Sunday, July 29, 2007

Update on the Big Fish

So we figure out who left the giant fish on our doorstep on the 13th and what the meaning behind the "fish on the door step" was. It was oldest son's friend Hanna from Cherry Hill and it was meant to be rebus puzzle.

A Rebus
Originally uploaded by mfalcian

Inside the picture in the fishes, right fin was this rebus. Loosely translated it means "swedish". "Sweat minus "AT" plus dish. Swe-dish.

That's right the whole thing meant "Swedish Fish".

I had an opportunity to talk to Hanna when I took both my sons, Hanna, Lana and Arron to Gogol Bordello in Philly. I got at least part of the story. It still wasn't clear what all this was about.

I did ask "what about the boot?"

The answer I got was great.

Ohh that was from the last time.

Of course, the last time. She must do this all the time. Except now the fish is still sitting in my bedroom. The dogs are afraid of it and it is a good place to store pants apparently.

Originally uploaded by mfalcian

All the fish pictures are here.

So I took all five of them to Gogol Bordello only they had three tickets. This is typical.

Youngest son and Aaron did not have tickets and because I am trying to qualify for "chooch of the year", I took them anyway.

Only I had to wait to to see if Youngest Son at age 14 got into the show with a ticket at the door. Instead of the drop and run out of Chinatown I would have to hang out downtown until he got in. They had to wait about 40 minutes for the doors to even open so I sat in the minivan directly in front of the Tracadero.

I told them to phone me with the code words "John has a very long mustache" if they were able to get in and "John has shaved his mustache" if they could not.

I was bored.

The Trocadero can't block the entrance of the restaurant next door so they have to break the line for a half a block and continue it past the restaurant and the parking lot next to that. The effect is this "short line mirage" where people come to what they believe is the back of the line only to find out that the line extends for two blocks after the 1/2 block break. There are bouncers at each end of the break.

I watched for 40 minutes as people got in the "fake" end of the line and then there would be the bouncer standing, arm fully extended and pointing west to the remote end of the line. This would happen with every new group that got in line.

One oriental looking young girl at first refused and after the giant bouncer came over to chat with her, changed her mind.

I wished that I had brought my camera after while. It was real scene especially when the kid with the skate board, an arm load of food and a beer took spill in front of the whole (forward half) of the line. At first he was OK after only his food containers fell to ground and then out of no where his beer dropped to the sidewalk. The whole line erupted in disapproval.

I watched as youngest son and Aaron approached the nearer line break bouncer and asked a question. Minutes later I got a call:

"ahh John's beard is OK, I mean they got in, ahh mustache"

Nothin' doing, I am staying put. They were just trying to get rid of me.

I watched as the bouncers got ready for the show. They all wear black. Black in the bouncer's official color. They have girl bouncers and guy bouncers. The girl bouncers frisk the ladies as they come in and the guys do the same for the guys. Bouncers have lots of tattoos.

In the end, they got in fine and then never called. I had to call them.

"Is everything ok? Did your brother get in?" Like they never saw me sitting in the van in front of the place at the curb.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Parallel Parking

Oldest Son will be taking his driving test for his license next week and his final lesson was parallel parking. This evening he learned from a master parallel parker, namely, me.

I learned this skill early.

Very early.

I was 5.

My father is a master parallel parker and I must have learned from watching him. He could park a '63 Bonneville, which because of the curvature of the earth you couldn't actually see the other end of, in a spot barely larger than the actual car.

I clearly remember parallel parking my Murray Fire Chief in our basement in Drexel Hill. I pulled along side the furnace, crooked my neck over my right shoulder and took the U shaped steering wheel in my hands and turned it fully to the right, while I started pedaling the awkward pedals backwards. In one fluid motion cut the wheel slowly to the left until I came to a perfect stop inches from the furnace and parallel to it.

A perfect park.

I am not making this up.

My mother was nearby washing clothes and told me to do it again. She was an new driver at the time. She grew up in the city and in those days driving was not a skill that girls learned. In the suburbs you had to drive and she hadn't quite mastered the art of putting a 20 foot car in a 21 foot space. This made visiting her mother in South Philly difficult.

That day, I actually taught my mother how to parallel park.

It's a gift. I can't help it.

We went tonight to practice at a local high school. First I explained that you want a nice fluid motion like an 'S'.

Then I showed him. He was outside the car and he watched me practice.

I was the Tiger Woods of parallel parking. In one motion I put the little Civic inches from the curb and perfectly parallel. No back ups.

He was astonished. He really was. He actually said that was amazing.

Watching him the first couple of times was painful. Too steep on the approach, he would hit the curb or he was 2 feet from the curb and crooked when complete.

As he practiced it, he got better. By the end of an hour he had it down. So next week he finds out if he has mastered this skill and can display it for the DMV of New Jersey during his test.

The ability to parallel park remains as one of my few super powers but I rarely get to show it off here in the suburbs. My other super power is the ability to return to a TV show the very second the commercials have ended after spending the break channel surfing.

I get more opportunities with that one.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Update on Lessons Learned.

So tonight we were resigned to paying the 400 HUNDRED dollar charge on the cell phone bill and had even transfered the money from Youngest Son's account to ours. We also decided that the text messaging is an unmovable object, an impossibly strong temptation and to avoid such trauma again we should sign up for unlimited text messaging.

I called the Freakin' Phone company and spent 10 minutes on hold and when a human being answered something came over me.

I got really, really angry and I temporarily channeled Mrs F.

Usually she is the one that gets into "discussions" with hotel managers, store clerks and builders of decks. Tonight it was me.

I calmly explained that I thought this was criminal, that a 14 year-old would be able to do this with out anyone's permission as he explained the unlimited messaging plans available and then I asked "but what can we do about the 400 dollar bill?"

At first he was willing to take half off if we signed up for unlimited messaging.

Then I asked when my contract was up and "could I transfer our numbers when we left?".

The whole 416.40 magically was lifted off our bill.

I transfered Youngest Son's money back.

He is still grounded but at least he has his money back.

Tile Man update

Yesterday, I got a call from the tile guy that he would be here at 8 AM. I pumped 3 inches off the pool last night with an electric pump.

Last night at 11 I am watching the news and the weather man comes on tells me that we are getting a Nor easter today. There is a giant blob of rain coming up from the Carolina's where all good storms start. A Nor Easter!

Sure enough at 6 AM when I got up, it was raining.

Today's forecast:

Today: Rain likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Cloudy, with a high near 73. North wind between 10 and 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.

This is not like a "maybe it will be OK" forecast. Did the guy even look before calling me? Why didn't I look?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A hard learned lesson.

This week we learned that 0.15 times 2776 is equal to 416.4.

Youngest Son, after repeated warnings, was text messaged by his girlfriend 1388 times last month and of course he had to reply to each and every one of them even though he knew it cost 15 cents per message.

1388 x 2 x $ 0.15 equals $416.40

Four hundred sixteen and 40/100 Freaking Dollars.

And that is exactly how I going to write the check.

Last month he racked up about 20 bucks worth and we had a little talk. A meaningless talk apparently, but we did have a talk. Every time you do that it cost 30 cents. OK?


(Helllll-o, every text message costs 15 cents, OK? ...... )

Four Hundred dollars.

I wouldn't mind, I guess, if the messages were Earth shattering communications about the end of the "war" in Iraq or Hamas and Fatah decided that Isreal really is OK and they can all just get along now (By the way which is which? Which one do we like again? Is it Fatah?) or Paris Hilton is back in prison and so is that other numbskull Nicole Richie.

Maybe even news of a completely fat free ice cream.

But it wasn't, it was Four HUNDRED dollars worth of:

"Hey Boo"
"Yeah?" (30 cents)
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing" (30 cents)

And indecipherable goobly-gook like ROFLOL and "screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeam"

I calculated that "Hey boo" works out to nearly 2 cents per character. I think for that kind of money he could have hired sky writers to write out:


over her house.

(and where in the world did "Boo" come from? Are we in the freakin' 'hood? Are we gh-ett-o fabulous?)

The bill did not come in one of the usual envelopes. No, it came in the "High Roller" envelope. This is the one where the Freaking Phone company doesn't fold the bill in half like normal but the bill comes as a stack of papers, unfolded, in a giant envelope.

This is because it is a physical impossibility to fold 87 piece of paper in half. I saw it on Myth Busters.

That's right 87 pages. With both sides printed. Mostly with this:

1041 06/28 10:53 PM MTM Other 1 Msg NFT5 In 0.15
1042 06/28 10:54 PM MTM Other 1 Msg NFT5 Out 0.15

Over and Over and Over again.

NFT5 is labeled a "billing code". I think is stands for 'Nother Foolish Text 5 (for 5 times the going rate)

Every time I thought of it, I was sick to my stomach. It's like taking 400 dollars and setting it on fire.

Needless to say he is grounded, again. He asked "until when?"

I said "as soon as there is a month with an 'R' in it".

Ohh and you are paying for this, not me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Up and Down

On Tuesday I looked at the pool and noticed the water was a little low and the water was barely over the bottom of the lowest tile. So I added water to the pool. If the water level drops below the tiles, the skimmer stops working and the pool surface get yechhhhey.

This really shouldn't be big deal and certainly not great news to be blogging about. It just isn't that exciting. I added water to the pool. I added a lot of water to the pool. Enough to be perfectly full at exactly between the two tiles.

The tiles around the pool are two high and you should really try to keep the water level exactly at the line between the two rows of tiles.

I was very proud of myself. It's not easy to do. You have to turn the hose on for just right amount of time to make it come out perfectly.

As I went outside to turn the water off, I proudly announced that I was turning the water off to my wife.

"I am turning the water off"

She responded with

"Why are you filling the pool?, the tile man is coming on Thursday"

I had forgotten that a contractor was coming to repair broken tiles and unless he has scuba gear and special underwater plaster, he couldn't very well repair tiles that were underwater.

On Wednesday I emptied water out of the pool. I had to buy DE (Diatomaceous Earth) for the filter since I needed to backwash to get the water out of the pool. If you backwash then all the old DE comes off the filter and gets flushed out.

Because I now knew that the Tile guy was coming, I knew enough to lower the water level below the tile but to get the DE back into the filter, you dump it in the skimmer. So how was I going to get the water below tile and use the skimmer to fill the DE? If I take the water below the tile the skimmer stops working and if the skimmer isn't working I can't put the new DE in.

I had an idea. I'd use the hot tub which is integrated into the pool, as a reserve tank. I would drain the hot tub, take the water to level just above tile where the skimmer is still working, dump in the DE and the fill the hot tub from the pool, draining the water off to the perfect level.

It worked perfectly. The water was 1/2 inch below the tiles. White cement was showing.

I was so proud of myself.


I called the tile guy so I could boast.

He said "I should have called you"

The tile man isn't coming and now the pool water is too low to use the skimmer.

So I filled the pool back up.

So now when the tile guy comes on Monday I have to lower the water level again.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Swedish Fish

OK Some mornings are different than others.

This morning, as is my habit, I went out to get the newspaper and to my surprise there was a very large fish on my doorstep.

A very large stuffed animal fish was lurking outside my screen door.

I could hardly get the screen door open.

I am not making this up.

There was a large stuffed fish on my door step at 6:30 AM.

I pushed open the door and found some very strange things about the fish on my door step.

It had a boot pinned to it's behind.

Yes, a rubber boot pinned to it's behind. I am still not making this up.

The fish had two pieces of paper pinned to it's fins. The one pinned to the left fin was obviously a foreign flag of some type. The flag was blue with a yellow cross.

The other paper, pinned to the right fin, was a picture someone had printed from the Internet of a girl in some foreign traditional dress. She looked dutch.

There was another flag of the same type hand drawn in her left hand. Blue background, yellow cross. Below the girl and her flag was a hand drawn picture of plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, spaghetti and meatballs.

A quick Internet search revealed the flag was Swedish.

A Swedish fish. The girl must be Swedish too.

A mystery.

Why was a giant fish on my doorstep? I know it wasn't there at 11 when I went to bed. Who on Earth was delivering such a package overnight to peoples doorstep?

Was Friday the 13th a big holiday in Sweden?

Was someone on drugs? What was going on?

I woke up Oldest Son and he disavowed any involvement in the fish caper.

I have no idea what this was about. Any guesses? Leave a comment if you think you know what this is about.

Volvo? Ikea? Abba? What was going on? Why a boot? Spaghetti?

Friday, July 06, 2007


I am just now starting to get into a rhythm here in Ocean City. I get up around 8 when the house is quiet and ride my bike for about an hour. I always say that I will try to take it easy and just ride the boards and then end up in Ventnor.

By time I get back I make coffee and have a light breakfast everyone else is usually up and about. We hang for a will paying Wii, make lunch and head to beach if it is nice.

We've had a spirited volleyball competition between the two houses and have had games a few days at 2.

This is the first vacation when the boys have been pretty much on their own. They have come and gone as they please to the beach, boardwalk and Wawa. Having 8-10 boys your age doesn't suck either. Last night 3 more came down for the remainder of our day[s] here.

At night it's boardwalk, pinochle and of course Wii.

Wii has been the hit of the vacation, especially on the plasma at our rental. The boys and the few girls on the trip are hooked on bowling. Youngest son bowled a 230 today, the high score for the week.

I have tried it but I stink. I didn't even break 100.

Last night was CatchPhrase and cards.

This has really been a lot of fun. There were times when we spent a lot of time with the other house and there have been times we did not.

We are just getting into a rhythm and it's time to go. It's about now that you start thinking that Ocean City needs a another Taco spot or another bike rental. You don't want to go home.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

4th of July, Ocean City

The highlight of our 4th of July had to be the Pizza eating contest that never happened.

A few of the teen-aged boys in the crew had found a pizza stop on the boardwalk that would offer a 25 free pizzas to anyone that could eat a whole pie in 45 minutes and 50 free pizzas to anyone that could eat a whole pizza in 30 minutes.

Of course you had to buy the whole pizza first for $20. This was an obvious scam but the boys wanted to do it and we figured the worst that could happen is that they up-chuck and we eat the rest of the doughy pie.

The contest was held "everyday at 4 PM" according the signs at Three Brothers Pizza so the boys and the whole crew showed up at 3:30 and were told that couldn't even sign up until 4PM.

I showed up with the camera about ten of.

The boys approached the counter at precisely 4 and asked to be part of the contest to the workers behind the counter. They were rebuffed with an ever changing set of rules.

  • You had to be 18.
  • You could be under 18 if your parent was here.
  • The contest is not held on the 4th of July.
  • It's too busy.
Even to an eye witness account, namely me, the details are little fuzzy. I know the Mom's got involved on the "principle" of the whole thing. A shouting matched ensued. People came out from behind the counter. Heads were turning on the boardwalk. We were told to move away from the Pizza stand.

It was ugly.

The ladies were making some good points: "The signs didn't say that", "What does being 18 have to do with the ability to eat pizza", etc etc.

In the end the pizza workers would not give in. There would be no contest.

The men were just sitting back watching the whole thing unfold. We watched as the pillars of our community fought for the rights of our teenagers to get free pizza.

Of course no one read the sign that said that the winner would receive 2 pizzas per week until labor day. Of course we don't live here so that would mean an hour and half car ride every week for our free pizza and an other hour and half to go home. 40 dollars in gas and 5 hours out of my day for free pizza? Until Labor day.

While all the shouting was going on, one of the future contestants sneaked up to the counter and bought a slice of pizza. They were starving because they had fasted most of the day in preparation of the big event. The other contestant was about to do the same when his mother swooped in and snatched the money out of the boy's hands.

She sternly told him that he would not be buying pizza from "this place".

A new shouting match ensued. More heads turned.

So in the end it was an ugly and confusing episode. I'm still confused over why the workers wouldn't let the kids in the "contest". What impact would it have to let two kids try to eat a pizza that they paid for? In the end wasn't just another two pies sold?

They told us to come back tomorrow but we are not allowed. The moms won't let us.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Because we are only an hour or so from home and there is always someone headed back, we usually give them a long list of items that people want from home.

One of these things was Youngest Son's Wii. He only brought his Xbox360 because that is what HE wanted to play but everyone wants to play sports on the Wii.

The sports games come with the console and are the best games for the Wii. You use the controllers like a bat or a tennis racket to play the sport.

If you don't have one of these game consoles, the first thing you do is to make a character called a Mii. The Oldest C boy made a disturbing character with feminine features that he named "Michael Jackson". It really does look like Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson wins.


The Oldest C boy has begun to speak of Michael Jackson in the third person. "Michael Jackson always gets on base", "Michael Jackson has not lost in bowling" and "Michael Jackson doesn't lose"

Michael Jackson is slowing taking over his personality. "I wanted cream cheese on my bagel, but Michael Jackson wouldn't let me".

It's also amazing how connected we all are. When I was young and we went to the shore, being down here, you might as well have been on the moon. There wasn't even a phone in your rental. Now we have 9 people and 8 cell phones and the the youngest without a cell phone wants one. The other house has about as many phones. There is a phone in the house. I need a separate address book to keep up with all the new phone numbers.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I like vacation better than work.

I am on vacation this week in Ocean City, NJ. For many, it's tradition to come to this former methodist camp but not for my family. We have vacationed different places every year from North Carolina to Greece. When I was a boy my family vacationed in Wildwood almost exclusively. When your family is from South Philadelphia, it's almost a law that you have to vacation in Wildwood.

Two years ago we spent half a week here as that was the only time we could squeeze in between my wife's school and the boys activities. We found a spot at the last minute that year and Mrs F's mom and my parents joined us for a few days.

This time was a last minute deal as well and that is what Ocean City is to us, our safety vacation spot. We were planning a big trip out west but circumstances prevented us from going. We found a house here in May.

This does not mean we are not having a good relaxing time.

Saturday night we went out to dinner on the boardwalk. I should have known better but I ordered the special of Chicken Parmigiana and Lasagna. I was expecting this but got this thing instead. The "lasagna" is the lower part of the picture. That I have to point out which the Lasagna should give you a hint as to how bad this was. I still am not sure what it was. It was like a huge piece of ricotta cheese surrounded by dough in some wacky cheeze-whiz like sauce. It was awful.

I've also been taking bike rides every morning. This morning I went to the south end of the island and back. I certainly don't look like a professional rider in my regular shorts with cell phone and camera strapped to belt but I thought I was doing OK until yesterday. I was out by the Longport bridge and this guy dressed like he had just cycled out of the Pyrenees came flying by and yelled out:
"You should be on the other side [of the street], sir"

Thanks, Lance.

It's Ocean City, not the victory lap around the Arc de Triomphe Pal.

At least I had a helmet. Wait until he gets into town. He is going to have his hands full helping people with bicycle safety as they pedal to and fro on their beach cruisers, running red lights with no helmets.