The Masthead (That's not a very good description of one of the most intricately plotted and carefully constructed masterpieces on the 'net, but it will have to suffice for all you people who are using a text only browser.  And if you one of those people who supress image loading, don't.  It will just lead to an ulcer.)


   Welcometo the 3/21/99 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

A really superb marble divider


I typically write this portion of The Online Murphy TimesTM last. As I write, the crocus have begun to fade, the daffodils are in full bloom, and our birch tree is tripping water onto the driveway all day. In other words, the sap is rising because spring is in the air. For me, spring is the real start of the year, the old one dying a slow death with winter. I can only hope you enjoy this newsletter as much as I enjoy spring. I thank all of you who have kindly urged me to keep writing this, and we'll see if this new year can't bring more fun and remebrance. Ok, more than the sap is getting a little deep here.


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A really superb marble divider

Hey, why don't you Email?

   As always, please E-Mail us here at 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.)

one snazzy divider
one snazzy divider

I find big red bulging eyes attractive, don't you?


We are forward thinkers here at the Online Murphy TimesTM -- we share living space with a rodent by our own choice. No, I'm not talking about a rat, I'm talking about a hamster, one Snowflake by name. The Fearless Leaders made a deliberate decision and awarded the little furballus hamsteralis (nothing like Latin to elevate the tone) to our daughter on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of her birth. So she gets all the drudgery of holding him, playing with him, and showing him off to her friends, and we get all the fun of finding him when he escapes, cleaning his cage and roaming ball, and trimming his fur. Actually, and it does pain me to say this, I actually like the little guy. Well, we think he is a guy but it is hard to tell and as he is fated to live a solitary life it really doesn't matter. And as this is a family newsletter, I won't go into the anatomical details, which, while fascinating in themselves and cause of no end of speculation on our part, are simply not appropriate.

He used to sleep in what I call the hush house for no particular reason but I like the sound of it, although the rest of the Murphy FamilyTM has no idea what I'm talking about when I call it that, but I've never let that stop me before and I'm not going to let it stop me now. It (the hush house) is just an attachment that is kind of like a house for a hamster, but it's up high above the main cage and as I was saying he used to put all the bedding up there and sleep. Now he piles up all the bedding in one corner of the main cage and burrows in. Could be the change of seasons made him change, or maybe he got scared of heights, we'll never know for sure. The Amazing Thing about Hamsters® is that they have cheek pouches that let them carry twice their body weight around with them. This is how he moves his bedding around. It's also how he takes every scrap of food from his feeder and hides it all around the cage, although dragon-like he tends to sleep atop his main hoard. The feeder attachment doesn't actually hold food mind you since no matter when you feed him, he perks up, and then runs over to the attachement and begins the vital task of hiding the food, in case of what we, again, haven't figured out.

What makes me like him is not all of his unsolved mysteries but of course my admiration for his low animal cunning, a force to be reckoned with, especially when displayed by people (send five dollars in cash and I will name names). He used to get out of the cage by backing off the tube endcaps until we taped them closed. After Kyle broke the lid to the cage he would shimmy up the wheel and an adjoining vertical tube and make his escape out the top of the cage - something we thought impossible until the night we saw him do it. And to top it all off, when he does get out, after a while he wants to go back to the cage. I don't know how many mornings after he has escaped in the night he comes over to the kitchen table where I'm eating breakfast and sits until I notice him. If I speak, he recognizes my voice and lets me pick him up. If I don't speak, he runs off as I approach. I've known dogs with less sense.

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We wish you all the joy in the world


The Fruit of the Murphy Loins were in a wedding. That's all you really need to know, all that's really important. Well, let me hasten to add that neither were the bride or groom - such a thing would contravene the laws of the great state of Missouri where we live, and Illinois were the wedding took place. Erin was the flower girl, and Kyle was the ring bearer. Oh yeah, their cousin Rebecca née Field was the bride, Steve always-has-been-always-will-be Kincheloe was the groom.

Rebecca and Steve were kind enough to ask the Fruit to be in their wedding when we visited them at school (see the previous OMT "Road Trip"). Erin was excited, Kyle was nervous. He later confided in the Other Fearless Leader that he was worried he would lose the ring. When she informed him that the ring he bore was sewn onto the pillow and was for decoration only, he was quite happy. Erin looked forward to and exulted in every part of the preparation; Kyle didn't get excited until we picked up his tux and while trying it on got to see just how adorable he looked in a shirt, vest, and underwear. The pants and jacket were just icing on the cake for him. Still, during the rehersal (boy were they disappointed they didn't get to wear their wedding clothes that night) when the rings sewn on the pillow fell off, Kyle got nervous again. They both thought nothing could top spending the night in the Middleton's deluxe camper parked at Bride Central (aka the Field House) the night before the wedding, but their horizons were broadened the very next day when the wedding actually took place.

The preparations alone were amazing, as we were all transformed from our drab, workaday selves to creatures of glory, although some of us were more glorious than others. Becca had a stylist (if that isn't the right term, you'll have to excuse this bumptous man) come to Bride Central and turn the woman folk's hair into emphemeral works of art, well, not all that emphemeral when you consider she used the yard tall can o'hairspray to hold her creations in place for however long it was going to be. Erin actually had a spray of curls, something she hasn't had before or since. After we were suitably bedizened in our finery, it was off to the church for the pictures, the longest part of any wedding day. Kyle, that most smiling of souls, was weighed down with the solemnity and gravity of the occasion, and wouldn't crack one, while Erin flashed big, if not sincere, ones. And then the big event itself, with no stumbles down the aisle, no goofing around or spoiling the mood, no lost rings, and only one giant yawn by Kyle. It was a beautiful wedding, and would have been even without the adornment of the Fruit.

And then, amid the general wiping of tears and drying of eyes, we were off to the reception and further treats and delights. Coats were removed, ties were loosened, but hair stayed firmly in place. Toasts, eating, and a slide show of the happy couple for desert. All the wedding traditions were observed, and we all had a marvelous time. Then it was time for rice and the departure of the happy couple, as they left in a bouyant spirit, they somehow took the party with them. At last nothing left but to savor the moment, and head home to reality again.

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I was tempted to put in a WAV of me singing the national anthem, but then I came to my senses


You never know about the Fourth of July here in St. Louis. Some years it is hot hot hot, and other years it is down right cold. If it were in the latter half of July, you could be assured of hot hot hot, but there is enough variability at the start of July to give me memories of both burning up and freezing for this Holiday. While the weather may be variable, The Murphy FamilyTM maintains a rich set of traditions for the Fourth. In fact, we are down right rigid in our observance -- there is no detail to small not to be celebrated exactly the same every year. We always go to Kirkwood Park to see fireworks, take the same route and park in the same place (Swatner Motors, at the corner of Geyer and Essex). We bring two lawn chairs, a blanket for the kids, and a cooler with ice cold drinks (we adopted this tradition after a particularly sweltering fourth where Kevin's brother visiting from California kept buying sodas from the vendors at a dollar fifty a pop and applying them to his forehead). One year it was cold enough we even brought along a thermos of hot chocolate in addition to the cooler. This year I have to say the the temperature was pretty much perfect.

When we arrive, we set up our lawnchairs and blanket, and then head over to the playground. After the kids have run around in a mass of children so packed that individual identification is imposible, we stroll along the sidewalk where the food vendors are located. Here we buy an ice-cream "bomb" (so named because the chocolate exploads all over your face, hands, and clothes) and take it back to our chairs for consumption and drinks. We return to the playground after we have digested and the Fruit have re-oxygenated, which allows them to keep up and not get trampled on the playground. The Fearless leaders sit and observe the latest fashions among our nation's youth and decide that no matter how ridiculous the fashions of our youth may have been, the current ones are worse. Then it's back to our chairs and blankets for some time together, which gives the Fruit a chance to ask every minute without fail "when is it going to start", interspersed with the occasional "why don't they hurry up". Ah, music to my ears. Then as it begins to grow dark, despite repeated pleading earlier when there was no line, the Fruit decide that now, right now is the time they have to go to the bathroom. Apparently they synchronize with the other fruit on the playground as the lines for the portapotties have grown long enough to cause the Fearless Leader to wonder if we will finish before the fireworks start. Still, with parents urging the little ones one, we all manage to finish before the show starts.

The Fruit start the firework's show on the blanket, but always come sit in our laps before it is over. We alternate our Oohs and Aahs, quip "frying bacon" at the appropriate ones, point out the colors and designs as if we were doing play-by-play over the radio, and wonder why Kirkwood continues to do ground displays when ninety percent of the people in the park can't see them. And then, just when boredom begins to set in, the grand finale lights up the skys and we all clap and cheer when it is over.

And then the race back to car starts. Breaking camp in the dark, we form up and head out of the park. The police have blocked off the streets so we come out on Adams, take a left at Geyer and walk down the middle of the street with thousands of other happy people. Some hardy souls have made it to the cars parked along Geyer and slowly creep along with the crowd. Before we get to Essex the crowd has thinned, the cars have thickened, and we have gotten over to the sidewalk. The police direct traffic and pedestrians at Geyer and Essex, and when it's our turn we quickly get to our vehicle, pack up, and drive off. Another Fabulous Fourth in the bag.

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You may have already won a big fat nothing


We're no different than most people when it comes to junk mail. We try to throw it out faster than it arrives, so there isn't often much thought involved. Credit card applications aren't even opened before they're tossed. I have suppressed all thought of junk mail so well I can't even remember what all else we get, but let me assure you it is plenty, it is Our Fair Share® as Americans. So I can't really say how it happened, how this event so out of character for us got started, but somehow, someway we actually looked at one of those pieces of junk mail. Maybe they caught us off guard because the outside provided no clue as to what was inside, although that usually is enough by itself to cause the letter to be thrown away. How is not important (other than to make sure it never happens again, what is important is that the Other Fearless leader opened it, and then even after she saw it was junk mail, she read it.

And by then, it was too late. Because by then we were winners. We had three stars out of four stars and that meant that we had won a 25" Sony color TV. Two stars got you "a color TV" -- no telling what brand, what size; but we had three, and three was described exactly. So we made an appointment to collect our TV, and we were prepared to hear the 1 hour hard sales pitch because we were winners. We could laugh in the face of salesmen; we could spit in the eye of closers -- bring 'em on was our motto. The Fearless Leader's Progenetors agreed to watch the Fruit (that in itself is a tale in its own) and all was arranged.

On the appointed day we dropped the Fruit off, drove to the building, and kept our appointment -- it was nothing more than a formality. We took the van to make sure we had enough room for our TV. We waited on the comfortable couch and smiled at the other couples waiting. They were probably only two star people, maybe only desperate "ones", but we were three star people. And then the Fearless Leader perked up his ears. Another three star couple was disappointed. How could this be? As the ever helpful sales lady explained, it's three stars in a row that is second prize, not just three stars. A cold hand seized the Fearless Leaders guts, and in a panic he told the Other Fearless leader what he had overheard. Quickly the prize papers were scanned, and there buried in the text was the confirmation that indeed not just the number, but the rowness was important. And we didn't have three in a row, we had two in a row. We weren't getting our 25 inch color Sony TV, we were getting somebody else's shabby no name no size TV. Decisive action was required at this critical moment and since we weren't going to endure an hour of torture for no payoff, we got up and left without our free TV, without any TV, without even knowing what the sales pitch was about, without anything but an understanding of why we throw junk mail away without reading it.

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A whole lot of Murphy going on


The Murphy-Shafer ConclaveTM came to town recently. Of course, you have to understand that the outline for this newsletter is completed just after the last one is posted, and given how long it takes to get one of these out these days, it could be months after the "recent" event that I get around to writing about it. Still, the memory of the visit burns in my memory so strongly, it will always seem like it was recent to me.

Previous visits have had a certain structure to them - the obligitory computer game playing between the brothers Murphy, the many restaurant meals, the late nights of talking, the general indecision and inactivity of the Murphy Men. This visit was extra special because in addition of the usual, we intertwined two additional themes - Halloween and Birthdays. Yes, The Murphy Patriarch, the Fearless Leader, and Sean's Better Half all celebrate their birthdays within a week of each other, and this year we celebrated them together. So we were able to share pumpkin patching, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, and candy bellyaches in one thread, and cake, icecream, presents, the birthday song, and lots and lots of candles in another.

The Visit was capped off by brunch at Generations in the Viking Hotel. We had a separate room where we could dine in comfort and splendid isolation. The harpist sat right outside our door and provided a wonderful ambience to the meal, even when she played "Stairway to Heaven". Hey, it's a special day when you hear Led Zeppelin on a harp. But then all too soon the visit was over, and with it's end we were returned to our regularly scheduled lives.

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how to lighten your spirits and your wallet at the same time


We found an oasis in the desert of winter this year. The Other Fearless Leader demonstrated why the old boy network has to keep out women to survive - she discovered from a friend where they go to get away in the winter. Since money is not a dear personal friend of ours but an object instead, I must note here that only cost effective solutions (i.e. cheap) are considered by The Murphy Family. So we were happy not only because we found a place to beat the blahs, but we could do so while getting a big discount off an already low, low rate (can you tell I've read a brochure or two?). And best of all, we were able to share our oasis with our friends the Pollards.

We went to the Days Inn in Eureka, which has a big covered central courtyard that has a large pool, a kiddy pool, a hot tub, a sauna, a putting green, a shuffle board court, and a game arcade. The weather was perfect - cold and rainy - for a winter get-away. We had adjoining rooms with the Pollards (who have three Fruit) and when we opened up the door in between the kids went wild. It couldn't get any better they thought. When we opened the snacks and they watched TV in one room while the adults talked in the other, they thought this time, this time it can't get any better. And then it was off to the pool and hot tub for a little R&R. After we had reached prune-hood, it was back to the rooms to decide on the next course of action. Dinner, of course. I'd like to claim that we went somewhere really great, but it was just McDonalds, the company that brainwashes kids. Then back to the hotel for more fun at the arcade where Mrs. Pollard became the undisputed air hockey champ (hey, it's been years since the last time I played).

The only sour note was when we were all in our room and one of the Fruit closed the Pollard's adjoining door with the keys to it still in it. We discovered that you can't open a door without a knob on your side and so a trip down to the front desk was required if the Pollard's didn't want to sleep with us. Still we had such a good time there is already a movement afoot to make the trip an annual event - at least it's in a relative bare spot on our calendar of Murphy Traditions.

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He sure is light on his feet for a big galoot


The Murphy Fearless Leader finally went to a school dance, some 18 years after my last lick of schooling. Erin was kind enough to invite me to her "Sweetheart" Dance that the Girl Scouts at her school put on. Last year they did a sock hop that the Other Fearless Leader attended with her so it wasn't Erin's first dance. They chose "sweetheart" over "dad" because in today's world you can't be sure, although in her troop all the girls brought their dads. It was very nice affair, with a catered dinner followed by dancing. You could buy a corsage and have your picture taken together, which we did, and they had a DJ with light show and glitter ball to provide the music and atmosphere. High class all the way.

Erin really looked forward to going, and the only problem was that it was the night after her birthday party that featured ice skating (I didn't fall down once contrary to her little friends' predictions - and yes I did go out on the ice) and a sleep over. So when the time came she was a mite bit tired. Still, she enjoyed putting on her favorite dress and looking her best. She enjoyed all the formalities, although the part where she waited while I opened her card door was kind of funny to her. The food was good, and while the dads made small talk - two at my table fell into a discussion about hunting dogs, the girls seemed a bit overwhelmed (hopefully I've learned to hide my boredom with certain conversation better). All that changed when the dancing started. Erin's tiredness vanished and instead it was I who was feeling the pinch. Still, Erin didn't notice as she spent her time on the dance floor gawking at the big girls dancing and drinking in the atmosphere afforded by the light show and glitter ball in the darkened gym. She could have been dancing with a sasquatch for all the attention she paid to me. I noticed they played a lot of sixties music, and a bunch of more modern stuff like Spice Girls and the Macarena, but somehow skipped over my era. I guess Black Dog wouldn't be appropriate at a Sweetheart dance. Towards the end Lauren, a friend of Erin's, came over and rescued her from the clutches of the slow moving lump she was with and they energetically danced with a bunch of classmates while I hobbled off to our table and the chair meant for someone half my size. After a while Erin came back over all wiped out and put her head down on the table. She seemed amazed at the idea that we could actually leave early, even if it was only fifteen minutes, but when she realized I was serious she took me up on the offer. I'm trying to teach her how to quit while you're still ahead.

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