Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Tour '08

After absorbing a heavy dose of holiday hubbub, I'm glad to be back at my desk here at the Oak Lair with the report of the past week's events.

It was hurry up and wait last Saturday morning as I rushed the van to the mechanic in response to a smell Jodi had noticed a few days earlier. It kinda smelled like burning rubber, so naturally I figured it was just the roasted tires from all the drag racing. Turns out it was actually transmission fluid leaking from the filter housing and spraying over the exhaust, requiring a new filter and gasket. Sounds cheap, right? Not the case.

So after an hour or so of Field and Stream, coffee from a styrofoam cup, and the incessant mutterings of a mentally ill guy in the waiting area, I was more than ready to pack up the big top and move this circus on down the road. When we arrived in Lost Nation a glorious reception awaited. Boisterous voices, and the buzz and excitement one would expect to surround an occasion fueled by prime rib, wine, and Christmas cheer.

With bellies full of goat, I mean beautifully prepared prime rib, we made our way to the sacred area for the gift exchange. Many lovely things were unwrapped as Maura wallowed in the scraps of paper and bows. Before her lie a generous offering of neatly wrapped gifts which awaited their undoing.

Everybody got everything they wanted and more, and we knew it was only a matter of time before Ms. Maura got into the liquor cabinet.

At some point during the next couple days something dreadful happened to our van. Whatever the cause, it soon became apparent that the engine no longer held oil. With 240 miles ahead of us, the prospect of getting home without major repairs seemed doubtful, while the familiar trip home grew ever daunting. After filling up with oil (one quart of which being a $10 "stop leak" formula) we set out on the first leg of the drive. Forty five miles later we stopped for lunch and a status check in Dubuque, at which point we made a grim discovery. There was absolutely no oil on the dipstick, meaning we went through five quarts of oil in less than fifty miles.

Not good.

We grabbed a couple quarts here and there along the way until we got to the Prarie du Chien Wal-Mart where I proceeded to buy four five quart jugs for the drive home. At one point while stopped at a gas station for a complete oil fill up I tried to clean off the rear window with the squeegee/sponge wand only to find it completely oil-covered, thus coating the sponge for the next guy to smear across his windshield. Crap. Seemed like that was the theme for the trip, because I'm sure people were probably spinning off into the ditch behind us as we literally dumped thirty gallons of motor oil onto the highway. With the awareness that comes with being a complete stress-ball and the diligent use of the tripometer, we managed to dock the Valdez in the garage until further inspection.

Aside from wishing I would've asked for a barrel of oil for Christmas, everything was great. I hope you all had a wonderfully less eventful holiday. We'll probably play it safe with Seacrest on New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Of All the Trees Most Lovely

Thanksgiving 2008 is in the books, and another year's worth of blessings have been counted. We, like many others observe the day after Thanksgiving as the first day of the pre-Christmas work-up. It wasn't long until the boxes came out and the house underwent a transformation not unlike something one might see in Whoville. A childlike wonder is restored within in, I wonder how we ended up with all this crap. To all grinches out there that don't particularly care for this time of year, I urge you to check your pulse echocardiogram. Your heart may be two sizes too small.

We used to make a point of picking out a new ornament each year, but that tradition, like many others has gone by the wayside. That doesn't mean that we don't have a copious amount of ornaments, because we do. So this year I've decided to give special attention to a select few and recognize my...



Tiny lil' Wright brothers airplane

A treasured Hallmark collectible, this tiny airplane will soar into your heart, letting your imagination take flight. I can't believe I haven't lost it yet...the ornament, not my poeticism.


Ralph Wiggum eating paste

What a stinker. His cat's breath smells like cat food, his doctor urges him to keep his finger outta his nose...Who among you can't see a little of yourself in this fresh portrait of playfulness?


Santa being pulled by a fish team

The decision to choose this as my yearly ornament all those years ago was just as easy as the decision to include this in my top five. A special place on the tree is always reserved for this incongruous gem.


The Craftsman belt sander

As classic as the star at the top, this ornament may be too abrasive and gritty for some, but I was immediately able to recognize its rugged beauty. Be sure to observe all safety precautions when hanging.


1977 Disney ball ornament

My all time favorite ornament. This is the one I always acknowledged as my ornament and was always the one I had to dig around for when mom was decorating the tree. I don't think this was the first one I'd received, but to me it's the holy grail of ornaments. The treasure that I uncover every year and identify as a key to a historic ritual. Just holding it conjures memories as though it were some type of mystical orb.

Enjoy the holiday!