Me and Jackie O

Let there be no confusion, I am an (well not an) advocate and (but most definitely an) ally (in the most generous definition of the word) of any and every person who decides to take to the streets on a bicycle. The commitment to clean air, the ozone layer, reducing gridlock and personal health are examples to us all. I believe that all major cities that are worth a damn, should have dedicated bike lanes so that bike riders and even bicycle cops can move about the city safely.

So it saddens my heart when a member of the biking community doesn’t feel like I have their best interests and safety in mind. Take for instance this lady I may or may not have almost run into yesterday.

I’m taking a short cut home to avoid some of the traffic of rush hour. I’m cutting through a fairly nice neighborhood by Rice University. It’s a neighborhood, so there’s practically a stop sign at every other intersection. Being the attentive and courteous driver that I am, I note and obey each traffic sign without taking in to much scenery.

So imagine my surprise when I see this Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wannabe riding some vintage bike, with her big shades, and scarf waving behind her head glide into the intersection with no cares needed. I had to stop short, as I was pulling into the intersection after being stopped at a stop sign to avoid an accident.

She wrinkled her brow and turned right onto the street I was heading down all in one clean motion. I watched her pull to the side and prepared to hear some obscenities hurled at me. My windows were already down, as I was playing something belligerent at volumes not really acceptable for a man my age, but I rolled by and overheard her say something about “YOU HAD THE STOP SIGN!”.

I was emotionally confused for several reasons:

– I could have hit and severely injured and possibly killed this woman.
– I could have just injured this woman.
– My cat like reflexes allowed me press the brake in time.
– I just saved this woman’s life.
– Was this my fault?
– Or did she just roll through the intersection all willy nilly?
– Why is she screaming at me?

You’re right Jackie O, I did have the stop sign, and I had the feeling of wanting to tell her that I might not have seen her due to my inattentiveness behind the wheel, and that I was truly sorry for scaring you and almost ending your life, so when I spoke I tried to be as gentle as possible when I said, “SHUTUP!” and continued listening to whatever belligerent nonsense I was listening to before I almost ran into Jackie O.

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There’s Always One

Main problem with parenting triplets, is that there aren’t enough hands to go around. This lack of limbs becomes noticeable when the need to wrangle three toddlers at once is suddenly a task you need to complete. No one needs to experience the Icarus-like fall that comes when you’ve successfully cuffed two-thirds of your triplets, only to have the third scamper off giddily into the distance.

The rare times I can get more than one (in this case obviously two) of them to do what I tell them to do, the third is determined to do something else. Something about the third child, ratchets up the level of disorder exponentially.

Like one time, back when the triplets were first able to walk without worrying about it, I decided I would take them for a leisurely stroll through the park in order to wear them down and get that good down time later that evening. The plan went haywire as soon as we hit the grass. All three of them went three different directions. I figured I could lead them and run in the direction that I wanted them to go, and called each of their names to get their attention. I put more distance between myself and them that I was comfortable with, but two of them decided to follow, the third however, stayed his course giggling with each stride. I ended up chasing him down while telling the other two to stay put. And from then on, I reached and grabbed and chased the triplets from following their own paths for the remainder of our ‘leisurely’ stroll.

Different variations of that day play out now: two want peanut butter and jelly, the other one wants just jelly, two are ready to go to school no problem, the other one wants to stay at home and have a tantrum, two are willing to take a bath got to bed, the other one wants to stay up and hang out. It’s things like this that make me wonder how much easier twins would have been or at least have third arm.

War of the Worlds…in a Minivan

I hadn’t watched Steven Spielberg’s take on H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds since it came out in theaters eight years ago. I vaguely remember liking it, but it came on a few nights ago and I was able to enjoy it in an entirely new way.

With the wonder of the special effects gone, and whatever element of fear I may or may not have had on my initial viewing removed, I was able to focus on the story and acting this time around. Not sure why I never noticed it before, seems obvious now, but Tom Cruise does the same thing in every movie. Facial expressions, speech patterns, the obligatory scene where he has to run really fast are stock Cruise. The young Dakota Fanning was really good in her role as Cruise’s high strung daughter; she was incredibly cute, dynamic and great to watch.

But who cares about that? The real star of the movie was the late model Plymouth Voayger minivan with wood siding. The game got real when the cars all stopped and the aliens started vaporizing everyone/thing in sight, but what vehicle stood tall in the alien apocalypse? The minivan. Two bench seats for comfortable seating, dual sliding doors for quick ingress/egress (necessary when escaping alien annihilation), plenty of rear storage space for firearms, ammunition, food and other sundries necessary to survive the end of the world. Peep the clip and watch in awe as Cruise navigates the rough family dynamics of a screaming child, a mouthy teenager and a highway littered with obstacles.

Death of A Minivan

It was doomed as soon as we signed the finance papers; the youngest daughter at the time was able to walk around the back without stooping in order to not bump her head. Over the course of time, I broke one of the sliding doors, the mechanic broke the other sliding door (long story), I busted a mirror, I broke a tail light, and the wife was sideswiped by a van full of unidentified hooligans who obviously lack the courtesy and skill necessary to drive on the road.

The abuse and neglect we’ve heaped on our minivan is shameful; and still we depend on it to shuttle us back and forth to obligations formal and informal. I guess it was giving us signs that it was done fighting the good fight a few years ago when using the left turn signal would make the right turn signal blink and vice versa. Still the minivan showed up and showed out for another year or two. It wasn’t until late last year that more serious signs of wear and tear began to show. All manner of liquid leaks and burns from the engine, and we’ve put several months worth of car notes into repairs that have barely prolonged the inevitable. The end is nigh, and all I can hope for is that the minivan goes peacefully. The scenario I prefer at the moment, is that I walk out Monday morning, turn the key and nothing. I drop my head, shake it just enough to let the disappointment fall from my forehead, and mutter to myself that’ll do pig, that’ll do.

Mutton Chop the Yard Man

The crack of dawn is the jump off point. Somewhere between 6:00am, but closer to 7:00am, they arrive with little fanfare. The leader, and his partner (typically a different guy everytime) prepare to begin their day. The engines couldn’t be more than 5 – 10 horsepower, but what they lack in horsepower they make up for in noise.

My neighbor’s landscapers are a ragtag crew of two. The leader, and when I say leader, I mean the guy who arrives on a ten speed bike and brings the equipment, wears salt and pepper mutton chop sideburns, no hair on his top lip, and a trucker hat. He’s one of those old string bean built cats, arms roped with muscles, waist still thin, and if it weren’t for old age, could probably handle a good percentage of guys who wanted to go a round or two. His partner is rarely the same, he seems to rotate about two or three of the local cats that hang out at the liquor store up the street for the job.

It typically takes them about 90 minutes to get the job done. I assume they get in another yard before 10’o clock before the heat of Houston makes it unbearable to do yard work at an advanced age. If they’re industrious, I assume Mutton Chop man gets one or two more yards in before dusk. If he wanted to, he could clear $100/day easy, but something tells me this nothing more than a beer money gig.

Oak Tree

Hi, i’m having the big live oak at the front right of your house cut down on mon morning starting around 9. Am worried it could hurt the foundation.

That was the text my landlord sent me about the oak tree that stood less than four feet from our front door. The live oak grew up and away from the house and shaded everything from the front step to the street corner. As far as I knew the foundation got destroyed when we had that drought two years ago. Almost every door in house couldn’t close when the ground dried out and hardened that summer. The oak stood strong though, and the front door closed like it always did.

Now, there are no limbs to duck under when you walk down the sidewalk, or any shade to stand in when the sun hangs high in the afternoon. The house stands taller now in the tree’s absence, but it does not carry itself with casual coolness of the live oak that once stood there. The wood shavings and mulch are scattered where the tree was, and the sun comes to my door unobstructed in the morning, like a neighbor bearing gifts for the new arrivals.