ALWAYS AT OUR BEST
Welcome to the 10/10/98 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.
"Only mediocre writers are always at their best" -- W. Somerset Maugham
Ecclesiastes is not my favorite book of the bible (I think it has something to do with the beginning: Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!). Still, it contains the observation that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Now that's an observation that we here at The Online Murphy TimesTM take to heart. Normally, winter is the season of catching up (after that ruckus at Christmas, that is). Not much happens, so typically we catch up on sleeping, eating, napping, reading, and being bored. And we're pretty darn good at it, too. This also allows your humble staff to really chop wood on The Murphy Nexus® and The Online Murphy TimesTM. Alas and alack, this year, we in fact fell further behind during winter. I'd like to blame it on El Nino, as everything else is, but I know better. It's due to the fact that children, and especially small ones (well, those are the ones I'm familiar with anyway) haven't learned that important lesson that there is a season for everything. So they, just like the energizer bunny, keep going, and going, straight from Christmas right through past Easter, at a pace even George S. Patton would have approved of. Consequently, this edition will not take you up to current reality, but in order to get one out we had to draw the line somewhere and we will catch up later. I hope. So, to sum up, the reason the pace dropped off on this crowning jewel of achievement, was the staff here was too busy living life to tell you about it. Sorry.
It is with great sadness that we note the passing of two Titans for The Murphy Family:
Denise's Aunt Polly passed away in April,
Kevin's Uncle Sam passed away in June.
We feel a great sense of loss after their deaths, and our condolences go out to our family and friends who share this grief.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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OUR STANDARD PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS:
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.)
AND WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, THE ARTICLES:
The Fearless LeadersTM managed to sneak out of the house on a Friday night recently to see the movie Titannic. A local urchin was hired to watch TV downstairs while the Fruit of the Murphy LoinsTM slept peacefully upstairs. The only excitement reported was keeping Snowflake (Erin's hamster) in its cage. This may be our new way of seeing movies, which would be a vast improvement over the old way, which is to wait until they come out on video.
For those of you who don't follw such matters, Titannic reportedly cost in the neighborhood of 200 million dollars to make and was in post production for over a year. The rumors were not pretty, and the long knives were out. Still, no one can argue with a billion dollars and so James Cameron furthered his reputation as a great movie maker and a royal pain in the rear end. The movie was in many ways a throw back to an earlier era of movie making, before the influence of 30 second television ads. In other words, the pace was unhurried, almost languid. A great deal of time was taken to set the story up. Where other directors would have progressively shortened the scenes and made many jump cuts to create tension towards the end, Mr. Cameron seemingly let each scene run its course, to be enjoyed to its fullest. Of course, why build tension when everybody knows the ship sinks. It was kind of like watching a movie from the forties and fifties, except with far better special effects, so good you weren't even sure what the effects were most of the time.
While I enjoyed the movie, to me it was a horror movie filled with scenes of horrible death and destruction, with the cruel sea taking the place of the hockey masked teenager. The sea reacted with ferocity to the upper class twits, who boasted of the ships invincibility, and who thought they had conquered it. It killed indescriminately, good and bad alike, or if anything (and I'm not trying to give anything away here) it killed the good and let the bad live. Maybe that's real life, but frankly I don't plunk down my hard earned cold cash to see real life. I can do that for free. Unless, of course, it's Schindler's List, which was a far better movie pretty much in every respect. So if I had to sum up the movie, I'd say it was a slow, pedestrian love story followed by a chilling horror movie with amazing special effects that ran an hour too long. Obviously, a movie with an appeal for everyone to judge by its box office performance.
I had read about a teenager who was arrested because rather than leave the theatre to use the bathroom, did his business right in the seat and kept on watching (into the now emply soda cup). Before I saw the movie, I was unsympathetic, but having sat through the 3 hour extravaganza, I can sympathize with the lad. I had a medium soda, which while it costs as much as five litres of soda contains only one. Still, that is enough to make my bladder swell far beyond its design limits. At the end of the movie, I felt that I was one giant, painful bladder with eyes and ears, hoping that the pacing would pick up and deliver me from my suffering. It didn't, but I discovered hidden reserves of muscular contraction I didn't know I had, even without resorting to the manual shutoff valve method that the male Fruit of the Murphy LoinsTM often employs. Possibly, my view of the movie was somewhat colored by this hour of "mild discomfort".
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A NIGHT AT THE ALLEY
One of the great joys of being a parent is spending time with your children. One of the great sacrifices of being a parent is spending time with your children. This then, is the story of sacrifice lost. It begins with three parental couples out for a good time, and ends with them having had one.
While the three couples all live far apart (southwest St. Louis County, St. Charles, and Vandalia IL), all three had babysitters in Troy, IL, which is pretty much in the middle of all three. Coincidence? Well, we here at the Online Murphy Times© believe coincidence is just another word for vast right wing conspiracy. So then, it was decided that rather than try and have fun in Troy, a decision you'd understand if you've ever been there, that eastside hotspot of enjoyment, Edwardsville, was chosen as ground zero for our escapades. It all started innocently enough with dinner at an Appleby's knockoff. The proprieters of said establishment reacted with bewilderment to the request for a table for six, and kept repeating the number like some Sesame Street episode brought to you by the number 6. Apparently, we'd violated some local custom about party size. At first we were kind of exhilarated by waiting for a table without children, but when it became clear that another, more famous hotspot would freeze over before we ever got a table in this joint, bold action was required and taken. It involved bringing fourth a plastic table, covered in cigarette burns, sitting forlorn on the way to the bathrooms, and combining it with a normal, larger table, thus providing room for six. Naturally, the men folk ate at the little table, because we are rough and tough and can take it. Plus, our wives told us to.
Undeterred by our dinner experience, we set forth in search of further adventure. We decided to partake of the pinnacle of American sports achievement, bowling. Now some of us are just recreational or social bowlers, but others are a mite bit more serious in their bowling endevours, the kind of bowlers who not only own their own ball, but also own the leather bag to put it in. Anyway, we went to the student union at SIU-Edwardsville, where we believed a bowling alley to be located. Immediately after we parked and got out of our van, a police car pulled up and the officer inside asked "what's going on here?" Now I don't know about you, but those words strike terror into my heart even though I had at least a decade on the officer, and hadn't been doing anything wrong. As it turns out, the union was closed for spring break, and the officer wanted to know what all the cars were doing parked there. "I don't know officer, we are just outside agitators" was our response, and we went on our merry way, in search of a bowling alley.
The first alley we found had no open lanes due to leagues. The second alley we found, well we had fun finding it. The building was well back from a major corner. The big sign out at the road was clear that we had found a bowling alley. The first door was clearly a tavern, the second was clearly an arcade, there was no third door. Could it be that we just weren't meant to bowl, that the hand of cosmic fate had intervened to personally keep us from bowling? We couldn't accept that, so Ron jumped from the van and investigated door number 2. The tension mounted, the wisecracks flowed, debate on how long to wait before (a) leaving (b) sending someone else in began. Suddenly, Ron appeared from stage left. Somehow, we had missed the main entrance and gone around to the side. At long last we could bowl. Loud Huzzahs and Hoorays.
The bowling was anti-climactic after all that. Still, the Other Fearless Leader was involved in an incident of such momumentally embarrassing proportions that we were all sworn to secrecy. All I can say is that the finger holes on the lighter balls are small; from there you're imagination is required. If you are having a hard time imagining, here's another hint: the Fearless LeaderTM got to see the automatic pin-setting machines behind the alleys.
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All great road trips start with a simple idea: we're going somewhere and we don't know what we'll do when we get there. Oh, we have a general idea of what, and with whom, but no details. Like Jack Kerouac, we're just takin' life as it comes. Livin' large on the big set we call America. So we set out one weekend for Kankakee Illinois, home temporarily to our neice, Rebecca. The planning consisted of a motel reservation at the Hampton Inn, and verification that she would be in town and available that weekend. That's all you need. A destination, a van, a family, and plenty of money -- both cash and headroom on the credit cards -- plus a decent set of luggage is always nice on a trip.
We set out across this great land we call America, just us at one with the corn, across the flatest, dullest terrain this side of Iowa, with only the wind to break up the monotony. We traveled under the milky fog caused by the combination of Mexico burning and high midwestern humidity. Did I mention that the wind blows across central Illinois, now gusty, now steady, but always strong? The little ponds left when they scooped out the dirt to make overpasses for the highway had white caps on them.We stopped in Bloomington-Normal to see the Other Fearless Leader'sTM alma mater, ISU. We ate a gondola at Avanti's, a requirement if you go there, we walked the campus, we had ice cream in the student union. We had our hair mussed by the wind and sneered at the tow away zone sign where we parked the van; we like to live life on the edge. Well, the Other Fearless LeaderTM does anyway, and she makes cutting remarks about my manhood when I complain.
We had fun in Kankakee, visiting with our niece Becca and her fiance Steve. The highpoint of the trip for me was a visit to Becca's dorm, which brought back all those long slumbering memories of my own time behind ivy covered walls. The big difference was that she lived in an all-girl dorm, and my presence required the shouting of "Man on the floor", which gave me an odd thrill I have to admit, having my manhood so powerfully acknowledged. Still dorm rooms haven't changed much since my stint, except if anything they've gotten smaller (I have to admit I've gotten larger, but that isn't why I think they've gotten smaller). They have the same low-bidder cinderblock construction, rooms so small that federal penetentiary inmates couldn't be so tightly crammed in, name and decorations on the door, and common room furniture that even Good Will wouldn't take. All part of the college experience, the inculcating of common purpose in a diverse group of people, the molding of bright young minds into dull old ones.
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I'M A BIG BOY NOW
We started Kyle's birthday season April 5 with a party for his friends. We decided to gamble and invite his entire pre-school class, all 12 of them, figuring that surely some would not be able to make it. Ha! Not only did everyone accept, but many mothers let us know that this was their child's first birthday party and they were really looking forward to it. Did we crumble under that crushing burden? No, we were simply inspired to greater hights of birthdaydom. We had an ace up our sleeve -- for all of our previous parties, we had gone two hours, but this time we were only going an hour and a half. No time at all when you consider that the obligatory elements like cake, ice cream, and opening presents would eat up a minimum of 30 minutes, 45 if you could drag it out (and believe me, we know how to drag in this family).
Still, we left nothing to chance, and planned the time down to the nearest "I thought that would take longer, what are we going to do now?". Knowing that first impressions are important, and that people would straggle in what with some kids anxious to arrive at their first birthday party and some kids unable to move without application of a crowbar and six sticks of dynamite, we started the party by hiding pennies in the family room and letting the kids find four each. That way, they would have something to do when they arrived and we wouldn't just be standing around waiting for the last kid to arrive. We had to modify musical chairs since we don't own twelve chairs, so that the kids passed around a stuffed Arthur (if you have to ask who that is, don't), and whoever was holding it when the music stopped was out. But we got to play pin the tail on the donkey without modification, and held a M&M in the spoon relay race, and the breaking the Piñata was great fun, even though it refused to break open and The Fearless LeaderTM was called upon to rip its guts open. You know a party is a success when the kids don't want to leave, and so it was a success, no matter how much mess there was to clean up or how tired The Fearless LeaderTM and The Other Fearless LeaderTM were afterwards.
After having twelve three and four year olds over, everything else is anti-climactic, although perhaps more enjoyable for the birthday impresarios, and our experience was no different. A quiet dinner at Appleby's (Kyle's favorite restaurant) on his birthday (April 8) was followed by the family party on the twelfth. No matter how much Kyle enjoys his later birthday parties, there is an excitement that a four year old brings to special occasions that can't be duplicated. Everything is new and wonderful, every toy brings an exclamation of "my favorite!", and the only sad part is when he keeps asking and you keep telling him he has to wait a WHOLE YEAR for another birthday.
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A TALE OF TWO T-BALLS
Both Erin and Kyle got to play T-Ball this summer. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, T-Ball is a game where the batters hit the ball off a "tee" -- only a symbolic pitcher -- and where everybody bats each inning. The two Fruit of the Murphy LoinsTM were not in the same league; Kyle played in the Manchester league and Erin played in the Winchester league.
Kyle was in the learning league (sometimes known as the mass confusion league), where the first meeting was devoted to important things like how to stretch and warm up, how to run the bases, and how to field and throw the ball. Each time the basics were reviewed, and eventually the kids got to play a game. Just one -- you don't want to overdo on something like that. But the most important thing was that his friend Travis was in it with him, and they stuck together like glue. Kyle didn't take the game too seriously, and one more than one occasion the ball went sailing by as he and Travis played (or he and Ben, the boy who lives next to the Murphy GrandparentsTM and who made the great trek from Kirkwood to Manchester just to play the game). People who think the sense of community is leaving us should have been there, as the art of America's pasttime was passed on to the throngs of youth who came out to learn, and parents pitched in to help out as the coach was outnumbered by about 100 to 1.
Erin was in the swim or sink league, where all they did was play games. Where Kyle's league had to break into 6 teams just to have 2 kids play every position, Erin's league had two teams that played each other twice a week for six weeks. Erin joined the league because her friend Lori was on a team, and so the two of them were the only girls on the team. The other team had only two boys. Apparently people requested that their children play with certain others, and so to accomodate the teams were not divided evenly by gender. So we watched the two teams play each other 12 times during the hottest part of summer, and then attended the award banquet held at the same park as the ballfield on one of the nicest evenings of the year. Certainly Erin didn't have the most talent, but she certainly had (in my humble opinion at any rate) the best attitude of the players on both teams, so excuse me if I think that Mr. McGuire's achievement was only the second best of the baseball world this year.
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Contents copyright Kevin Murphy 1998. All rights reserved.