln Memorial where Abraham Lincoln sits as we best remember him, on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. I'm kidding of course since everyone knows that Abraham Lincoln discovered America. I hope that is true since that is what we told the boys.

We walked back over to the Washington Monument to use our free tickets. It was my first time in the obelisk and I was happy they had put in an elevator. Every time I had been to DC previously, the monument was covered is scaffolding. I think they were painting it or maybe they were putting in an elevator. I don't know but I seemed like for years it was covered. Here is a picture from 1999. Then we headed back to the stealth camp site but instead going back out Connecticut Ave we fell into the trap of thinking that getting out of DC was easily accomplished on I-395. I-395 actually only goes around in big circle and is only meant for Senators to get to the capitol quickly not for tourists getting in and out of DC and I fell for it again.

After driving in circles for a short bit we found our way back to the stealth camp site for dinner. The boys broke down their tent in the pouring rain and we headed home to dry beds.

(note the tin foil in the lower left still protecting our site)(You thought I was kidding)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Big time drug buy

When I woke up this morning my head was pounding.

I am prone to nasty sinus headaches, the kind than feel like a spike has been planted firmly between your eyes.

I went in search of my stock of generic tylenol sinus and gobbled down my last two. Ahh relief was on it's way.

I'd have to pick up some more on the way to work.

I stopped at the Rite-Aid on 16th and Chestnut in search of more relief. I scan the mile long cold/sinus/headache aisle and can't seem to find the usual magic pills. I'm search up and down what seems to be 20 feet of four high shelf space and nothing.

Finally I see at the top what appear to be coupons for the usual suspects.

What is with the coupons?

I read a label next to the coupons. "Please take to pharmacy to purchase"


I had to show a drivers license to purchase the product above.

apparently they are laced with 30 mg of Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride. I searched Google for any clues about this and found nothing.

Is this a Philly thing only? Pennsylvania? Riteaid?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Astro Turf and Ice Rinks

Today the big school budget elections were held in my township. I voted after returning from New York on a vendor visit.

Usually these votes have the older citizens pitted against the parents of school aged kids. The older folks don't want taxes to go up at all and the parents want newer/better things at the schools like enough teachers to go around and building that doesn't leak when it rains.

Today as I waited in line, a man over about 75 signed in and hobbled towards the end of the line where I was standing. He had a cane and was wearing a Don Henley inside job ball cap. I'm guessing the cane was his but he found the hat.

He starts up as soon as he gets in line about how everything "goes up" and what do these kids need with an ice skating rink. (One of the items up for vote was skating rink for the Ice Hockey team) . I said "I'll bet it's pretty common to have an Ice Skating team" but I might as well have said "Nerf linnger obbed foo spill rootter" because he ignored me and just kept going on about how they expect a private school education.

In the end I just politely smiled and waited to vote.

By the way, I think they put things like the Ice Skating rink on there just to outrage the older folks and give them something to vote no on. Some of the things up to voters to decide on are so ridiculous they have to be.

One of the other items up for a a vote was Astro-turf for the football fields. Older son is in the marching band which dutifully plays at each football game. He is a sophomore and this year for the first time they played the High School's alma matta at the end of one home game. He asked the person next him "Why are we playing that song?"

The person next to him said "we play that after every win"

Two years in the band and that was the first time he played the song.

I'm guessing that Astro Turf isn't the issue.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Katie Couric

This morning Mrs F said "I am Katie Couric'd out". I couldn't agree more. OK great, she is reading the News by herself without a man sitting next to her. I mean it's not like she is the first woman President or First Woman in space. She is reading the News. r-e-a-d-i-n-g t-h-e n-e-w-s.

Enough already with Katie and Merrideth. Move along.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Night I met Steve Howe

It is all Nicolette's fault. She started it all.

Oldest son and his GF were looking for concerts to go to and found out that Steve Howe, Guitarist from the 70's progressive rock band Yes was coming and could I help them get tickets. They were thinking "can we use your credit card" but I was thinking that a friend from Church (D.) knows Steve and he might be able to hook us up.
D. and I trade emails and He would be more than happy to get us comp tickets and maybe get to meet Steve.

We are in.

The day of the show arrives and Nicolette bails because of work. She is quickly replaced by Oldest Son's friend B.

We drive into the city, park and head to the TLA on South Street. We find one of the Toynbee Idea signs (I must do a blog on these) along the way and I just know it's going to be a wacky night. D. gets us into the TLA, (third row!) and we are hanging out talking to people in the crowd.

These are the Yes Super Fans. The hardcore. The proud. The Few. The still alive. Hats, shirts and signs prevail. It's also Steve's birthday and these people are eating it up.

As 9 pm approaches, a group of guys is getting to their seats in the row in front of us and I think I recognize one of them.

Me: Eric?
EM: Ya my name is Eric, how d'you know that?

He doesn't recognize me. It's Eric Morgan.

I introduce myself and then it sinks in as to who I am. He is happy to see me and we start catching up. How is my sister? My family? Where is Steve? Andy? He went to see David Glimore last week in NY. He has two kids, 4 and 6. He has a Bricklin. I ask if it has a Flux Capacitor. I think this is hilarous and Eric tells me that the Back to the Future car was Deloren.

We introduce our groups to one another.

These are guys from my old neighborhood back in PA and I haven't seen them since at least 2000 AND NOW THEY ARE SITTING IN FRONT OF ME. What are the chances of this? Tryone Taconelli, Chris Cresse, Bill Lutz and Eric Morgan have come to pay homage to Steve. Chris is a big Yes head and is in his element. He is busily lecturing Oldest son about how today's music doesn't have the positive message that music from the 70's had.

"No negativity man. Rap is crap." Chris says.

I'm thinking music from the 70's was confusing and esoteric and we were um.... under the influence. But 70's music isn't exactly "It's hard out here for a Pimp" either.

I'm thinking this is like some sort of wacky dream. Worlds collide, Jerry. My son is being lectured on the positive aspects of music with lyrics like "Flying shining purple wolfhounds / show me where you are" by Chris Cresse.

This is a little unexpected to say the least.

I fully expect Mr Temme, my 7th grade math teacher to come out on stage and warm up the crowd with jokes.

Mr Temme: What's next in this series? 30,34,40,46,52,56,60,63 ?
Crowd: 68. 70! 72! 65?
Mr Temme: No it's Millborne!

At one point D breaks out Altoids and offers me one. Five mints dump into my hand and now there is no putting them back. I offer some to Oldest Son and realize I am passing around little pink tablets at a concert. I am passing little pink tablets to my son at a Yes-like concert: the wacky dream continues.

I offer some to Chris and Eric and Chris does his best Rev Jim Ignatowski impression with "whoa...."
Calm down Chris, they are mints.

The show starts and the crowd is wishing Steve "Happy Birthday" in every break in the show. Steve is kind of going along with it but clearly he doesn't want to encourage anyone wishing him a happy 59th birthday. He says "that was yesterday" to fend them off. This woman in a "Fragile" T-Shirt arrives late to our row, missing the whole "no more Happy Birthday" thing and in the first break yells at the top of her lungs "Happy Birthday Steve!". She was the only one.

Steve was great, nearly flawlessly playing a wide array of music from Country Blues to Vivaldi and of course he plays excepts from Yes songs. He played better than 2 hours, closer to 2 ½, and is great. I honestly don't know a lot of the pieces but every time a Yes riff emerges the crowd goes crazy.

The best parts are between songs when He interacts with the crowd. He tells stories about "Re-LAY-er" where Patrick Moraz needs to be reeled in from using the wheel on the Moog Synethisizer.

As the show ends I say goodbye to Eric and Chris and we take pictures. The boys and I proudly put on our "All Access" pass and politely wait around for Steve. There are maybe 10 of us. One group of two guys waiting for Steve did something with the sound system; another is an old publicist for Steve and some guys that have made up "Happy Birthday Steve" shirts. We wait around for about a half an hour while the TLA crew cleans up chairs to Otis Reading blasting away on the sound system. Finally Steve comes out and it's kind of awkward. I don't really know him but I feel like I do since I just watched him on stage for 2 plus hours plus the time I've invested in Yes over thirty some years. I was introduced to him by D and listened as he talked about how excited he was that Asia was going to tour again.

I'm glad there aren't groupies because at our age I'm really afraid of what that might look like since a fifty-nine year old groupie can't be a real pleasing site.

He signed my "All Access" pass, we took some photos with him and the boys and I head to Geno's Steaks saying good night and thank you to D. I figure if we are going to do the whole Philly thing we might as well go all the way.

I make my way from South over to 9th and Passyunk erratically making left and rights but I make up for it by parallel parking a 14.6 foot car in a 16 foot spot in 2 backups - because I got mad skillz.

We step outside and it's freezing and this is bad for an outdoor cheesesteak stand. I teach the boys the how to order at Pat's and Geno's and what "wit" and "wit-out" means. They think it's like the Soup Nazi.

Geno's has a sign prominently displayed that reads "Daniel Faulkner was murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal on Dec 9th, 1981" and B. wants to know why we need to know who murdered him. This starts a whole discussion on the Mumia Abu-Jamal thing and I now know this is just wacky.

I am standing outside in the cold talking with Oldest Son's friend about Mumia.

We eat our steaks and head home.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Shed Saga Part 3

Well, we are back from the zoning board meeting and we have success! We have our variance for the new shed!

We were third in line after two fence variances. How exciting!

It turns out that the application for the ARB included the words "it is township regulation" and the board approved the whole thing!

Now the dilemma with the ARB. Do we just build the shed or go back to the ARB for re-approval?

Who cares.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I know some really stupid stuff.

The other day I was listening to the radio and Red, Red Wine by UB40 came on. I recalled hearing once that UB40 got it's name from a UK unemployment form and I thought what stupid thing to be rattling around in my head.

some more:

  • Bruce Springsteen and the E street band once backed up Chuck Berry when they were cutting their teeth. (There was no practice and Chuck told them they were going to play "Chuck Berry music" and that was all he told them.)
  • The voice of Sponge Bob, Tom Kenny, and Bobcat Goldthwait went to High School together. (Tom Kenney tells a story that in Gym class while choosing sides for basketball, it was down to the two of them and girl with a hook for a hand. The girl was chosen ahead of them).
  • Frank Lloyd Wright drew the sketches for Falling Water in an morning while the client was on his way over to visit.
  • All restaurants in Japan have plastic replicas of all the food they serve - down to the beverages.
  • In 1943, during World War II, The Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers formed one team (Steagles) in a cost cutting move.
  • Pennies were made from Steel in 1943 to save copper for the war effort and if you find a copper one it's worth a small fortune.
  • Adam live to be 930 years old.
  • Larry Walters built and flew an aircraft constructed from weather balloons and a aluminum lawn chair. He rose to 16,000 feet and was reported by two commercial aircraft pilots and eventually landed in some power lines. (Hello, Los Angeles, you are not going believe this but...). Larry lived through the event. Unfortunately in 1993 Larry committed suicide.

  • The Luxury Cruise Liner the Marro Castle caught fire and ran aground off the beach of Asbury Park, NJ in Sept 1934. It remained there until March 1935.

  • The SS America has been aground off the west coast of Fuerteventura, a small island off the northwest coast of Africa since 1994.
  • The SS United States is docked in Philadelphia across the street from the Ikea.
  • saccharine, Penicillin, the planet Uranus and Glass were all discovered accidentally.
  • Bill Gates memorized and recited the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6 &7) as an eleven year old boy. He won dinner at the space needle.
  • The shed saga part 2

    I got a call from a good friend of mine that is on the Zoning board the other day who had a question on the Architectural Review Board (ARB) approval I provided to the board. Apparently it isn't an approval after all.

    I spoke with the Chairman of the ARB and he says that he couldn't approve it because it is a township ordinance.

    The zoning board needs ARB approval.

    ARB needs zoning board approval.

    Oh no. This isn't going to go well tomorrow.

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    The shed saga part 1.

    My neighbors and my wife hate this shed. Truth is, I hate too and this year we are going to replace it.

    I swear.

    It turns out this is not going to be easy.

    Our community has a Architectural Review Board (ARB) that needs to approve every exterior change and our township has strict zoning codes.

    Who ever put the shed in originally igonored both of these or they didn't exist when it was constructed.

    So now the shed is set back 3 and 4 feet back from the property line when it should be six.

    So to get a new shed on the exact same spot I need to:

    Step 1: Get ARB to approve replacing shed.
    Easily done with a form. I submit it and surprise! the shed needs to be 6 feet back from the property line according to township rules. I need to apply for a variance to put a new shed exactly in the same place as the old falling down one.

    Step 2: Get variance from township.
    This is just like leaking money. I think I would save a lot of time and effort by taking $1000 in small bills and setting it on fire in my driveway.

    It's 5 bucks to get a giant stack of papers called a "package". Inside the package are obtuse guidelines that would be very helpful only if I were putting in a subdivision. There isn't any "check here to replace shed" checkbox any where.

    A few emails and phonecalls later I figure out This needs to be done in two phases.
    First you need to apply and then you need to tell everyone you applied and have proof to told all the right people you have applied and that there will be a hearing on a Wednesday night in April.

    Step 2a: Apply for a hearing.
    I spend a saturday going through all the paper work again and fill out all the forms. I need a notary to verify I am who I say that I am. I'm guessing there has been a lot of fraud in the rebuilding of sheds in past and now they ask for ID. I'm sure Al Qaeda is behind this some how and perhaps this is where Binladen is or the WMD are, some suburban shed built before the law to check ID.

    I also need a list of all property owners within 200 feet of my property So I can notify them and surprise! only the county can provide this list for $10.
    This is like being nibbled to death by puppies.
    I need proof that I paid my taxes. $20.
    I need to escrow $200 in case I decide to run off to Mexico before completing my variance and finally the application itself is $200.
    Total So far: $435.

    Step 2b: Notify everyone that I want to take down an eyesore shed and put up a new shed. I send out 15 certified mails and put an ad in the paper that no one will ever read. Total cost $122.

    The zoning board meets Wednesday so I'll update later.