Welcome to the 2/23/98 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.)
CHRISTMAS CAME JUST THE SAME
Santa somehow managed to come to our house this Christmas eve without his reindeer exploding, at least not on our street. We did have similar excitement, however, as my father continued his medical flirtation with Holidays when he was rushed to the hospital due to bleeding from the incision made during his appendectomy on Halloween. (If you wonder why I'm nervous as Easter approaches this year, you'll know why.) As it turns out, it wasn't anything serious (the bleeding), as it had stopped in fact before the ambulance arrived, but once dispatched they wouldn't take no for an answer so he had to accompany them to the hospital. While the EMTs were perfectly content to take him there in just his underwear -- we'll cover you with blankets was their reasoning -- he wasn't and luckily the police officer who also answered the call (there isn't much policing to perform in Kirkwood on Christmas Eve) was willing to get shoes, pants, shirt and coat. This was important since when he was discharged the EMTs and their ambulance were no longer around to put the blankets on him and take him home -- I was. Apparently, if no one is there to pick you up, the emergency room will call a cab for you (you pay for it, of course), but I certainly wouldn't want to ride in one in just my underwear in St. Louis in December. Heck, I wouldn't want to ride in my car in just my underwear in St. Louis in December. I discovered that hospitals have a slightly different time scale than you or I as "real soon" (as in he will be discharged real soon) is in fact two hours (as in what is taking so #$*&% long?), which I would personally classify as "in a while" (not to be confused with "in a little while").
The Fruit of the Murphy Loins enjoyed Christmas immensely this year. Kyle would drag whoever into the living room just to see the tree. I think he wanted others to share in the joy we got from going to the lot, picking the tree, riding home in it (Kyle was in the top branches inside the van), sawing it to size, and decorating it. We put it up earlier than usual this year because he kept bugging us -- even hardened parents like the two Fearless Leaders tire when constantly asked "are we getting the tree today?" We were all in the Christmas pagent at church, and we each got a part equal to our talents: Denise singing and playing the innkeepers wife, Erin as an angel, Kyle as a shepherd, and your humble scribe got to operate the spotlight. Oddly enough, each practice they kept cutting down how much it was used. Yes, the run up to the big day was almost as much fun as the big day itself.
Presents, presents, presents. Gifts from family, gifts from friends, gifts from Santa. So many gifts, the Fruit didn't know what to do. At the start, I would start to assemble whatever they asked for, but before I could finish, they would be off playing with something else, or more likely, asking me to build something else. The frenzy lasted for days. And then, sated, they were bored with toys. Cranky and listless, their coats dull and filmy, they would mope about aimlessly. Finally, in what is becoming a tradition, Kyle got out the marble works that were a gift from the Murphy Shafer ConclaveTM, a sure sign that he is bored and doesn't know what else to play with. And the Christmas toy season was over, and everything was back to normal. Now they didn't have to play with toys; the pressure was off. Sometimes, just having a fun toy can be better than playing with one.
SOMETHING CABLE THIS WAY COMES
The last time we had cable I got to watch Desert Storm live on CNN. Then the Other Fearless Leader retired at 30 and as part of the cost cutting we simply did without cable. It's a sad day when criminals in jail and welfare mothers can afford cable and an upstanding American family can't, but then I have better things to do with my time. Or so I thought. Our local cable company made us an offer we couldn't refuse because or house (gasp!) had never been wired for cable. This situation was intolerable, simply intolerable to the wardens of coax, so we got cable with free installation and full basic (as opposed to basic for Those On A Fixed Income, which was mandated by one of those landmark pieces of legislation Congress passes every other week) for only 5 dollars a month for the first five months. Thereafter, it returns to the normal rate of first born child every year, which we agreed to pay with an arm and a leg semi-annually. Now we're hooked. The Fruit of the Murphy Loins watch Nickelodeon every night from when I get home (probably earlier, but I don't want to be accused of being a tabloid journalist by publishing facts I don't know first hand) until they go to bed. PBS is but a distant memory for them -- while they never liked Sesame Street, Barney and Arthur were once favorites. I get Babylon 5 reruns six days a week and a new show once a week. That's seven new hours of TV a week that I watch regularly, on top of the four I have been watching on the Broadcast Networks. It's gotten to the point I'm glad when one of my shows is a repeat just so I can take a break. The Fruit, however, just say "we've seen this one before" and keep on watching. Those cable companies, they know what they're doing. We're hooked. When the rates go up, I expect we'll pay just like any other junkies. I'm worried that when congress gets around to outlawing cigarettes, they'll tax cable to make up for all the lost cigarette tax money -- they know we addicts will pay just like we do for cigarettes and booze.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
I am now going to try to describe the indescribable -- without a safety net, and before a live audience. Yes, this is where I earn my pay. The City Museum opened here in St. Louis to glowing reviews. It is the brainchild of a true artiste, Bob Cassily, and is best described as a neat way to spend an afternoon. While it is called a museum, it doesn't have the feel of a museum, and while it has city in the title, there is nothing distinctly urban about it. If there was such a thing as truth in advertising, it would be called The Big Building With A Jumble Of Interesting And Fun Stuff Located In The City. Maybe that wouldn't fit on the literature and leave room for less important stuff like when it is open or how much it costs to get in or how to get there, so they shortened and rearranged until they were left with The City Museum -- maybe that's all they had room for when they put all that other stuff in. The most important thing to realize is that it is not only a hands on kind of place, it's a full contact sport, so dress appropriately.
The first floor's main attraction are the caves, which includes not only caves but tree trunks you can climb in, fish tanks, and a huge walk-through whale. It also has the food court and a roller slide, which the rest of The Murphy FamilyTM tried, but the Fearless Leader demurred after noticing the sign that warned that the heavier the person, the faster you went and warned adults not to ride it, and after mentally plotting the increase in speed from the Fruit to the Other Fearless Leader and extrapolating to his own weight, determined that the sonic boom would do no one any good. Oh, I forgot to mention the pianist who seranades you while you wait in line to buy tickets. I'm not sure if he was an employee or just someone who felt like playing. I told you it was a hands on kind of place.
The second floor is art central, set up to display live artists actually creating artwork, from pottery to glass blowing (all right, that was what they were doing the day we were there and not being an artiste I couldn't figure out what the other demonstration areas were for). The glass blowing was somewhat anti-climatic as the people involved seemed to spend a lot of time heating up the glass to make stuff you can buy at a housewares store for a buck fifty. Still, it's fun to get the chance to see something like that live and in person, and not just on Mr. Rogers, where they thoughtfully cut out all the dull parts.
The third floor's unifying theme is that there is no unity to the display areas. There is a display hall which had a dinosaur bone exhibit when we were there. There is the museum of the weird and wacky (or something like that) which houses the world's largest pair of underpants (Big Galoot brand) and has a large collection of corn dog memorabilia in its own wing. There is the museum of city architecture (or something like that) which houses a collection of neat stuff scavanged from demolished buildings (won't hold a kid's interest for even five minutes). There are a couple of areas where you do self-directed crafts. There is a ridable train (which my uncle Sam donated) which the kids loved. And there is the everyday circus, where we saw a magic comic clown. Erin was thrilled because she got to be one of the clown's assistants. If you can't find something to like on this floor, you'd better check your pulse.
The most amazing part is that they really haven't finished. There are fifteen floors to the building and they have opened three so far. And not everything looked complete on the floors that were open. So not only is there something for everyone, as time goes on there will be more for everyone.
THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW
This year we went to the Great American Train Show at the convention center. Erin didn't want to go (Nickelodeon was on), but Kyle was pretty excited. My father came with us as he is a certifiable train nut. In my youth he and I worked on a model railroad layout in our basement. My brother Sean lost interest early, but my father and I perservered on until I went away to college (technically university, but that always makes you sound british if you say that), many years after we started, leaving the layout still incomplete but working. Sadly, it was dismembered when the hot water heater needed replacing a few years back and a section of track complete with scenery had to be sawed out and removed whole to provide access. When I showed the Fruit of the Murphy Loins the layout recently, they were impressed right up to the point where I couldn't actually make it do anything, whereupon they wanted to go back upstairs and play with blocks.
Because of my father's walking difficulties, we parked in the lot right across from the front entrance to America's Center (that's its name), at a high cost in terms of money, time, and pride as I had to manuever the mini-van in a tight space and I normally drive a Saturn. Needless to say we were disappointed, not to mention tired, when we arrived at the exhibition hall which was on the back side of the convention center, a walk of some two city blocks. So much for a good parking spot.
Still, when we made it to the exibition hall and were greeted by a labyrinth of layouts, our spirits revived and we oohed and ahhed like little kids -- even Kyle. Many clubs had brought their modular layouts which dwarfed any other fixed layout I have seen, except for my Uncle Sam's layout which covers not only his entire basement but goes outside and takes up a big chunk of his yard. They had all different scales of trains and all kinds of merchandise for sale, not just model trains, including actual railroad china. The part we liked best was the layout that had a real working tornado, which dropped down out of a thundercloud and moved through a residential neighborhood (yea, I was expecting a trailer park too, but it wasn't). It didn't take long looking through the vendor tables for Kyle to want to come home (Nickleodeon was on, and he didn't want to be wasting time on non-cool stuff). Since neither my father or I have a working railroad, we weren't that interested either. Besides, if you can't run the trains, there's only so much of looking at other people's layouts you can take.
PUTING FUN BACK IN FUNDRAISER
An unpleasant part of being a parent is fundraising. Where once all a student had to worry about was attending school and the odd bit of homework, now the most important part is raising money. You raise money for the school, for your class, for each extra-curricular activity. I won't even mention how the nicest building in the district is the administration center, which no student sees the inside of. Oops. Well, I won't make a big deal of it. Anyway, the central drudgery of modern parental life is fundraising. I'm told that some parents enjoy it, which is why instead of us parents coughing up the dough, we go around and pester neighbors, coworkers, relatives, and anyone else who crosses our path. Many of the people buy on the quid pro quo system, id est they buy on the understanding that we'll buy when they come around with their overpriced merchandise (I'm trying to raise the level of this rag by using some highfalutin Latin words). Last year I was trying to push wrapping paper and gourmet type goodies at work. The wrapping paper went over like a lead balloon with my fellow (and that is not a sexist characterization, since they are all male) engineers, while the significant feature of the food was that their wives wouldn't know about it. I and the rest of The Murphy FamilyTM sold enough for Erin to get some sales rewards, but we were by no means top dogs in the selling department.
Now that Erin is a girl scout (Daisies don't sell cookies, something about child labor laws), we got to sell girl scout cookies. Go day (yes, that's the official name for it) was January 17. In the past, I remember buying on crisp autumn days, you know the kind of days where you're just looking for an excuse to get outside, even if it means raking leaves or planting bulbs; but never in the dead of winter. Still, the dead of winter 'round these parts can be pretty pleasant. Not this year. On a cold morning, we trudged around in the newly-fallen snow to the houses in the neighborhood, until the Fruit could no longer stand the cold (Kyle was with us since he was given the choice of selling cookies or going to the store) and we went home. The coldness of the day couldn't chill our hearts though, because people were gladly buying our cookies. Only one person didn't buy, and many seemed genuinely happy to see us darken their doors with offers of girl scout cookies. Erin was pretty happy at the response, so to all of you who bought and are reading this, thanks. I think anytime I have input into what we sell as a fundraiser, I'm going to request we pass on the wrapping paper, the candy bars, the gourmet food, all the stuff people buy only from a sense of obligation (I do have to mention in all fairness that the wrapping paper was of very good quality, which I appreciated when wrapping Christmas presents), and instead we sell girl scout cookies. I don't care if it is for Kyle's Karate class (not that he is in one, but as much as he likes Power Rangers, I foresee the distinct possibility in his future), girl scout cookies are the only way to go.
I'M A BIG GIRL NOW