Sunday, November 29, 2009

My 50th Year

I was born in Nashua, New Hampshire 49 years ago yesterday. Lying in bed this sunny morning in Las Vegas, Nevada I realized that my 50th year on this planet has commenced. Half a century. Tick tock tick tock. Jake turned 21 the day before - on the 27th. Our baby. Twenty-one years old.

Aging...everyone is doing it.

Jake called from Ecuador yesterday to discuss our arrival there in 2 weeks and that was the best birthday gift of all.

We are all very excited to see him for the first time in nearly 2 years. Alec and Tiffany were here at the house so Jake was able to talk to all of us and fill us in on what to bring along on the trip and what to leave at home and exactly how we would locate him once we got there. Of course the trip begins by plane and we'll spent a night in Quito before journeying to Guayquil. Then comes the bus, the burro and the river crossing - although I'm told not to worry since the pirahnna's are usually found further south. We'll wade through the current, backpacks held high, and then begin the trek on foot. Hopefully our guide will locate the mission outpost before dark.

Jake seemed unusually serious about our leaving the good stuff back home; ie watches, diamonds, rubies, know all the baubles. But really, I mean, it's Ecuador....I have more weapons at home than their military has combined. Plus all the hand-to-hand combat moves that we have watched on TV over the years and practiced on ourselves - Ecuador? Ha! I'm not worried. I know for a fact that we are going to have some screwball adventures that will make the blog highlight reel...or maybe even CNN.

The long Thanksgiving weekend ALWAYS means that the Holiday decorations get busted out. Now the maddening thing is the size of our house and the fact that only two of us live there yet....WE STILL NEED OFFSITE STORAGE FOR OUR STUFF. We just have a lot of stuff. Christmas stuff. Halloween stuff. Valentines day stuff. 4th of July stuff. Ton's of coolers (where are my coolers Ben?). Luggage. Luggage. Luggage. What is it with luggage?

Even though our stuff is stored indoors at a site a few blocks from Chez Runyon, the fierce Las Vegas dust storms have a way of coating everything with a thin layer of fine dust - it's everywhere and even INSIDE the tree bag and rubbermaid boxes. Grit everywhere. Big sigh.

Since this is another "Big Year" with Jake's return, the house has to be just right. The outdoor light crew was supposed to start last week - they didn't. As of today, only a few trees are wrapped. One guy puts up a strand of lights and then takes a smoke break. At this rate, we'll be lucky to have lights before we leave. Every year we go Clark Griswold-style and we've used the same guy for years so you would think he would be organized. He puts up the lights. He takes down the lights. He stores the lights. This year? Chaos. Tension. How can I tell? 3 day growth of stubble. 1am text messages and his truck parked sideways with it's ass end sticking out in the street. Skidding-in style. The guy is buried plus his girlfriend/manager dumped him. No girl = no organization. Even I know this.

Under Janae's supervision I artfully hung the mall balls at the intersection of the entryway and the main hallway. We love the mall balls - unique.....mall-like but in a home. Each year I sweat my ass off putting those up since I'm about 12 feet up in the air and hot air I have to space them just right. If you know what I mean. This year I only had to put them up twice.

The next project was the mean TREES. We put up three of them.

Tree #1

The one in the game room was NEVER taken down from last year so that one's already up. I need to jiggle the lights, add some ornaments and what not but we're good there. Lazy but good.

Tree #2

The living room tree was given away last year so we need a new one. I think we are going LIVE for this year only. I'm not sold on all this "Going Green" crap either. The problem with the old tree was the lighting. Prelit trees are sensitive and everyone KNOWS how if you mess up one teeny light on any strand you are SOL. The entire tree goes dark. Janae also didn't like the fact that upon close inspection, someone might just notice that it's a fake tree. I have no opinion one way or another on this matter.

Tree #3

The best for last. This tree was moved from the storage unit to be erected on a spindle in a place of honor in our home. Alec and I lugged the tree into the family room, set up the spindle and began to assemble the tree. Our job nearly complete, I put the top part of the tree on and it promptly flopped over sideways - broken pole. Ugghhh. By now, I had white flock all over me. What to do? I did what any straight guy would do: I balanced the top part - sort of gerryrigged it if you will - climbed off the ladder and beamed to everyone, "That oughta do it."


Janae was already on the phone to Paddock. Apparently the tree has a 15 year warranty so they replaced it. This is a FIRST. Usually I miss the warranty period by a day or two....we were 12 years EARLY on this one!

Tree #3 is up. Slightly tilted but up. I need to work on the spindle part tonight. The motor is wheezing under the weight of all the stuff (there's that word again). May need to call in Pedro.

And so we begin our 2009 holiday escapades.....

Stay tuned. The funny stuff is coming.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Silly Season


Thanksgiving means that The Silly Season has officially commenced. Actually, it started a few weeks ago with all those oh-so-sappy jewelry store ads on TV.

Zales, Jared, Kay Jewelers each produce such incredibly lame commercials they make me laugh out loud and mock the ad.... in an English accent no less. This makes me laugh even more. I DO crack myself up.

We opted to go eat at Canyon Gate and avoid blowing up the kitchen which is what usually happens for any Thanksgiving feast to occur. Eric and mom joined us and the four of us had a nice time; we laughed, stuffed ourselves, and enjoyed the incredible people watching. I realized I had eaten too much meat which would be a rare occurrence but the triple offering of pork loin, prime rib and turkey was just too much for me to resist. My vow of giving up red meat except for steaks, roasts and hamburgers remains intact though.

We spied a rather odd thing at the club that made us go, "Really?" A lady seated at the table next to us brought a large zip lock bag and was loading it up with everything but the cutlery. Hmmmmnnn?

We drove home with the top down since it was a beautiful 70 degree day in Las Vegas and got home just in time to take the turkey out of the oven that Janae cooked. What's a weekend of football without turkey sandwiches?

Black Friday? I don't do that. Glad to have the kids in town for the long weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On My Way to the Cell Phone Store....

As one who likes to avoid life's speedbumps I seem to be a magnet for interesting encounters.

I have been an AT&T customer for as long as there have been cell phones - 20+ years now.

In a utterly futile attempt to replace a broken iphone, I have been 86'd into cell phone outer darkness for months now. The screen on my beloved iphone had shattered and instead of just getting a replacement screen (which seemed like a perfectly normal request), I was told by some grungy looking dude at the Apple Store who was dressed in baggy pants, a too tight tee-shirt emblazened with the saying "Not All Hero's Wear Capes" and a two day growth of stubble on his face and with bags under his eyes that I had to buy a new he twiddled it around in his fingers and stared at it like I had given him a moon rock.

"How did you do this?" he asked.

I didn't answer this question on the grounds that I have zero patience with stupid people.

To me this was the equivalent of needing new tires and being told I had to buy a new car. To replace the phone I couldn't pay the "new user" fee of $100, $200 or $300, but instead something like $400 or $500 bucks for an older refurbished model. This is Applespeak for essentially getting my old phone back with a new screen and having the memory wiped. It's a great, great business plan for Apple by the way but as far as customer service, I think we can all agree that it sucks.

iphones are self-contained units and this means customers can't replace the battery either. Hmmmmmm....self contained....except that it allows a one-way path for liquid to mysteriously creep inside while the hippie clerk says definitively,

"You got water in here - phone is shot - THAT'S NOT COVERED."

His look of disdain goes much further as if to say, YOU HEAR ME? THE PHONE WON'T WORK YOU IDIOT. The LEAVE ME ALONE vibe is very strong. Most people just mutter a few words under their breath and with a feeble look on their face say, "Okay." And Apple's stock keeps rising one more new iphone at a time.

To make matters more interesting, my shattered, de-energized-and-unable-to-hold-a-charge phone was coded under National Accounts. Neither the Apple Store or the AT&T store would replace it nor allow me to change the number. "Where else is there to go?" I asked.

More staring. More moon rocks.

The only way to solve this problem was for me to get a new phone and a new phone number. This however presented it's own set of problems. Security at any AT&T store is tighter than Fort Knox. The real issue is that no one wants to look customers in the eye. Clerks/Team Members/Associates/Friends/Shareholders (whatever name some think tank charged AT&T a few million bucks to call their staff) are trained to stare at a computer screen, type fast, avoid eye contact and not smile or engage the customer in any manner. A brick wall would provide better service. Me? I can be sarcastic. Wife calls it the verbal machete.

After spending an hour of my life to establish a new phone number, obtain a new phone, I was allowed to leave after providing the necessary passwords and various other secret information.

But I still had problemo #1. My old phone number still exists. It still gets calls. It still gets emails and it still gets text messages. I couldn't kill it. They wouldn't allow me to kill it. According to the manager moving this number would take several hours. The number would move from one National Account to a newly created National Account. We would then move my wife's current number to said account, THEN transfer the numbers back to my personal account.

WTF? Did I miss something or did AT&T get bailed out by the government and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs are running this unit?

Alas, the old number now exists in a dead phone unable to transmit or receive. Did the battery die before the screen cracked?

Try discussing THAT at the Apple or AT&T store.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Remodel Fun

Since we've had nearly 2 years to re-do Jake's bedroom and found ourselves at the 30 day mark saying to ourselves,

"We REALLY need to get going on Jake's room."

"And the bathroom" I piped in, "teenage boys have been peeing in there for a decade, it all needs to be ripped out before the EPA shows up to fine us."

And so began another house project. Runyon Home Projects don't involve a simple coat of paint and maybe some new fixtures although those are included in our work. Nope. When we decided to take on a job, we're going all out and the building code be damned.

The pool was going to a simply creation - rectangular. Zen like. Calm. We ended up with a big-ass pool connected to a littl pool (aka the chicquita pool), connected to a 25 person hottub and enough concrete formed blocks and arches that will stand forever like the pyramids.

The kids from church call our yard the Indiana Jones pool. I need to get some blow darts for next swim season - that'll really freak 'em out. But it's a great family pool and we get a great deal of satisfaction from hosting parties and seeing the kids jump off the superstructure, do flips off the tree and spin around on the rope swing but.....but let's not kid ourselves -it was hard work getting it done and it took A LONG TIME.

The basement remodel a few years ago was also a project that nearly never was.

First mistake: We started it ourselves the night after dropping Alec off at the MTC, and after demo'ing only the easy stuff (knees height to shoulder height), we called for the work crew early the next day. As I have aged, I'm good at starting projects and bad at completing them. Just ask my wife.

The crew had the rooms gutted in no time however to this day, there remains a small portion of the project that remains unfinished. I tick off the to do list every time I walk downstairs. Drives me crazy. Need more medication.

So the thought of another household project always holds the prospect of blowing up into something big and unfinished.

Right off the bat, we had a tile issue; the tile wouldn't cooperate and fall off the wall with a little push from my brother's chisel. Eric and I decided to rent a power chisel from Home Depot. Like the guy with the jackhammer on the McDonald's commercial who says, "I rented this all day, mind as well get my money's worth" Eric went at it. Janae was out of the house for a few days taking care of her sister so I had full reign over the demolition. After Eric was done with the power chisel, we were down to the studs which is always just a wee bit scary. The fact that a pile of debris was 3 feet high in the bathtub was only part of it. Now the plumbing was exposed, the insulation was exposed...... it's the ugly side of construction that most people don't see.

Fear not readers, I am expereienced with this sort of chaos, disorder, mess and, yes, comedy. Hitting my thumb with the 3rd swing of the hammer produced a string a moderate profanity. I handed the hammer back to my brother. I'm better with a golf club in my hand, or my mitts flying over a laptop keyboard. Hammertime? That was 20 years ago - literally.

Next came the floor which was also difficult to demo. Eric tells me that since the flooring compound sticks to the concrete slab it too has to be chiseled up after sitting around for a decade. It's supposed to be hard to chisel out. Luckily for us, the bathroom had only 70 square feet of floor tile.

Ugghhh....I thought to myself, wait'll Eric and Pedro have to take out ALL the tile floors in my house and replace them with handscapped wood ones......I may have to send Janae out of town for a month inorder to surprise her although I doubt she would mind being a gypsy for a few weeks. THAT will be a mess.

Pedro and I hit up a few of the granite and marble stores looking for something nice to throw down. I picked the 18 inch Jerusalem gold marble at Rio Marble and Tile, purchased some backer board for the shower, and all sorts of attendant little construction shit that you need but never get quite enough which require at least 4 or 5 daily trips to Lowes or Home Depot to pick up yet one more item. Maddening. My pockets are full of receipts and change. I hate change.

After 9 days of work, I'm proud to report that as of Saturday afternoon, the job was completed. Eric and Pedro knocked out all of the work in the bathroom and bedroom AND were able to paint the master bedroom from ceiling to baseboards while Janae was gone. What was once a small little job - a little bit of paint here and there - turned out to be a fairly large gig - but it was done right. Jake will return home to a very nice pad if only for a month before he head off to school in mid-January.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Going Postal

Most people can identify with government run entities and conjur up in their minds long lines, rude employees, 2 stations open when 6 exist but the other folks are on a break and so on.

Since my wife was out of town, I was entrusted to mail Jake's birthday packages to him in Ecuador. This isn't like going to the UPS store that is a franchise and owned by a person who smiles when they greet you and provides excellent service. No, I had to go the United States Post Office to handle this task. Customs forms were needed to be filled out and I was told to expect "a long line, but it moves fast." For as long as I have been on this planet, I don't do lines. I don't have patience to simply stand there. I'm not wired properly to handle this sort of thing.

I only know of two post offices close to home - the one on Rainbow and one in Summerlin next to one of those European-style roundabouts. I opted for Summerlin.

The parking lot was full and I considered for a second leaving. Wife would not be happy. I found a spot in the north forty lot and walked to the building only to be overwhelmed by the humanity inside. The line was snaked back and forth which wasn't the worst was all the kids crawling around on the floor while their mommies stood in line. I could actually see germs floating in the air. The coughs, wheezes, sneezes, and wet fingers were everywhere. I kept hearing, "Sssshhhhhh....get up off the floor......get over here NOW."

I walked to the far corner to fill out the customs forms, located only one when I needed three but found, to my utter shock, a very helpful lady that ran to the back and brought me the forms I needed.

Is this THE United States Post Office I said to myself?
By the time I finished filling out the damn forms in triplicate, my hand ached and was prepped to stand in a long line with sick people.

To my surprise the line had dwindled down to just a few hundred few dozen. I stood there like a circus animal shuffling along not unlike the security line at any airport. Finally, I was next in line for service at the window. I lugged my 4 packages to the counter and was greeted warmly and with a smile.

"Sorry 'bout the wait. It's been busy today."

Again, I had to catch myself from making a wisecrack. Most times I just can't help myself. I bit my tongue.

Verna was stamping away - one stamp for the customs form and two on the package. I looked down and said, "You know Verna, your datestamp is wrong. It's the 12th not the 10th." Apparently Veteran's Day had thrown them for a loop.

"I been stampin' all day and no one has noticed that until you did."

"I'm weird like that Verna."

Laughter all around. Good crowd.

I paid the bill, walked out and thought to, if the Post Office can turn things around, maybe, just maybe, there's hope for the million other government agencies.


Who am I kidding?

Monday, November 9, 2009

All Creatures Great and Small, Part Two

We had another Animal Planet episode on Saturday with our 16 year old cat Hider. Of the four felines, Hider is the oldest, crankiest and, in his mind, baddest cat on this 1/2 acre plot of planet earth. The other male cat in our menagerie is Snowy, who is 8 years old and has aspirations of becoming the next Alpha cat. The other two cats are females - they are lovers not fighters.

Here's the tale of the tape on the two males: Hider can't hear anything. He's 100% stone deaf. He can't hear the car start or the garage door roll up. I've come thisclose to running over him dozens of times. So much for a cat only having 9 lives. A few years ago he came home after having his ears cleaned but the procedure somehow sentenced him to a life of eternal quiet bliss.

That is until.....

Dunce cat Snowy goes on the prowl. This happens weekly. Some fights are knock down drag outs and some are over before they start - some hissing, posturing, and a quick jab or two and it's over.

Snowy's greatest affliction is that he's deeply retarded. The same vet that wrecked Hider's hearing also nearly killed Snowy when he was neutered as a kitten. Snow-Snow nearly died from the anesthesia and came out of the procedure with roughly the brain of a dog - this is not good for a cat but makes for great comic relief.

Snowy routinely breaks the first rule of the Kat Kingdom by coming to me when I call him. He will lay on my lap, or on my bed. He will beg for food without humiliation and in general sort of lopes alongside dogs Zeus and Ray Ray who inhabit our life with us. Snowy is usually benign and lovable until he and Hider take their business out on each other - usually in the middle of the night.

The latest and so far greatest of all their many fights ended up with Hider's ear needing surgery, a drain tube inserted, intravenous fluids, bloodwork and 24 hours under the watchful eye of Dr. Matt. Oh, and he's home wearing the dreaded lampshade now and bumping into pretty much everything. Damn cat nearly died last night by falling into the toilet trying to get a drink of water at 3am and the lampshade thingy was stuck under the seat. Janae wrestled the cat out of the potty and promptly jumped into the shower.

This is my life.

The twice daily medicine applications are also interesting. This act requires 8 hands but I only have 2. When Janae helps there are 4 mitts which is better, but not the minimum recommended number. The pink stuff that needs to be refrigerated is for fighting off infection. He gets two doses a day - each time I've wrestled with him I have dropped the syringe multiple times, dripped medicine all over me and him, fought off his fangs, been scratched by his rear claws, listened to his roar and ended up with cat hair in my eyes, up my nose and all over my clothes. The pain meds? Forget it man - he just has to deal with it. I'm not getting into the ring again.

I was instructed by Dr. Janae to pull on the tube in Hider's ear to promote better drainage (per Dr. Matt who looks like he is 17 years old). After I yanked on the bandage/tube doohickey and dabbed up blood, Hider, of course, had to shake his head back and forth spewing nice little blood droplets that rained down upon me. Nice.

Alas, we are down to only 6 animals now. I doubt that we'll ever get back to the 13 that we once had and I'm sure the number will drop eventually to only 1 or 2.

I am reminded daily of the following quote by Alexander Pope; “Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends.”

It's true. Look it up.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Quick Post

Leaving for Ecuador in 34 days with Alec, Tiffany, and Janae to pick up Jake. Yeah, hard to believe it's been nearly two years since this beautiful young man left home to serve in the Guayquil South Mission in far away Ecuador. I am so proud of Jake's service and his compassion and loyalty to others. Finally, after 4+ years of missions, the family will all be reunited.

Have spent the past few days here watching juniors tennis action with the Foote family who are dear longtime family friends from Salt Lake City. Especially neat was seeing matriarchs Norine and Angie get together last night after 35+ and grandkids all around... is life great or what?

Shoulder is 100% healed and never sore even after rounds and rounds of golf.

More later.