Friday, October 31, 2008

Costume Ideas

Full Size

With white pillow cases, we would run amok. Sure, the parents were present, but they strolled slowly, chatting, keeping barely-an-eye on our advance. Our street was long, but closed to cross-traffic, and littered with many many children.

Young kids, older kids and teens, decked out in 70's sensibilities, running door to door, slinging swollen sacks.

This was before the sensational stories. Before fear of razorblades and demon cults. Before Amber alerts. Really, before helmet laws and seat belt citations.

Back when the world was perfect, or apparently so, to a 7-year-old on a quest for free candy.

And then, at the end of the journey, after my friends had gone back to their own houses, before I had to go to bed, we would sort the loot. My sister, who was much smaller, and I would dump our collective bounty into a pile, and the parents and grandparents would pilfer through for favorites.

My mother was obsessed with the Abba Zabba. My dad made for the Milky way. I horded the SweetTarts, Smarties and anything else of a hard-and-sour nature.

But then, even after an epic Halloween haul, there was always the dud. The crap. The waste of precious trick-or-treating time. These were the plastic-wrapped carrot sticks, JuJu Bees, Bit-o-Honeys, Pennies and (worst of all) religious tracts.

Every year. Every goddamn year, some religious weirdo would sneak the mini-gospel into my sacred sack of goodies. I'd watch for it, but never saw it. They were good. The sneaky power of the Lord was with them. And for me to call THEM religious weirdos was really something, considering where I came from...

But I digress.

Look, as a parent, I now understand the internal motivation to hand out nutritious snacks, or helpful-seeming tracts, on Halloween. However, those things are just not fun. they are like getting socks for Christmas. It's not like the kids go begging door-to-door for candy every night. It's only once per year. And the whole point, at least these days, is to have fun.

And so, with that in mind, I have always been a big giver on Halloween; although, the relative swarm of ghouls and witches varies. The missus, who makes the costumes by hand, takes the tots door-to-door, and she gets to revel, to a reasonable degree, in the oohing and the awing.

I, on the other hand, man the door and hand out the candy to the other kids. It's the system, and it works.

So, to the store I went, late this evening, to fetch the goods to give away tomorrow (tonight, as you read this). I quickly grabbed three bags of cheap chocolate crap, when suddenly, my eye caught a hefty looking box. The box was wrapped in cellophane and priced to move. Still though, the box alone cost about 4 times as much as one of the bags.

Whereas, the bags contained bite-size mini candies, the box was full of full-sized candy bars. Snickers. Milky way. Baby Ruth. Reeses Peanut Butter cups. Kit Kats...

Full Size!

And so, I dropped the cheap-ass bags and grabbed two boxes.

Why? Because a whole bunch of kids will get a few fleeting moments of glee, when they sort through their sad sacks of bite-sized crap, and they come across an actual full-sized candy bar! That's why!

Will it save the world? No.
Will fix the economy? No.
Will it end the war? No.

But it will maximize the fun for the families that live in my neighborhood. And on Halloween night, that is the entire point.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fail To See the Humor

Thank to Valdez for this.

Monumental Luck

I was on a pilgrimage of sorts. I was on a quest. I had the time, to be certain. I had a car. I had my camera.

I was returning to my childhood.

It was my intent to put an actual place, and pictures of the place, to the stories and descriptions I had heard so many times before. Lessons in the history of California must lead, without exception, through the small discovery made in the Sierra foothills one cold wet January morning in 1848.

The story actually started many years earlier, when one white man immigrated to Mexico...

Back in the day, back before Los Angeles was even a Pueblo. Back when the official language of California was Spanish, back when it was nothing more than a primitive northern province of Mexico, a Swiss man named Johann (John) Sutter landed in the small impoverished mission town of San Francisco.

Sutter's plan was to built a new Switzerland in Central California, a land flowing with milk chocolate and raisens, apparently. He quickly convinced the Mexican Governor of California to fork over 49,000 acres of land, upon which he would build his Utopia.

But first, he had to build a fort, mostly becasue the local native population disagreed with his plan...

But soon the community took root there at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers, and Fort Sutter grew. (For those of you who are now quickly google-mapping the confluence, let me save you time. Fort Sutter is now known as Sacramento.)

Sutter thrived, but quickly discovered that he needed wood. And lots of it. Fortunately, in 1847, the US decided to steal New Mexico, Arizona and California from Mexico, and the brief and heavily lop-sided Mexican-American War left legions on unemployed soldiers to wander the west coast.

One such vet, whose own riches had been squandered in the war, was James W. Marshall. Although Marshall had experience as a soldier and a cattle rancher, he was inexplicably recruited by Sutter to run a saw mill.

So, Marshall marched, with the help of his famed Mormon Battalion, and they built a mill, Sutter's Mill, along the bank of the rugged American River...

I arrived, by guesswork and rudementary maps, at the little tourist town of Coloma. It was an hour East of Sacramento, though the road thankfully led me passed an In-N-Out on the way...

The entire city of Coloma resides within a state park. The entire city (and there isn't much to it) is dedicated to the memory of the gold rush. I parked, looked at a posted map, and began to wander around.

The mill, pictured two-above, is merely a replica. The stone wall, immediately-above, marks the actual site of the original mill, before it was washed away in a flood...

Marshall and the Mormons chose a generally ideal site, notwithstanding the floods, and built their saw mill there.

As you know, a mill requires water to power the saw. The water comes in off the river, and goes out through a drainage ditch, called a "mill race." Problem was, the day after the mill opened for business, they discovered that the Mormons had dug a race, which was too narrow.

Marshall, being a bit lazy, chose not to widen the race by hand. Rather, he opened the flood gates and let the river water do the work for him.

The following day, Marshall walked down to the race to inspect the river's progress. As he walked along the race, he happened to peer down, and in so doing, changed the history of the world forever.

I followed the dusty ill-marked trail down to the water. I stood on stones among the shrubs, swatting at bugs. I looked down and peered into the murky mud below. This is all that is left of the mill race. This is where Marshall stood when he looked down and found gold. Shiny flakes of gold, uncovered and stirred up by the river wash. Gold in the water. Gold in the mountains. Gold in California.

What was once a quiet little Mexican province was suddenly the newest, and soon-to-be, most-populated territory in the United States.

Gold discoveries do not remain secret for long.

In the early spring of 1849, thousands upon thousand of would-be miners poured into California from all over the world. These were the fabled 49ers. They streamed across the land, bypassing rich farm soil, and clambering up rocky hillsides in search of the pure vein, the mother lode.

They overran Sutter and his fort. They overran Coloma. They even overran Marshall himself. They swarmed up the American river like Levi-wearing Salmon. (Google Levi Strauss yourself...)

I studied the water of the American River. I stooped to touch it, running my fingers through the same current than ran two centuries ago. Through the crystal water I could see rocks, but didn't know enough about what I was looking at. Each rock was unique. Each had its own story to tell. Some of it had to have been gold. The gold is still there...

And then I saw the man on the other side of the river. A sole survivor of the last age; by himself on the bank, panning for gold.

A hobbyist, I assumed. Perhaps there for just one day. A pilgrim, like me. Though, while my quest was for historical tangibility, he was somehow more significant. There are people today who still mine for gold. Hobbyists who dig, sift and pan. And for any miner, whose life is limited to less-gold-friendly localles, Sutter's Mill must be Mecca. If gold-panning was the passion of my life, I could not immagine a more important and meaninful location to sift the silt.

So, I envied the man on the other side of the river. And I hoped that he found something of value in the water.

I saw what I had come to see. I touched the place that I had read about and visusalized in my mind, three decades earlier. I saw the mountains that Marshall had seen the morning of his fateful walk. I wandered through the birthplace of California, and made a tangible connection to history.

Then, on the way out of town, I turned on to Highway 153, California's shortest highway, and drove up to the top of the hill to see the Marshall Memorial. It is a statue of Marshall on a tall pedaestal, pictured at the top of this post. Marshall, you can see, is dramatically posed, pointing down. Because, really, that's all he did. He screwed up the mill design, came up with a lazy fix and took a walk. Then, he looked down!

In the end, Both Marshall and Sutter were run off by the teeming hordes of immigrant miners. Which, really, according to Republicans, is similar to the story of California today...

([wink] that bit was just for you Dr. B!)

Monday, October 27, 2008


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The Idle Wiener Is the Devil's Play Thing (Warning: Wieners)

The ladies have been complaining about the lack of full frontal male nudity here on the Lounge.

Well, here ya go! Stop yer bitching...

Oh, and you can blame Marge for this post...