Welcome to the 12/19/97 edition of the Online Murphy TimesTM where we chronicle the continuing adventures of that intrepid Murphy Family© as they climb every mountain, and ford every stream.
As always, please E-Mail us here at email@example.com. Remember, all such E-Mail will become the sole property of the Murphy Family© and will not be returned, even if you say "please." We used to claim that we would answer all email, but since we got so little we decided that maybe the threat of us sending more of this junk scared people off. So now we say: maybe we will, maybe we won't. (You have to keep some of the mystery in a relationship, at least that's what Denise always tells me as she closes the bathroom door.)
We went to Six Flags (an amusement park for those of you from another planet) on the company nickel again this year. Free parking, free admission, and 10 dollars of spending money (well, scrip) per person attending -- first class all the way. It became an annual event for McDonnell Douglas and there were some worries that after being swallowed by Boeing that we wouldn't go anymore. Those fears proved groundless, and the tradition continued on for another year (I guess we haven't been digested yet - continuing the eating analogy). (If only all traditions were so provisional that you only continued them when you wanted to. Same thing for analogies, by the way.) The only trouble was that our trip last year was pretty near perfect, so this year was almost unavoidably a step down. No free caps (or visors for the ladies) at the door like last year. Much bigger crowds - we shared the park this year with 30,000 fellow human beings which meant that the lines for not only the rides but the bathrooms were endless. Of course, an endless line for the men's room means that there is one, while an endless line for the women's room means that it stretches far beyond human ken and into legend. On more than one occasion I was forced to take Erin into the men's room as the trip to the bathroom would be needless by the time she got there if forced to wait in the women's line.
Still, the day started out on a high note as the weather was pretty near perfect and our arrival just as the park opened was greeted by an absence of fellow attendees. We immediately rushed to the back of the park and rode the Scrambler (they have some other name for it, but that's what everyone calls it). I, of course, remained safely behind the fence and waved to my family as they whirled by, the only stops to let more poor fools on, until even my wife was queasy and we went on to Thunder River, which is kind of like a bad float trip, only with much cleaner (and bluer) water. We rode most of the other rides, with the exception of Batman, which only Denise can ride, and Mr. Freeze, which despite many promises never did open this year. We stayed twelve hours in the park this year -- 9 AM to 9 PM -- which considering the tender age of the Fruit of the Murphy Loins (6 and 3) is pretty impressive, some might even say masochistic. We just feel it's important to get your money's worth.
When I was a kid, it was not a tradition of the Murphy Clan to get into Halloween in any way except to go trick-or-treating, and that was usually with our next door neighbors, the Clarks. No decorations, no pumkins (carved or otherwise), no visits to a pumkin patch, and handing out the candy was simply a quid pro quo with the neighborhood for my brother and me. In fact, once my brother and I stopped going out, Halloween was spent with the lights off hiding in the basement, hoping no little terrors would come by (which when you think about it, is pretty much the origin of this particular holiday, so, for once, I think I can say we had the proper spirit). Consequently, my pumpkin patching has been a strictly adult activity; I only got started when a friend (not from these parts) asked if I could I recommend one since she wanted to take her daughter to one. A search of the yellow pages yielded the discovery of the only one in West County: Rombach's. So now, every year we go to Rombach's Pumpkin Patch, except in 1993 (the year of THE flood), when they were part of the Missouri River. They sell vegetables and mulch and such the rest of the year, but all we care about is their pumpkin patch. This is not some roadside stand, but an establishment. On weekends, they have traffic control (no one goes on weekends, it's too crowded -- my apologies, Yogi), so we've only gone on the weekend once. Once (my apologies, Joe). The kids favorite part has to be the stockade, which is hard to describe other than to say it is an elevated square walkway, which allows them to go around and around to their hearts content (and believe me, they do). They also have a maze which was initially rather flimsy, but now looks to be a permanent part of the landscape (the correct path has been worn pretty permanently into it) with a wood exterior and straw interior walls. There is also a large teepee, which, while inexplicably the kids like, I use a mainly as a landmark as the bathrooms are adjacent.
After our sojurn at Rombach's, dinner was the order of the day as we had gone on a weekday immediately following school. Since we were so close to Spirit of St. Louis Airport (not to be confused with Lambert St. Louis International which is where the big boys fly), we decided to try and find a restaurant with a view of the runway there. The Fruit kept asking where we were going, to which we replied "on an adventure". I don't think that satisfied them, because they kept on asking. Following the signs, we pretty much just drove right up to Blaney's, which was adjacent to an apron with a bunch of single engine airplanes. You enter right into the bar, which on this night was packed and smokey. Because of my many travels I am somewhat familiar with this arrangement, so despite the Other Fearless Leader's obvious trepidation we pushed on through to the dining room. We made the right decision as we all had a good time -- the service was excellent and friendly, the food was good, and the view of the airport was passable. A few days later, we read in the paper that the airport is trying to evict Blaney's so that a more upscale restaurant can go in. The airport administrator has a buddy (probably from high school) in the restaurant business, so you can guess the rest.
The St. Louis Zoo has a Halloween celebration called Boo at the Zoo. The kids come in their costumes and local business and organizations have booths where they distribute goodies. The Murphy Family© thought this was a good idea (who can pass up freebies in America these days) so the Fearless Leader and the two Fruit attended in full costume, the Leader wearing the moose cap he received at last year's "White Elephant" party -- if you haven't been to a "White Elephant" party, you should, as you receive all manner of worthless gifts (occasionally you get lucky like I did with my moose cap) but have a good laugh (and who doesn't enjoy a good laugh every now and then, especially during the Holiday Season, when the relentless pressure to be of good cheer can cause ulcers, strokes, etc.), and with the right people, you can have a real good laugh. Well, this was one of those times when the idea was good, but the execution was lacking (yes, I've seen too many post-game head coach interviews). The lines were long, and the better the goodie, the longer the line. The only good thing was that the temperature was perfect for the zoo -- cool, but not cold -- so the animals were out and frisky. And the place wasn't crowded if you stayed away from the plazas where the freebies were being handed out. We rode the train until my brave boy (just ask him, he'll tell you) got scared in the tunnels (I guess I shouldn't have gone "woooo woooo" so much) and we had to get off and looked at the animals some. Still, the kids didn't go to the zoo to look at the animals, they went for the Halloween stuff, so we were forced to stand in line. We got a bunch of stuff (candy, coloring books, trinkets -- you know, the kind of things the Dutch bought Manhattan with), but frankly I would have rather just bought them the stuff and spent the time looking at the animals rather than standing in line. Maybe next year no one will go because it's too crowded. The shortest (but not non-existent) line was for the photo-op spot, so here is your own freebie.
I helped lower a barn the other day. All right, it wasn't exactly a barn. I guess the more accurate description would be out-building, but barn sounds so much better. Still, barn or out-building, the proper use of my carpentry skills is as a lowerer and not as a raiser. Although, to be quite honest, which, according to all the movies I've seen, is the best kind of writing, and that's what we're striving for here at the Online Murphy Times [IÕm trying to be honest because I've heard that's the best kind of writing and we want to do our best - Editor's Translation][those movies never said anything about clear writing, mind you, just honest - Writer's Note], my general lack of physical conditioning leads to a general lack of physical ability (surprise, surprise) which limits even my skills as a lowerer. The first job was removing the roof, which was accomplished rather straightforwardly by taking a two-by-four and smashing the corrugated metal sheets (or really big shingles if you want to be semantically correct) from the bottom until either they or you gave out. Soon I was put to work with a mattock to pry the lower sheets (or shingles) loose until the bashers came around to finish the job. Before the end, I was fortunate enough to get my basher's job back and be there for the last sheet (or shingle). Not actually knock it off, mind you, but be standing, two-by-four in the ready position, next to the guy who actually got to do it. Kind of like a politician at a photo-op.
After the roof was off, we all got a break as the next job was to remove the roof trusses, which was handled with an even more brute force approach -- one end of a large rope was tied to a pickup truck and the other was tied into several trusses. Thankfully, the pickup supplied all the brute force necessary, and my quivering muscles (the both of them) were given a rest. After we cleaned up the loose wood from the trusses, we turned our attention to the walls, which were made from telephone poles and some very long, thick bolts, which gave the out-building a kind of frontier log fort feel to it. (I expected to come under Indian attack at any second, so I kept that mattock close to hand, just in case). What at first seemed like an easy task quickly bogged down. After removing the nuts from the bolts, we discovered that the bolts must be bent since no amount of straining and grunting (since it was a church group, there was no swearing) would disassemble the telephone pole walls. Chainsaws were brought in and the sawdust flew and the poles were neatly stacked with great effort on my part, and less effort on the part of my coworkers who were younger and in better shape (except for George, who while older, is a competitive body builder and in much better shape than the rest of us.) At last we were confronted with the West County version of Stonehenge, well, telephone-pole-henge really. Three of the eight poles had rotted in the ground and could be pushed over, two could be pulled straight out, but three resisted all blandishment, so the chainsaws and pickup truck were brought out of retirement to finish the job. I returned home to a nice hot soak in the tub and then a nap. I was so tired I was lucky I didn't drown in the tub.
As you are only too aware of, the Murphy Family© is a big fan of traditions. This time of year it's hard to do anything that isn't a tradition, or possible precedent for yet another tradition. Some humbugs might even suggest that a great deal of holiday stress is caused either from trying to keep up a superabundance of traditions, or the inability to continue longed for traditions. And what bigger family tradition is there than Santa Claus? (Before anyone complains about my dissing Santa as fat, let me remind them that I'm build challenged myself and cast no aspersions about another's build challenges -- other than tall skinny beanpoles, that is). Several years ago (a sure sign of aging, just one among many, is that time subtly shifts from the definite to the indefinite), friends -- yes, we have them, and once we get the photo gallery going, we'll document the both of them -- asked us to attend the arrival of Santa in Kirkwood event with them. I'll admit it, I'm a real cahootser when it comes to starting new traditions, but darn it, every friend who shares a tradition with us has enriched our lives, so thanks, and we'll try to share more of ours. This is a long way of saying (we know, we don't say anything quickly here at OMT, but be glad you're reading this since we are even more long winded and boring in conversation) that now going to Santa's arrival in Kirkwood event is a Murphy Family Tradition.
While in past years we have attended with friends and family, this year we attended by ourselves, if only because we were caught by surprise since it was held before Thanksgiving (the Holiday only grocery stores like). This year continued a great tradition by not only keeping the good stuff -- dancing exhibitions, Christmas carol singing, free hot chocolate and cookies, Santa's arrival in a sleigh with police escort, story time with Mrs. Santa inside the Kirkwood train station, free horse-drawn carriage rides (which we have never done since the line is a mile long), shopping along Argonne (used to be Main street but was renamed in honor of the WW1 battle), the dash from Down-by-the-Station to the bathroom in the train station (since it doesn't have a bathroom and at least one Fruit of the Murphy Loins has to go by the time we get down there), watching a train go by from just a few feet away, and my personal favorite, bumping into someone you know (this year it was the Reynolds, who now live in Kirkwood and fixed up the house next to the Methodist church) -- but they added fireworks to the list of activities. There's a big difference between seeing fireworks in July and in November. For one, you don't have to wait so late: 7 PM vs. 9 PM. For another, the fog was a neat touch. It made everything so much more delicate, ineffable, hard to see. Some of the fireworks seemed to explode on the ground, but I wasn't sure if this was intended so we could see them better, or was the unanticipated result of using rejects from the fourth of July celebration. But the one that went across the street and exploded at OK Hatchery, that one I'm pretty sure didn't come off as planned. As I said at the time, too bad it wasn't still Holekamp Lumber, or we would have gotten to see the fire department strut their stuff.
For the Fruit of the Murphy Loins, I think the high point of the evening was buying beanie babies at "The Bug Store". I admit it was a shock to see them at a garden supply store that also carries mountain lion pee (which, so the label claims, is used to keep rodents and rabbits away -- I hope it works better than the inflatable owl and snake I bought many years ago, which mainly served to give my wife a good laugh every time she saw them), but I think they laid up a supply just for the night since so many kids come into the store. If you can measure how much a child likes something by how upset he or she is to leave it, then the night was a rousing success. Maybe we should take them to more things they don't like, just so they're happy when they leave.
At age 6 Erin is already ahead of me. She has danced in public twice, while I have only danced once, when I was eighteen (the legal age of dancing for men, apparently). Erin has always liked to dance, and she is a light and dainty thing, what my wife and I call "flitty" -- as in she flits about. Erin likes to bat, and, I might add with just a touch of swelling parental pride, is pretty good at it, but despite my urging and attending a game she has declined to join a T-Ball team. One look, however, at a friend's dance performance last year, and now I have a Show Stopper (that's the troop's name). Coinciding with the school year she has been going to dance class in the neighborhood, and has performed twice now (one a retirement center, the other at Plaza Frontenac) with two more to go this month. They (about 8 girls) sing and dance their way through a couple of Christmas numbers. The troop has two performance groups divided by age, with Erin falling in about the middle of the younger set. During her performance, I was intrigued to see that a couple of the younger girls looked up to Erin (both literally and figuratively) as they tried to take their cues from her. Ah, a leader at an early age. And if you really want, I'll provide copies of the video of the great event (at a nominal charge, just enough to cover the cost of the tape, the video recorder, the dance lessons, and our new furniture).
A friend and I took ballet dance lessons from a girl in my college dorm (we either won or lost the bet, I can't remember which), which culminated in our one and only performance at the dorm talent show. We were a smash hit, in turtlenecks and longjohns, but we decided to retire on top rather than let our one joke act become stale -- a decision made easy by the lack of money involved, which possibly accounts for why so many professionals keep at it even when their joke has become stale.