Holidays & Special Occasions

Lil’ sister’s Birthday Balloon is free…. free at last!

What was supposed to be another of my wonderful home videos turned into, as far as I’m concerned, pretty much a complete disaster this morning. It couldn’t have been much easier to accomplish the simplistic goal for the video, but the results were shameful.

It all started exactly two months and one day ago. It was my birthday and my little sister showed up at the house with a couple of birthday cards and something else that in my 74 years I’m not sure I had ever gotten, one of those gas-filled birthday balloons that everyone is surely familiar with….

Birthday Day Balloon - 2 Months Old(Click to Enlarge)

The balloon of course had a small weight on the end of the ribbon tied to it so I placed it on a large table I had there in my den. That was about the extent of the hoopla over the balloon at the time and we moved on to the reading of the birthday cards.

Now, after about a month had passed that little old happy birthday balloon was still flying high over the table I had put it on there in the den. I was somewhat amazed because I figured it would have been out of gas (no pun intended) and lying somewhere on the floor by then. I guess it was at that point that the balloon seemed to take on a life of its own.

A balloon who could hang in there and still be flying high after a month…. well, that was my kind of balloon. I guess you could say we became roommates of a sort after that with me checking on his well-being almost every morning. As my balloon mate began to approach the two-month water mark here recently, I decided that this little balloon deserved much better than to be shuttered in this old house with this old man for the rest of its life. It was time to set him free and let him live his life from that point on to the fullest. He had done his job where I was concerned and had surely fulfilled his monetary worth for little sis.

So I decided that I would turn him lose one morning in the next few days on a nice day with calm wind and I would also video the event. But over the next few mornings the weather never cooperated and then this morning the weather seemed to be perfect. But instead of letting my balloon mate go in the backyard I decided to do it up right and take the balloon to our nationally acclaimed city park, Burns Park, and set him free from there next to the grand old Arkansas River.

And so it was that the planned release was accomplished and my balloon mate soared to the heavens and hopefully is still aloft and doing well. Unfortunately, my attempts to capture the event on video went terribly amuck or should I truthfully say, the videographer was the one that went amuck. Shortly after the balloon was released I lost it in the camera’s viewfinder, just briefly at one point catching a glimpse of the balloon going around the back of a tree and then I could never locate the balloon again in the viewfinder. I could see the balloon rising away in the distance find but I couldn’t find him using the camera’s viewfinder. The very few seconds of the disappointing video that I did get are documented below….

Well, needless to say I was pissed but at least I got a shortened version of his release to a well-deserved freedom. Right at the end of the video it may have appeared the balloon was perhaps hung-up in the tree but no, it was just behind the tree and still rising. In the end, I actually remained totally amazed that the balloon remained inflated and fully functional for exactly one month and 23 days before receiving its owner declared emancipation proclamation and subsequent freedom…. 🙂

Google’s Birthday Wishes….

I don’t know about you but I use Google often and if you are a user yourself then you know that just above the search area where you enter your search criteria, there is almost always a graphic of some type. I usually pay little attention to the graphic myself while at other times I may click on it to see if it leads me to a game which it often does if you’re unaware of this hidden treat.

Well, this past Friday was my birthday which falls the day before Halloween. Of course if you know anything at all about Google and the subject graphic I was speaking of, you know Google always has a graphic posted that is appropriate for the season, holiday or event. On one of my visits to Google last Friday it caught my attention immediately that their graphic had an assortment of cakes, cupcakes and other choice goodies. The cakes and cupcakes all had burning candles in them. Of course with it being right on the cusp of Halloween I thought the graphic was somewhat out of place.

Jokingly I finally decided that it was specifically for me and Google was celebrating my birthday, yea, fat chance right? You can imagine how ridiculous I thought my conclusion was but then when I took my mouse and clicked on the graphic it took me directly my personal Google+ page. Well that really set me back for a moment. I then paged back to the graphic and left my mouse cursor on the graphic for a couple of seconds and up pops a little window “Happy Birthday Alan”! Here is a screen capture of the whole deal…

My Google Search Page - Happy Birthday

As it turns out after doing a little research on what was going on, using Google of course, I found that in 2010 Google implemented this feature for those who had a Google account. So if you have a Google+ account, YouTube account or a ‘gmail’ email account then I’m assuming those all are under the main Google account. If you have entered your birth date on your ‘Profile Page’ of your main Google account you too will reap fame and fortune and be headlined by Google just as I was when your birthday rolls around.

So, if you are as unaware of this kind of fun feature be sure and check it out on your next birthday. Oh, and by the way in case you are wondering, you are the only one that sees this Google phenomenon on your computer. It’s not, unfortunately some sort of international recognition of the event. Alas, it’s only for you…. 🙂

Will the real Santa please stand up!

Santa-1964(Coca-Cola Santa – 1964 / Click to Enlarge)

Other than the fact that the Christmas season is now upon us, I am not quite sure why but recently I have been thinking a lot about Santa Claus. It has been around six decades or so since that jolly old character last visited me so it is not in anticipation of his visit and delivery of a list of goodies that has me engrossed in thought. At any rate, whatever the reason there has been a couple of things on my mind and this time of year certainly seems the appropriate time to share my thoughts with those of you willing to listen.

There must be thousands upon thousands of artistic representations of our beloved Santa circulating in this world. There are paintings, drawings and photos of Santa in every conceivable body configuration and attire imaginable. But as you and I know, there is only one Santa so all the varied assortments of representations certainly come from the minds of those who have not ever seen the real Santa. I have seen the “real” Santa.\r\n\r\nFor me, there is and has always been but one Santa Claus and everything this child could imagine about this man is embodied in the pictures accompanying this post. And that Santa, who is sometimes referred to as the Coca-Cola Santa, was created by artist Haddon Sundblom and his rendering of Santa had its artistic debut in a 1931 edition of “The Saturday Evening Post”.

Santa-1931(The Saturday Evening Post – 1931 / Click to Enlarge)

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Mr. Sundblom actually met the “real” Santa and convinced Santa to let him paint his portrait. Without that magical moment, we would have been left with nothing but our own imaginations and thousands of fictional representations of our beloved Santa.

Santa-1951(Coca-Cola Santa – 1953 / Click to Enlarge)

Christmases may come and go as they do along with the many visions of Santa that are showered upon us but that is of no matter to me. Those visions fall as water off a duck’s back on me until someone shows me a picture of the Coca-Cola Santa. Now there is the “real”, non-fictional Santa!

Santa-1938(Coca-Cola Santa – 1938 / Click to Enlarge)

In concluding my recent thoughts regarding the “real” Santa Claus (shown above) I will be posting additional information regarding the subject matter of this post in a few days so stay tuned if this subject interests you…. :)’, ‘Will the real Santa please stand up!!

Belated Happy Birthday Greetings to Doris Day….

Doris Day(Doris Day & friends celebrate her 90th birthday – Born April 3rd)

Although it is somewhat belated, I want to wish one of my favorite ladies, Doris Day, a very happy birthday. First and foremost I have always been a fan of her music although in the fifties and sixties she became a huge box-office draw with regard to her movies and was ranked the #1 box-office star from 1960 thru 1964 and she was consistently in the Top 10 from 1959 thru 1966.

There have been so many of her songs that I have truly loved and enjoyed over the years and sometimes with a prolific artist such as she, it is almost impossible to pick a favorite song from all her hits but in her case it was a fairly easy task for me.

In 1948 she was cast in the first feature film of her movie career, a romantic comedy titled “Romance on the High Seas” which also starred Jack Carson, Janis Page and Don DeFore. It would feature one of her first hits, “It’s Magic”, which would top the Pop Charts at Number 1 that same year. And although it did not win the Oscar, the song was nominated for Best Original Song for the 1949 Academy Awards celebration.

Romance on the High Seas

During the film she sang the song twice, once when she and her love interest were having lunch at a quaint little local restaurant on a cruise stop and once again at the end of the film. I loved the scene in the film at the restaurant where she first sang the song but unfortunately no video clip exists for that scene so I have opted to show her film ending performance at the end of the film which is just a great.

Sometimes I think that many of us often have special relationships with certain songs that we have come to love over the years. I know I have had several of those special relationships but one of my favorite moments is when I fell in love with both Doris Day and her music on that cruise ship. And from time to time I see the film again on television and fall in love all over again.

It’s National Squirrel Appreciation Day….

As January 21st rolls around yet another annual “Squirrel Appreciation Day” makes its way onto the 2014 calendar. Each year with the occurrence of this event I am reminded of a somewhat tragic, if not rather expensive incident that occurred all the way back in the spring of 2006 involving today’s honored guest and one who could be considered perhaps my greatest nemesis. Lovingly referred to around my domicile as a “tree rat”, the correctness of such a title can easily be confirmed by referring to the Urban Dictionary website if you feel the term tree rat is little more than a slanderous name coined by some bitter old man who yells at children who dare to come into his yard. And let me also include a proper photograph to insure there is not mistaken identity regarding this critter.

Local-Tree-Rat

But now to my recollection of the events that would forever taint an otherwise nice day back in 2006. As man travels through this life he encounters many life experiences. Even at my age the fog of ignorance, which sometimes obscures our walk down the path of life in our early years, may unexpectedly appear in our later years if only for a brief but fleeting moment.

Many of my friends and family members know that I have always found myself at odds with the infamous tree rat when often I could be heard loudly uttering my festering disdain at a fleeting bushy tail. But even though I seemed mired in such perceived hatred, the worse would not be realized until that fatalistic day in 2006.

While looking out my front living room window I noticed one of the critters digging hole after hole in my front yard burying acorns it would appear. Never have figured this one out but I guess it all goes along with God’s sense of humor. God gave them the sense to bury food for later consumption when times were hard but it is a proven fact that after about twenty minutes a tree rat (squirrel if you must) has not a clue what he did twenty minutes prior or where he did it!

Anyway, after spotting the little critter tilling up my yard I thought to myself, “Well those are some acorns that little sh** head won’t be digging up in this lifetime.” I immediately headed to the closet and got the old reliable BB gun. After pumping the BB gun up about 10 times (I’m serious about this tree rat crap), and after very slowly raising the window blinds so as not to startle the critter, I slowly drew a bead on the unwary creature. And when not even God could save it due to my well honed deadly aim, I fired what was to be the fatal BB which carried with it the scent of death that would send the subject tree rat to its proper demise.

Now… understanding the fact that I am actually a pretty fair marksman, that fact would normally dictate that this is where the story would end. Right? Well, bear with me just a bit longer.

Alas! After the BB of death had traveled only a few inches or so I became acutely aware of an unseen obstacle which had not displayed its normal characteristics known as the “reflectional phenomenon” which is what allows one to normally see glass. If you have very expensive, extremely clean energy efficient, double-pane, argon gas-filled windows, a BB traveling at about 580 fps and hitting this type “unopened” window at about a sixty degree angle will break at least one of the panes, spewing argon gas into the surrounding atmosphere. Case and point:

DSCF0020b

This incident is tragic in the sense of course that the photo immediately above should have been of a dead bushy tailed tree rat and not some innocent inanimate object such as the unsuspecting, very expensive, energy efficient, double-pane, argon gas-filled living room window. I do, however, plan on contacting the window manufacturer to discuss the poor reflective qualities of their windows. And as is always the case in situations such as this, there are probably some of you who may actually think God had a hand in this. Well, think what you may, there are others of us who know what really happened. I have to say that I am truly thankful ‘Red’ Forman wasn’t over at the house visiting at the time because I am sure he would have had a couple of appropriate words to toss in my direction such as the infamous “dumb ass”.

I can only sit here and hope that this day ends quickly and these tormenting memories flee quickly, freeing me from this yearly torment! 😀

Veteran’s Day – 2011

Veteran’s Day Observance

Veteran’s Day, November 11th, is the day this country sets aside to honor those who have served this country, both in peacetime and in times of crisis and war. Although it is a day set aside to primarily honor the living, it has also been our tradition to include those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in their duty to their country. In that vain, please click on the link below to see a fitting tribute created a several years ago by USA Forever.Org…….

God Bless Our Veterans

The Tragic Disgrace of My Beloved October….

I have always been proud and grateful to have been born in the month of October. I just think it is a really cool month. And being a Scorpio has always had an aurora of mystery that has been fun to wear, although admittedly I am not big into astrology – but I have always liked the” sign”. There’s something a bit eerie and mysterious about the month enhanced I suppose by the fact that Halloween falls on the last day of the month.

But for me, all that has been pretty much taken away this past week. There has now fallen across my birth month a shadow so dark that all refuge of light has been lost. The beautiful light of those autumn October days has been eclipsed by a terrible event that begins on the 1st day of my beloved month and does not relinquish its terrible grip until the 1st of November.

I have long been a formidable adversary of the infamous “tree rat” (aka squirrels) and my battles against the evil dealt out by the little schemers has gone on for years. But this past week when I began to read through the local daily newspaper little did I know that all that had been accomplished through the years was to all disappear like a morning fog meeting a rising sun. For a fleeting moment it was if I had become Napoleon and was standing face to face with my Waterloo.

There it was in glaring headlines! October had become designated as National Squirrel Awareness Month. I sat in shock as I stared at the print racing across the page ripping at every life-giving vein in my body. And the newspaper had not just made passing comment of the event but had spread it across two full pages of the newspaper in a flagrant display of journalistic disgrace.

Grey Squirrel in Yard(Click on image to enlarge)

First and foremost, I can assure these “tree rat” lovers that I am aware of their beloved little creatures from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, year in and year out. So a special day, a special week or a special month is a bit ludicrous in my world. But on the brighter side of this dark shadow perhaps notoriety of this monthly event will eventually gather steam for those subscribing to my philosophy and even the most casual of squirrel haters will be transformed into a serial squirrel hater and National Squirrel Awareness Month will be transformed into National Squirrel Stew Month.

I fear my birthday this month will bring no celebration or cheerful exchanges but will simply shower me with all measure of despair as it does at this very moment. I shall withdraw now from my own personal outcry and wait out the remaining days and hours here in the darkness surrounding me and my once beloved month of October until the morning light finally breaks with the arrival of November.

I have taken one final moment to add a link below to a ‘pdf’ file if one cares to view the tragic journalistic display from our local newspaper that has given cause for the permanent harm to my beloved month of October. A must read for all you ‘tree rat’ lovers… 😀

Squirrel Appreciation Month

The day I became “Somebody”!

Perhaps in every life there is a time when we all want to be a “somebody”. You know, that special person whose presence is instantly recognized or acknowledged when they walk into a room. When their name is spoken, a hush of expectation falls across the room. You know of whom I speak….that kind of a “somebody”.

For most of us this urge to become such a “somebody” usually nourishes our fantasies when we are younger. Uh….much, much younger than the age I have currently attained.

But there was a day, there was a time, many years ago when I did in fact become a “somebody”. Although it may have only been for a brief period in my life, I wallowed in the envy bestowed upon my presence and gathered in the moment as if it were to be my last. I had finally, even if only briefly, attained stature comparable to that of the ”Jones’ family“.

It all began on a Christmas morning in 1951. As I woke that morning in anticipation of gifts under a tree I could have never have imagined what was awaiting me two rooms away next to the Christmas tree. As I rounded the corner and saw my prize I was certain I was only dreaming and had not actually wakened yet. But….there it was in all its glory. The ultimate in bicycles! The prescribed Rolls Royce of all those kids my age! It was the king of kings! It was…..”The Black Phantom”!

Schwinn Bike 01(Christmas Morning 1951 – Click to Enlarge)

As I rolled my beauty out onto the neighborhood sidewalks my lowly existence in this world was over. My status had been transformed in a mere instant to that of the envy of all who would ever see or know me from this moment forward….for all time! Moments before a “nobody” – now a “somebody”. I was aboard the beauty of a lifetime flouting all its glory to any who dare glance my way; the headlight; the horn; the tail light; chrome fenders; on please, will it never end!!

Schwinn Bike 02(The Schwinn Black Phantom)

But alas, as I am certain my readers may have already foreseen before even reaching the end of this declaration of becoming a “somebody”, that there would ultimately be a reckoning in some form, in some manner. That reckoning would come some two years later. My status as being a “someone” would tragically end on a cold and cloudy Saturday morning.

It was on that day that I had been banished by parental authorities to the backyard to perform the chore of raking and burning leaves. Not something a twelve-year-old normally had on their “To-Do List”.

Now in those days most folks burned their own trash and yard refuse in their backyards. Most used a large 55 gallon metal barrel to accomplish this chore. We had a small, separate garage at the end of our driveway and kept the trash burner behind the garage. So….on this particular morning I was raking the leaves and piling them up behind the garage so they would be right by the trash burner. At some point after I had begun burning the leaves that I had raked into a pile, my mom yelled out to me that we were going over to my cousin’s house for a little while.

Well, I loved visiting my two cousins who were both boys around my age. I dropped the tools of my assigned chore as if scalded by hot water and ran to the car. As I crawled into the car mom suggested I go put another load of leaves in the trash burner before we left. So I quickly ran to the backyard around to the back of the garage, grabbed a huge armful of leaves, gave them a toss toward the trash burner and scurried back to the car. Then we were off!

Some two, two and a half hours later as we returned and mom turned into the driveway all was seemingly quiet and looked quite normal. But then it hit us both almost at the same moment as we were pulling down the driveway. There was something terribly amiss. The garage was gone and in its place were a few charred pieces of wood seemingly sticking up out of the black ground. Other than the trash burner itself, the only thing left that was reasonably recognizable was what appeared to be the charred remains of the infamous Schwinn Black Phantom whose place of residence when not in use was in the garage.

At that moment my mind could not comprehend all that I was seeing but it was quite apparent to me at the time that I was obviously no longer a “somebody”. My reign was over. As quick as it had begun, it had ended. In fact, given the smoldering ruins I was now staring down, perhaps my life itself was over if I somehow became suspect in this terrible tragedy.

In the end it was presumed that when I ran to throw more leaves in the trash burner, in my rush I overfilled the trash burner, burning leaves fell out and into the pile behind the garage, thus igniting the garage, etc, etc. And in the end I was allowed to live since my mom actually took most of the blame for sending me back to put more leaves in the trash burner and then us leaving, thereby leaving the burner unattended. Oh, I should mention in case you are curious that the fire department had come and put out the blaze but by the time we came home everyone had left the scene, otherwise we may have had some measure of warning as we drove up to the impending disaster.

So, there you have it. My days as a “somebody” came at a very young age and there are those quiet moments when I can still relish my time in the sunshine. Those days, however, are fortunately gone when we sometimes found ourselves consumed by the desire to become “somebody”. For me now in these days as I wait for that visit from Joe Black, it seems some measure of wisdom may have finally overtaken those days of whimsical fantasy!

By the way, below is an article I ran across on the Internet several months ago that would seem to confirm the fact that I was briefly a “somebody”, should any of you have lingering doubts.

Black Phantom - 001(Click to Enlarge)

The Tragedy of a Holiday Season Fire….

The past two weeks here in the local area have been especially tragic when it comes to homes burning along with the associated deaths of family members. A mother and three very young children 5, 4 and 3 years old died in a fire a few days ago and about a week before a mother and her adult son died in a house fire. Certainly fires of this type are always tragic but during this time of the year with the holiday season upon us it does seem all the more tragic.

The reason I blog about this today is that our neighborhood also lost a home to fire in the past week. A home right across the street from me caught fire a week ago yesterday in the wee hours of the morning around 2:00 am or so. By the time all the commotion and sirens had wakened me, the situation was under some degree of control and the residents of the burning home consisting of four adults had safely made it out. They were all, however, transported to the hospital due to smoke inhalation. And although there was no human loss of life they did lose both their dogs in the fire, a Pekingese mix and a Miniature Schnauzer whom I know were like children to them.

I am posting a short video I took of the fire itself along with a couple of other photos I took a few days later of the house that burned along with the damage incurred from the house next door from the heat. I was amazed at just how fast they got the fire extinguished once in position to do so as can be evidenced toward the end of the video. Please note also that the video has no sound….

The photo below is of the burned home itself. Almost all the direct fire damage seemed to be the back half of the house. To look at the front of the house you would not know there had been a fire but when it comes to fires, we all know looks are deceiving. Also note that the plywood you see that is not burned was put up after the fire to board up the home.

4815 Oaklawn Drive - 06(Side of Home – Click to enlarge)

4813 Oaklawn Drive - 08a(Back of Home – Click to enlarge)

The photo that follows is that of my neighbor’s home who lived right next door to the home that burned. It is amazing to see the damage incurred to their home just by the heat of the fire. It does go a long way in highlighting the danger of houses being built to close to each other.

4819 Oaklawn Drive - 02(Next Door Neighbor’s Heat Damaged Home – Click to enlarge)

You just never know when tragedy like fire might strike and cost you your home. I have had a couple of close calls in my lifetime and do tend to worry about that sort of thing more now that I am getting older. Leaving a burner on the stove on is something I seem to be very conscious about.