Showing posts with label births/birthdays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label births/birthdays. Show all posts

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Birthday 2023 - The Anti-Vibe, Very Good B-Day Week

Wednesday was my birthday.  The celebration lasted a full week as we had some neighbors over last Saturday, and this week we went to see Austin FC play Vancouver.  In the middle was the big day.  I'm now 48.  

Holy cats.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Jason: Half a Century of Rocking America

I have no recent photos of Jason and Family

March 17th marks my brother's 50th birthday.  

That's a peculiar milestone, because I can remember his birthday parties from elementary school and taking him for a beer while he was just finishing law school and I guess maybe he was turning 25 at the time (we were under the tent at Dog & Duck).  

Jason's birthday was always tricky as it falls on St. Patrick's Day.  In recent years, he's had his own way of keeping his birthday (pizza and beer, essentially) and it's worked well til Covid hit.  Also, he's got kids that went from small and distractable to elementary school age, and I think there's a different gameplan.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Birthday JimD

Our Birthday Boy Stands in Repose

Monday, December 07, 2009

Happy Birthday to Dug!

Happy B-Day, B-Dug.

P-Squared, if you need help saving Christmas, we're your buddies!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Birthday Girls

Happy Birthday to Ms. Lauren Roth, who had a birthday last week, and who was so kind as to invite us out to Austin's premier Karaoke bar, Common Interest, on Friday night.

Steven sang two songs in my presence, wowing the crowd in particular with Hank Williams Jr's immortal classic "A Country Boy Can Survive", peppered with a lot of "Thank you, Austin!" thrown in.

Lauren, who looked lovely, gave us some rockin' 80's before tuning introspective with "Yesterday".

I am sad to say The League never screwed up enough courage to get on the mic and sing any of the tunes he was considering, and only upon departing did he realize "I totally should have sung 'Tomorrow' from 'Annie'".

Thanks for the invite, Team Roth-Harms!

Saturday we joined FunHeather and friends to celebrate the birthday of Heather Wagner, newly returned from Lubbock and now a practicing speech therapist. It was a lovely dinner, but a lot less singing happened. Except for the requisite "Happy Birthday" rendition, I suppose.

Met some new folks, felt a little old, and enjoyed a lovely meal at one of Austin's favorite spots, Fonda San Miguel.

Happy B-Day to both, and thanks for making sure we had an action-packed weekend!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Patrick Henry Preddy Enters Existence

Congratulations to fellow KO alum Marshall, and his lovely wife, Jordan.

Today they welcomed their first child, Patrick Henry Preddy. He arrived a bit after 2:00 PM.

Welcome to the world, kid. You got a heck of a set of parents there.

Pics and more here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy B-Day to The Admiral

Happy B-Day to The Admiral!

Today The Admiral turns 562. To be truthful, I just don't feel like doing the math. Anyway, he's a geezer.

The Admiral feels this birthday thing is a trap.

Next week, the Admiral is headed for Africa. It's a first for The Admiral, and we're hoping it goes swimmingly.

The Admiral (on left) makes a new pal

Anyway, I hope The Old Man has a good birthday weekend before heading off for adventure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthdays: Nicole and Judy

Monday is the birthday of League-Pal and former house-mate, Nicole. We all wish Nicole a happy birthday.

Nicole is so nice, we're celebrating twice. Saturday we went out, and we're going to Long John Silver's Monday evening for her B-Day.

It is ALSO the birthday of League-Mother-in-Law, Judy.

Look, I know how these mother-in-law things can go. I hear stories. So I thank my lucky stars each and every day that I got Judy as part of the package.

Happy B-Day, Judy!

More from Troubles, including pictures.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy B-Day to my boy, RHPT

May the universe bestow you with all you desire for your birthday. Or at least a meal at the Olive Garden.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Noah arrives

So, a very important announcement to Leaguers near and far...

Yesterday, Letty and Juan Garcia welcomed their first child to the world. After Sloane reigned supreme for less than a week, Noah is now our littlest Leaguer.

We at The League salute you, Noah. And Letty and Juan, too. You landed yourself some awesome parents. I look forward to your dad Twittering your every move and your mom trying out all her recipes on you (and hopefully us).

Best of luck, kid.

Monday, June 08, 2009

New Lil' Leaguer (Sloane Shaw!)

I would be remiss if I did not mention the birth of Sloane Julianne Shaw. Sloane arrived June 7th at 8:33am to happy parents Reed and Jennifer Shaw.

No pictures yet, so...

here's a puppy with a blanet to tide you over.*

*We understand that Sloane is neither a puppy or blanket, but adding an image always makes for a better post.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy B-Day to Norma Jean

So, apparently today Marilyn Monroe would have turned 83.

In high school, I was unlikely to hang a poster of Kathy Ireland or the other favorites of the day on my wall, but somehow I decided that it was perfectly acceptable to hang a poster of Marilyn Monroe. Actually, several images of Monroe, if memory serves.

I did watch a few Monroe movies (although my favorite still only really has her in a small part, John Huston's crime drama, "The Asphalt Jungle"), and read up a bit about Monroe in the way you did before the internet made that sort of casual interest all too easy.

Monroe's fame comes far more from her all-but-confirmed extra-curricular romances with JFK and possibly Bobby Kennedy, her downward spiral and the mysterious events surrounding her death than her film career, although she was in a few classsics. She also managed to marry not one but TWO American legends in Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. (You put all this in one place, and its sort of mind-boggling.)

Her early death, of course, froze her in time in the mind's eye of America. And, I am certain, there have been many a theses and dissertation written on what it means that the American gold standard for WASPy beauty and sexuality is represented by Monroe.

Her contemporaries haven't enjoyed the same household name status, and its hard to think of anyone in the past 40 years who has attained her status as American Icon, even if stars such as Jane Russell and Jayne Mansfield enjoyed similar film careers. Moreover, it's difficult to imagine the entertainment industry of today creating another Monroe, either by intention or blind luck.

In the past twenty years it does seem that Marilyn (like Elvis, James Dean and others) has become such a part of the cultural landscape that it can be forgotten that she was ever more than a Halloween costume, or a caricature for failed starlets to dress as, standing out in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater for the tourists.

Maybe that's okay. The films will always be returned to by enthusiasts, and enough ink has been spilled for those willing to read up on the person behind the soft-lit photos. And that's far more than most can expect out of even such a short life.

Happy birthday, Marilyn.

Probably Monroe's most famous sequence:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy B-Day to Mangum

Happy Birthday to League Pal Matty Mangum.

I met Matt circa 1996 when he moved with a crowd of friends from Colorado to Austin. I found his directness refreshing (the first conversation we had was him criticizing the album I was listening to when he walked into my apartment), and quickly found his curmudgeonly ways endlessly entertaining.

We wound up both working as students at the same office on campus, and both parlayed our student gigs into full-time gigs, and consequently spent no small number of hours together inside and outside of work.

Mangum thinks tigers are greeeeeaaat!

Obviously I enjoy the man's company as I was happy to have him crash here for a short while during the renovation of his condo. He's a frequent guest to Steans-Family holidays, and we enjoy having him around on game day, etc... He's the guy i actually will hand the tongs to over the grill, and defer to for food choices every time. Matt's a traveler (he was recently in Thailand, and is prone to head to Europe or wherever the wind takes him), a blackbelt in some form of karate, and is now a scuba diver.

He's a longtime pal, and I wish the dude the best of birthdays.

Denby, Matt and Nicole (Nicole is tucked under Mangum's arm there).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I would put babies in a corner (and run away)

So its not enough that Jamie and I don't have kids. Most of the folks we know either (a) don't have kids, (b) have kids but we weren't nearby during the earlier days/ birthing of kids, or (c) have not added us to the mix for their baby showers, etc... So I'm never around babies or people having babies.

Letty and Juan are due fairly soon, and as they're good pals who we see regularly, we're involved in a baby shower this weekend. Which... Jamie and I don't know anything about babies. I mean, I know they're small people with no bowel control and that people have created this whole fiction about the joys of a baby when the sleepness nights, added expenses and trips to the ER, etc... sort of seem to speak otherwise (Your Unkle League isn't here to mince words tonight), and that it usually means a major, major lifestyle change for the happy parents.

creeps me out...

But on a practical level... I don't know anything about babies. I don't think I'd ever been into a Babies 'R Us before this evening. I have no idea what the hell any of that stuff is in there. I literally have no idea what one of the items we bought for the baby is for, and there's a picture of it in use right there on the package. And that's more or less how I felt about 90% of the baby goods we looked at. I assume some of this stuff existed when I dropped into existence, but who knows?

Most of the stuff seems like its based around trying to make the leaking fluids and other bio-byproducts from your bundle of joy under control, which is a noble reason to own stuff, indeed. Its also priced very reasonably. Mostly because your kid is going to outgrow it or somehow destroy it before too long, I guess.

I did learn that Jamie and I would cross swords, were we to decorate a nursery. I mean, I know I'm right. Puppies are a better option than jungle animals, right? It is probably socially unacceptable to own a "puppy lamp" intended for a nursery. So, no, I did not buy it for myself. Even if it was adorable.

Anyway, kudos to you people who do the whole baby thing. It still totally freaks me out.

But I am very happy for Juan and Letty. They're a happily married couple, and I know they will raise a kick-ass kid. They really want to be parents, and I see no reason they won't do a phenomenal job. Should be a blast watching what they do, given a little mind to mold.

And I will enjoy sleeping through the night. Except when Jeff the Cat wakes me up like he did last night.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

B-Day & Easter

Having a birthday in early/ mid April occasionally means I share the weekend with the Easter Weekend. I figure in the big picture, folks probably care a bit more about Easter than my birthday (it seems my birthday may not hold the weight of Easter. Go figure).

I don't mind the confluence of days, and, in fact, welcome it. People are generally in a good mood on Easter, so in the case of this year, I kind of got to ride that wave.

Thursday we had dinner with some friends, as I mentioned. Friday was low-key, and I am afraid I wound up watching reality TV with Jason after dinner. Saturday we stayed home, ran some errands, and then joined friends and family at my folks' house in N. Austin for a lovely dinner with entirely too much food. And somehow I walked away with a 6' Superman standee (of the Bruce Timm art Superman. Pretty awesome).

Today we headed to El Arroyo for a family brunch (and for me to receive my birthday loot. Thanks, loot-bearers!), took in some sunshine and had maybe a Bloody Mary to say "howdy" to my latest journey around the sun. It was supposed to rain, but instead we had 80 degree temperatures and a clear sky. Really, couldn't have been better.

I hope everyone had a great Easter. Thanks to all who could make it to any of our outings this weekend, and all the Facebook, e-mail and other birthday wishes.

Some lovely birthday tributes from Jason and Jamie. Thanks so much, you two. I am to blush.

In closing, I have to post this picture of our good friend Erica's kid, Isaac, as he says "hello" to the Easter Bunny. An Easter Bunny from your darkest nightmares.


All My Friends
LCD Soundsystem

That's how it starts
We go back to your house
We check the charts
And start to figure it out

And if it's crowded, all the better
Because we know we're gonna be up late
But if you're worried about the weather
Then you picked the wrong place to stay
That's how it starts

And so it starts
You switch the engine on
We set controls for the heart of the sun
one of the ways we show our age

And if the sun comes up, if the sun comes up, if the sun comes up
And I still don't wanna stagger home
Then it's the memory of our betters
That are keeping us on our feet

You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan
And the next five years trying to be with your friends again

You're talking 45 turns just as fast as you can
Yeah, I know it gets tired, but it's better when we pretend

It comes apart
The way it does in bad films
Except in parts
When the moral kicks in

Though when we're running out of the drugs
And the conversation's winding away
I wouldn't trade one stupid decision
For another five years of lies

You drop the first ten years just as fast as you can
And the next ten people who are trying to be polite
When you're blowing eighty-five days in the middle of France
Yeah, I know it gets tired only where are your friends tonight?

And to tell the truth
Oh, this could be the last time
So here we go
Like a sales force into the night

And if I made a fool, if I made a fool, if I made a fool
on the road, there's always this
And if I'm sewn into submission
I can still come home to this

And with a face like a dad and a laughable stand
You can sleep on the plane or review what you said
When you're drunk and the kids leave impossible tasks
You think over and over, "hey, I'm finally dead."

Oh, if the trip and the plan come apart in your hand
You look contorted on yourself your ridiculous prop
You forgot what you meant when you read what you said
And you always knew you were tired, but then
Where are your friends tonight?

Where are your friends tonight?
Where are your friends tonight?

If I could see all my friends tonight
If I could see all my friends tonight
If I could see all my friends tonight
If I could see all my friends tonight

Friday, April 10, 2009


So, in case you missed the various info out there, on Sunday, I hit 34.

I can no longer say I'm in my early-30's without fibbing. I am very close to my life expectancy, were I to be living in the mid-19th century.

I'm not much of one about my birthday, but last night we got together with some friends at Serrano's, down off Red River. The past few weeks have been odd as Matt contracted strep, which he passed to Nicole. Lauren wound up with appendicitis, requiring hospitilization, which meant Steven picked something nasty up at the hospital, which was, I think, also strep.

And, sadly, Juan and Letty are now both fighting strep, too.

So we were sort of thinking that last night would wind up as a small affair (which Jamie wrangled. Thanks, Jamie). And it was, just a few folks. But even a good number of our patients showed up, with a special celebrity appearance by Lauren. Still am so happy she's feeling good enough to walk around a bit and spend time with friends.

Also thanks to friends who've chimed in via e-mail, Facebook, etc...

I have decided that the only promise I'm making myself is that I will finish reading "Moby Dick" before I'm 35. I've never read the book except as a Classics Illustrated edition with art by Bill Sienkiwicz (still one of my favorite artists, period, comic or otherwise). But I figure I should probably read the thing as Mellville intended before I'm dead.

I already bought myself my birthday present(s). Every year I buy myself something, and this year it was two novelty t-shirts. One with The Flash, and one with, of course, Superman.

I'm not entirely clear on whether or not being in one's mid-30's is supposed to mean I'm supposed to shelve some of my goofier interests, put on a sweater and slippers and... wait. Do I see approaching middle-age as becoming Mister Rogers? I believe I might. But, for goodness sake, Mister Rogers had a whole crazy land of make believe with sentient trolleys, a lush named "Lady Elaine" and talking owls and kittens. Mister Rogers was awesome.

Happy B-Day to me, I suppose.

On to 35.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Me and Chuck E. Cheese

Edit: I am a bit horrified to find that Whitney Matheson of Pop Candy has re-redirected her readership here to The League (big fan of Pop Candy! Hi, Whitney!). Welcome one and all. I also apologize for the many, many grammatical and typographical errors. If I'd time, I'd clean it up, but alas.

Every year on my birthday, people ask where I want to go for dinner to celebrate. And every year, I say the same thing. I say that I want to go to Chuck E. Cheese.

Its partially a test. The truth is, I sort of figured out a long time ago that even if its your birthday, you sort of need to pick neutral territory that everyone will like. You cannot say "I want to go to Chuck E. Cheese", because nobody over the age of 9 really wants to find themselves at Chuck E. Cheese for any length of time. Which is why they sell beer (or they did). So its always a fun litmus test to see how batshit people (especially Jason) will go when you quietly insist that, yes, you DO want to go to Chuck E. Cheese. When pushed, I insist that I like pizza, videogames and a complementary animatronic floorshow. And offer up helpful bits like "I told you where I wanted to go, and if you don't want to go there, that's fine. Just take me wherever."

I have actually had two birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese. When I was in 5th grade, my parents finally caved and agreed to let me have my party at a Chuck E. Cheese somewhere in Austin (probably off Burnet). And I recall pretty distinctly all of my friends just sort of milling around, realizing we were too old for Chuck E. Cheese. Whether we were too big for the "rides", or weren't into the robots anymore, or whatever... I just remember an awful sinking feeling that I'd made a mistake.

They probably still do this, but they would announce the names of kids having birthdays and bring out these cakes with these goofy sparkling candles, and Chuck would come by and give you a present. And as all of this was going on, all I could think was "Oh, Jesus Christ, I'm too old for all of this..." And as I was about to open the present from Chuck, this girl in a visor who worked there sort of apologized to me in advance, letting me know "we only have presents for little kids..." as I opened up what was a dollar-store Fisher-Price knockoff toy car. Pretty clearly intended for a kid, ages 2-6.

You Want Money, You Better Earn It

At age 16, I was informed I was to find a job once school let out. There was a certain window of time when school let out when people would plan to hire kids for the summer. This was kind of understood by me and my high school pals but possibly less understood by my folks. That year we headed out of town shortly after school let out, and remained gone for a couple of weeks. When I returned, I hit the road every day for several hours filling out applications, but to no avail. I was told at every place I applied that I could fill out an application, but they weren't hiring. For reasons unknown to me to this day, my inability to find a job was met with skepticism by my parents, who seemed to believe all you had to do to land a job was walk in the door of whever you wanted to work, and they'd hire you.

I confess I had a couple of rules.

1) I wouldn't sack groceries. Houston summers can be brutal enough, and I wanted to not wear the goofy bow-tie, long pants and smock get-up Randall's employed. Apparently the Randall's corporation believed that such a get-up would fool their patrons into believing that they were shopping in some Mom and Pop corner store during the early days of the 20th Century rather than in a state of the art grocery with automated rainfall on the out-of-season produce and endless aisles of preservative-laced foods.

In short, I didn't want to sweat so badly in my job that I'd not get tips, which is how the sackers made their dough.

2) I was avoiding the food industry. Apparently The KareBear had some amazing experience working at the same restaurant as a waitress for years as she made her way through school. But everyone I talked to made it sound like a lot of late nights and uncomfortable situations with assistant managers. Also, I get grossed out by other people's partially eaten food.

I wasn't going to land some sweet gig that my parents set up for me (which was something to always be jealous of), and I was starting late, after every 16 year old in the greater Spring area was already out and looking.

Landing the Job

But... Chuck E. Cheese was hiring.

When I asked for an application, the manager pumped my hand and asked if I could come back the next day. He was in his 30's, 6'4", wore a tie, and seemed like a great guy. The next day he put me in a booth, we chatted lightly (I had no experience doing anything but reading comics, shooting free-throws and doing homework, so... not much to chat on), and I thought we hit it off great. I was in!

I'd be nowhere near the food. I'd be working the Game Floor, which I imagined would be a bit like playing casino host to a bunch of 5-10 year-olds, handing out tokens, occasionally polishing a game, and getting free food.

Jason begged me not to work at Chuck E. Cheese. Family Pal Larry Lee had worked at a Chuck's in Austin when he and Jason were in high school.

"You don't just play the videogames," Jason told me. "You're going to hate it."

I steamed. Chuck E. Cheese was supposed to be fun, by definition. I had a job, and he didn't, so was clearly jealous of my job-landing skills, which... when the manager saw me, he clearly saw the potential that I thought pretty much darn near everyone SHOULD see in me.

I started a week later to the semi-surprise of the two managers on duty, Angel and Jim. Angel was probably in her early 30's, but looked older. I had a foot on Jim, and a head of hair he lacked, which at age 16, made me estimate him at somewhere between 20 and 95. The manager who had hired me was no longer with the store. No explanation was given.

With a few others, I was led to the back to be given a uniform and some cursory instructions. Stuff like "food isn't free, but it is half-off. Plan to be here for a two or more hours after closing every night. More on Saturdays" It was true I would be on the gamefloor, which thrilled me. No clearing plates of other people's slobbered-upon pizza crusts. No touching cups with lipstick smears. I would sweep up, I would wipe down machines. And, curiously, despite an utter lack of experience with anything more than a crystal radio kit, I would repair machines and games. And, give out tokens to kids who claimed they'd "lost" a token.

But there was literally no training. The tasks we were to perform were mostly so idiot simple (go sweep up pizza crusts), that I guess spending time training wasn't really necessary. And, what I would soon learn about the staffing issues probably led the managers to believe it was a waste of time.

Some vintage Chuck horror

The Uniform

Not clear on the spirit of the law, but intent to maintain the letter, I listened carefully to the uniform instructions. I was to wear what they gave me. No exceptions. A red, collared shirt with my name-tag. A blue visor with the logo. And a pair of khaki pants that was pretty clearly too small for me.

Someone asked if we could substitute our own clothing.

The answer was a definitive "no".

I have no recollection of my first day, other than squeezing into the pants I'd been assigned and worrying a great deal about whether I would burst, Hulk-like, from the pants should I squat down, and exactly how much of my wedding tackle would be on display at each shift, because... golly those pants were tight.

Plus, the visor pushed my hair up into a weird sort of explosion, jutting out the top of the elastic band.

I hopped into my disintegrating '83 Honda and headed off for work.

I was relieved to find we wore these little blue smocks that covered the area of primary concern, but did nothing to disguise the action going on in the aft.

The Way it Works

The most important thing to know is how totally gross a place full of children eating greasy pizza really is. Especially kids full of sugar who believe all bets are off because the ranting, robotic mouse keeps telling them they can "be a kid". Which, apparently, means pushing, shoving, kicking people in mascot costumes in the crotch and ass, and occasionally vomiting for no particular reason.

If I had a triumph in the summer of 1991, it was that I drew a line in the land which stated that I would clean neither the stalls, nor the vomit from the floor. That job, I bargained and bartered my way out of it. And you knew you were in dutch with the managers if you had to clean the bathrooms, but at our store, that usually fell to the "show floor" staff, who were perceived to have it somehow easier than the game floor staff during the usual hours.

But kids sort of leak fluids. Never, ever, ever allow your child to play in the ball crawl. No matter what they tell you, you can't actually clean one of those things. Just vacuuming the thing thoroughly, which was done a few times each week with a shop-vac, took the entire evening cleaning shift from 10 - 12:00 or 12:30. There was a semi-annual schedule for actually cleaning the ball crawl, and reportedly they found all kinds of stuff in there.

Walk into any Chuck E. Cheese, and you'll see some schlub constantly wiping things down. That's because greasy little kids are putting their greasy little hands on everything, always. Leaving handprints. The definition of sisyphian task was trying to keep the glass doors to the place hand-print free on a Saturday. Which the managers would do if they were displeased with you for some slight. Or, if they were really irritated, you could be condemned to rub the rubber floor edgings with lemon oil.

My Fellow Staffers

The turn-over was incredible. The entire crew I started with was gone within three or four weeks. Having a new person wander out to join you on shift occurred with such regularity, I mostly identified people by their physical traits instead of names. Guy Who Talks About Being Drunk All the Time. Girl With Too-Huge Boobs. Old Person. Too Much Make-Up Girl. That Guy Who Wears Shorts Even Though Its Not Regulation, But Nobody Says Anything. We were also not really supposed to talk to each other, anyway. Perhaps they feared Chuck himself would lead a Norma Rae-line uprising.

I didn't work many mornings, which was when you wanted to work. Customers tend not to hit the Chuck until later afternoon on weekdays, so the place is oddly sedate for the first few hours, especially before opening. And there were these two women who were in their late-40's, I'd guess, who had been there in a minimum wage position for over a decade. We were going through staff like people go through grapes, and these two had been there and seen it all. They were entrusted with the amazing "token counting machine", which had to be run every morning so they'd know how many tokens were in the store. I remember asking why they didn't become managers if they were there so long, and the conversation became suddenly very awkward until one of them assured me that they didn't want all the trouble of being a manager.

And from what little I knew of Jim and Angel, I didn't blame them. Angel seemed only like she constantly wished to be anywhere but there, but was at least kind of useful. Jim just dreamed up stuff for you to do, like polishing the baseboards. He just seemed particularly frustrated, and refused to crack a smile, even when I slipped and fell in the kitchen and the first words out of my mouth were "there's a lawsuit in there somewhere!" I spent that next Saturday cleaning windows.

Career Advancement

Sure enough, I learned how to fix the ski-ball machines through a sure-fire method of trial and error that would make any psychology lab proud. (If you perform this action, you will receive an electric shock... if you perform that action, the game will come back alive, and you get to play a few rounds to test the machine).

I cleared out hobos. Once ate a handful of the pink powder they use to make cotton candy, right out of the box (do not recommend). Gave away handfuls of tokens to kids who lied about losing them. But never dressed in the mascot suit, for which my carriage was too large.

I did almost wear it once on a slow day, but a party of several dozen showed up, unaware you were supposed to schedule a birthday party in advance. Thus, my one chance for wearing the suit (and going to Fiesta to drum up business, which is what I told the manager I was going to do), was foiled.

Losing Faith in Humanity

I don't know if any particular incident occurred during my summer at The Chuck, but I do recall coming home every night increasingly despondent over what I saw as some less-than-stellar parenting. Drunk parents. Parents who yelled. Parents who felt that Chuck E. Cheese was some sort of "time out" for them, and that whatever happened on behalf of their destructive little monsters within the confines of our store was our problem. Kids whose parents tried to use the Chuck as a daycare.

And I'll never forget the dad who walked up to the ball-crawl while I was on duty and just heaved his infant into the balls. I didn't actually see the action occur so much as looked over and saw the top of an infant's head disappearing beneath the balls, which were about 6-12 inches higher than the actual balls. Plus: Infant with no motor skills and 10 year olds doing flips off the sides into the pit is just a bad combo.

"Sir," I said, yanking the baby out of the balls. "Is this your child?"
A guy I know didn't look like Jeff Foxworthy, but that's how my brain recalls him, sort of stared at me through the netting.
"Sir, I don't think this is a good idea."
I now know that the look of incomprehension probably came from a pack of Coors Light which had probably been consumed pre-Chuck, but I watched as he tried to sort out what I was saying.
"The ball pit is actually pretty deep. I don't think its good for your child."
"She likes it!" he insisted.
The child was actually somewhat emotionless, which was impressive, given the fate which could have greeted her at the bottom of the ball pit.
"Aren't ya'll supposed to watch these kids?"
"Well, yeah. But this isn't really safe."
"You don't think...?" He said, resigned to the fact that he was going to have to return to the table with his child instead of just heading to the counter for a pitcher of the lousiest beer in Spring.
"She may be a little small for the ball crawl," I explained. "She can't stand up in here."
"I think she'd have fun," he was still looking for an angle.
"I don't think so......"
He reluctantly took the child back. And I flashed forward to a lifetime of similar decisions this child was going to endure at the hands of her idiot father. I imagined sitting on the handlebars of an ATV couldn't be too far off in her future.

The Floor Show @#$%ing Sucks

I'd been working at Chuck E. Cheese all of a week when I was having dinner at my friend Mari's house and her brother asked, "So, are you in the band?"

I didn't have super-fabulous memories of the Rock-a-Fire explosion from Showbiz Pizza, or the mishmash of other characters that had populated Chuck E. Cheese when I was little. But I do remember that they played familiar radio tunes. And by played, I mean awkwardly jerked around in something always approximating the beat, but not actually on beat, with the patented delirious eye-rolls and herky-jerky laughing, lifted straight from the on-cue guffaws one saw on TV variety shows of the era.

At some point between when I'd last stepped into a Chuck E. Cheese, and had been weirded out that Mitzy Mozzarella was receiving a spotlight solo for lip-synching the Bangles' "Eternal Flame", and when I started work, someone in the Chuck E. Cheese corporation figured out they could save money by penning original, family friendly tunes. About stuff like "Summer Fun".

And so, every 55 minutes or so, I was reminded of the summer fun kids were supposed to be having while I was pushing a dust pan around and sweeping up stray pizza crusts, waxing the floorboards and telling little scam artists that I would not give them a handful of either tokens or tickets at no charge. Not even if they volunteered to be my friend (which happened more often than you'd think).

The band was sort of a weird deal, in that they had the different pre-programmed sets, and I don't really remember them every breaking. They just never seemed to be programmed all that well to begin with. And when they were taking a break or whatever was supposed to be happening behind the scenes, they still bombarded the place with music and video of the band. So, really, from the minute you walked in until the minute we closed the door behind Tipsy McStaggerson and Family, you had to hear the same loop of half-assed, crappily penned and performed tunes about important topics like fun, friendship and hygiene.

This is sort of the set up we had.

Our store may have been a former Showbiz, from before the merger, as the layout was a multi-stage affair, and different from a lot of what I see on YouTube. They'd reskinned the Rock-afire explosion during the conversion, or something. I don't know. I never thought to care enough to ask.

The show emulated a bygone era of a band, an MC and a comedy act, which the kids, short on their fandom of "Our Show of Shows" may not have been picking up on the origins of the borscht-belt humor and stylings. But, hey, talking rat and his horrible, Italian stereotype, Pasquale and whatever the hell else made up the band (such as purple horror, Munch), always hit their cues and were far less trouble than the average Chuck E. Cheese employee.

I honestly think the kids kind of hated the band.

One Armed Bandits and Free Videogames

My friend Dave (not his real name) took a job at The Chuck shortly after me, apparently intrigued by the possibility of wearing the mouse suit or something. He somehow ended up behind the counter, which is where veterans usually worked (you know, people with 6 months of experience).

I noted that he would often be on the floor playing games during my shift. Often at multiple times, with the smock removed and his visor off, indicating he was "off duty". His girlfriend was often hanging out next to him, despite the fact she didn't work there.

"How did you swing two breaks today?" I asked him as I passed the Whack-a-Mole machine one day (I'd gotten amazingly good at Whack-a-Mole, which needed constant fixing). He looked at me like the sucker I was, and continued playing.

"Dude," he explained. "They never pay attention. I just take breaks whenever I feel like it."
"But don't they notice all the breaks on your time card?"
This was met with a sigh. "I don't ever actually clock out."
"Yeah, you're the only person who doesn't do it. Haven't you ever noticed that?"
"No," I answered honestly.
"You need to start."
I never did.
Like everyone else, he was also using the stash of tokens to play the games for free. And while he wasn't exactly robbing the place blind (really, there was little to steal in a commerce system that worked on Chuck E Currency), he had figured out how to game the system in about two weeks. I never did.

Dave had been born with one-arm, which hadn't slowed him down at all. He played sports, including lacrosse, which he was much better at than me, what with my two hands.

It was never an issue for anyone until he was assigned to wear the mouse suit and the kids noticed Chuck had an arm that didn't look quite right. The rules were pretty simple for wearing the suit, which I didn't do, as I was too tall. Put on the suit, walk around (but not when Chuck is on stage), shake hands, wave "hello" to babies, and when kids start to attack, which they always will... retreat. And never talk when you're in the suit.

And so it was that some kid spied Chuck's arm just sort of hanging there and called him out.
"Hey, you're not Chuck E. Cheese! You're the guy from behind the counter."
Dave waved a "no" motion with his one hand.
"Yeah, you are!"
"Yeah, you are!" a chorus of suddenly ugly little children chimed in.
"Shut up, kid!" the mouse said in a muffled voice, his plastic mouth never moving.
"Yeah, you are! You're that guy from the counter!"
And, of course, the kicking and hitting began as Chuck uttered some profanities and retreated to the stage door.

Here's a training video someone put together, probably in response to how uninspiring it is to get in the suit and beaten for $4.25 an hour.

Also, you can see the basic uniform I wore at the time. Also, why is there jazzy 80's keyboard music through this whole thing?

All Good Things Must End

In my final weeks, I remember feeling daring and going into work in non-regulation pants. After weeks of seemingly smuggling grapes into Chuck E. Cheese, not one person noticed or said anything about my pair of non-reg khakis that allowed for greater freedom of movement, shall we say.

I wound up scheduled in the ball-crawl a lot. Which I hated, but I kind of hated it less than other jobs, because usually you were scheduled alone in the ball-crawl, which meant it was less likely you'd get stuck with Only talks About How Much he Drinks Guy, and spend six hours hearing about how very much liquor he'd drunk out of his parent's cabinets the night before.

Until one day I crawled into the ballcrawl and someone came in right after me. We chatted for a while, agreed it was weird we were both scheduled in there, and then I went back out to check the schedule. I was nowhere to be found on the chart.

"What the hey?" I asked Angel.

Apparently after I'd checked the schedule on Sunday (when it was supposed to be final), she had changed it, and I was supposed to show up and work Monday instead of Tuesday. When i didn't show Monday, she'd assumed that, like everyone else, I'd quit and rescheduled my shifts to others for the entire week and closed me out as an employee. This was just how most people quit. You just quit showing up, and if you didn't show, they weren't going to pick up a phone and call you or anything crazy like that. My absence was taken the same as every other of the hundred or so similar disappointments they would see breeze through that year.

"We've made the schedule for the next week, already. You aren't on it. Maybe the next week?"

"Honestly," I sighed. "I was quitting then. I start school and have after-school obligations."
"Well," Angel and Jim (who'd shown up) assured me, I would have a place at Chuck E. Cheese any time if I wanted to come back.

I considered it that fall when the play I was in ended, but another play came immediately after, and so on. Alas, I never returned to The Chuck to work.

Return to the Chuck

I went back in high school after quitting to take some students from my mother's class out for a "special day". The food was terrible, I used up my non-free-tokens in about five minutes and so retreated to a booth and watched the show.

A few of my classmates were there working, and I saw nobody who had worked there with me. I felt badly for all of them. Especially when Michael P. was yelling at me through the Munch mascot costume so I'd know it was him in there.

They've changed Chuck's look. He no longer dresses like a ringleader, pimp or showman, all in red sparkles and a fancy hat. Instead, he's now a sort of mid-90's idea of corporatified "cool for kids", with a sort of sporty look, as if he might go roller blading or something else edgy or "in your face". I dunno. Miss the old Chuck. I sort of think of him as this old, outmoded entertainer, and I've always thought of him that way. No need for kneepads and a skateboard.

And then sometime in 2002, just before I moved, my co-workers packed into cars and took me to Chuck E. Cheese for lunch on my birthday. The pizza was better than I remembered, and the show just as creepy and bad.

We hung out way too long, and got back to work an hour late, thanks to playing video games. And I tore a four inch hole in the leg of my jeans jumping onto a jet-ski video game, ninja style.

I confess I don't know if I entirely feel good or healthy in regards to Chuck E. Cheese. Or about trying to drag friends and family into my annual desire for self-immolation by way of animatronic floorshow. But it is what it is.

There have been rumors we may be returning to Chuck E. Cheese pizza in the coming week in celebration of my birthday. I let my annual threat slip, and I think people are taking me up on it.

More reports as events warrant.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Deep Thoughts on Kitties

I was looking at the box of Arm & Hammer cat litter that we keep for Jeff, and it struck me how odd the pictures they put on cat products are when they choose to use photos. Cats just don't photo terribly well. Add in the fact that when cats ARE happy, they don't usually have a facial expression or body language to alert you to the fact that would be photographable. So on all cat products, they kind of depend on just getting photos of cats with piqued attention. Ie: they take pics of cats who are in hunting mode. Or, cats who are thinking of destroying/ killing/ maiming something.

And that's a little weird.

EDIT: here's some cat imagery that hopefully Jason will enjoy.

The only thing on their minds is murder.

Jeff the Cat as imagined by Frank Quitely (from We3)

Red Lantern Kitty (from: Rage of the Red Lanterns)

Li'l Leaguers: Kid wins contest to be in Superman book by Stone Arch

I mentioned a while back that Stone Arch Books is publishing kids reader books featuring Superman (which you should BUY so your kids will grow up as right-minded people). Well, I particularly dig this deal.

They had a contest to write about a hero at their school, and the winner was placed into a story with Superman. Pretty cool stuff. Read more here.

Tip of the hat to Superman Homepage.

Julia's B-Day

Went over to Vivo tonight (off Manor) to have dinner with League-Pal Julia. Julia and I worked together at Enspire, sharing offices upon occasion (it was sort of tradition for producers at Enspire to change offices every few months), and becoming lunch buddies and outside-of-work buddies.

Julia's pretty smart (she went to MIT), but not smart enough to not be my pal, so this evening, we raised a glass or two for JEP. I don't think she actually reads LoM, but if she did, I'd say "Happy Birthday, Julia Goolia".

Also, I always forget about Vivo, but its really pretty good. I'm partial to it.

Jonathan and Billie were there, too, for Leaguers who want to track their movements.

Who Wants to Websling Down the Great, White Way?

Nathan sent this along. It's an announcement about auditions for the upcoming Spider-Man Musical with music by Bono and The Edge. Click on the block about "Casting Calls".

Apparently, they're casting in Austin. Which only makes sense. The producers obviously were looking for me to shave my head and play Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Because I look @#$%ing GOOD in a purple ascot.

Countdown to the Land of the Ice and Snow

As a reminder, Sunday I board a plane for Minneapolis. For Leaguers looking to party down with a bunch of Library professionals, have I got a place for YOU.

I'm happy to go. Sadder that its conflicting with what was supposed to be my birthday present (enjoy that ticket to Springsteen, Reed-o). But if my birthday plans weren't completely screwed, it wouldn't be my birthday. Although, on reflection, last year went well. Its just been pretty much every other single birthday since I turned 17 that's been lackluster.

Ah, well. Once every decade and a half is pretty good, I guess.

I would much rather be in Minneapolis hangin' with my bosses than seeing Springsteen rocking "Thunder Road". Yeah. Awesome. Maybe we can go to Mall of America and visit a Sbarro or something.

Anyhow, blogging may be heavy if I'm just sitting in a hotel room. But if I keep getting shanghied by the dudes who sign my paycheck, I might not blog so much. Who can say?

All I know is that it'll probably snow at night. And I'm ready for springtime.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A storm blew through Austin today. I work 20 feet below street level, so my first inkling that something was up came from a phone call from Jamie, informing me that I should not leave work and to please keep an eye on the live feed from KXAN. So I worked.

That was fine. I was out of the office yesterday and helped out a training session all day today.

Like most Texans, I'm not afraid of that weather. It just is. Golf ball-sized hail causes massive property damage, but its usually not dangerous and its inevitable. Its happens somewhere in town every year. The wind and sideways rain are part and parcel of springtime weather that I cannot imagine the first settlers dealing with in their sod huts, let alone the largely nomadic people who were in the Central Texas area of the 19th Century.

We joke in our office about how the world will end outside, but we'll only know when we lose our data connection or when we walk out to get a cup of coffee. Sometimes I worry that's more true than a joke, and Jason has referenced that old Twilight Zone episode where the guy breaks his glasses left alone in his library.

While @theworld has been worried about Twitter of late, I've been thinking a lot about our mission and what it means to have social media in an academic or research environment. The tendency is to assume the "one size fits all" approach of popular technologies like facebook and Twitter MUST be applied to academia. Some folks do it and do it well. I believe Garcia has made a career out of doing just that.

I confess to being more skeptical. When asked to "give Dr. X a blog" when I was at ASU, I refused. " is completely free and has dedicated technical support. I am not bringing up a whole blog service because one faculty wants to rant on the internet." I don't think either the faculty or my boss at the time understood that Blogger in 2002 was going to be as useful and reliable as anything I'd spend time or money on. If I recall, Blogger at the time may not have had editable themes or URL re-direct, which I may have made some noise about, but the issue then was really that the instructor and my boss (a) felt I was just being petulant for not just instructing my co-workers to "build a blogging tool", and (b) that it wasn't coming out of nor housed at ASU.

I've changed my tune on that one, in a way. I still would never bring up a whole service to satisfy one faculty when there are free, hosted services available, and I will note that we use open source software in our office, so I feel good about the fact that we're getting the best of both worlds. But I also feel deeply that researchers SHOULD be blogging. Maybe not about BSG or what they ate for dinner, but that it can help punch through the wall between scholars and the public when the scholars publicly describe their work rather than sitting behind the keep walls (most can't get a spot in the actual ivory tower). And as long as they aren't available to the public, or are even perceived as real humans doing work by the public, its going to remain the same closed communication loop of journals and peer-reviewed journals in which the same people talk to one another but do not broadcast outward. And, it might remind researchers of the public and how they absorb the information and value the work going on at research institutions.

But I am unsure if Twittering research results is prudent or wise or lends credibility. And it certainly doesn't maintain the sound fundamentals of peer-review as part of the scholarly process, which I believe are what keeps the machine credible and working (if only we asked for the same peer review of our television media in their stories and articles). But there is a net that researchers and scholars will build naturally, and we're sort of sitting on the forefront of all that right now.

The tough part is changing "the way it was" to "the way it could be", when institutions like universities thrive on "we do what we know because we have neither time nor money to cope with the change".

I think that was a long, long tangent.

What I meant to say was that Thursday is Peabo's Birthday. He is now as old as Jamie and older than me.

May the sun shine upon him on his birthday. I did not buy him a present, but will buy him dinner, should he make the request.