Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another Open Letter

To Anyone Ever Called To Testify Before a Grand Jury

Answer the questions asked. That's all.

You don't need to extend the story. You don't need to give us a complete narrative. And you don't need to show us your wounds.

The District Attorney will ask you questions. They may not seem to be interesting questions. They may not even seem to be intelligent questions.

Especially when they are questions like: "Did you ever give (Defendent) permission to (Crime committed) to you?

Answer it anyway. Don't tell us what you think about the defendent. Don't proclaim your victimhood.

The DA's building a box. It's a very specific kind of box. It's a box in which he will put all the stuff for the trial of the defendent. The Grand Jurors don't really need to know what's in the box. Yeah, the Jurors might be curious, but it's not really their job. They just need to make sure the box is sturdy enough to carry the stuff to trial.

And once the Grand Jury gets to its eleventh or twelfth witness of the day, I'm reasonably certain that most of the Jurors aren't even that curious any more.

And to anyone out there who ever has the opportunity to serve on a Grand Jury: take it. It's a great gig.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Courting Danger

I'm on Grand Jury til mid July. Can't really talk about it, other than the ADA's are very patient and meticulous people, and I'm glad I don't spend my life inside that building. Back in the 1960's, the city and county decided to put all their public safety departments--City Police, County Sherriff, jails, and courts, into one massive complex right at the edge of downtown.

It has not aged well.

One of the saddest features of public architecture is the changes that have been forced upon it by these terror-ridden times. And I'm not just talking about this building, but every public building everywhere in the country. Wide, expansive entryways meant to imply the openess of the governmental process are now boarded up and cordoned off. Visitors must be sent through a gauntlet of security guards. Bags are examined, belts are removed, crotches are wanded.

I remember walking up The National Mall in Washington DC, back in August of 2002. My oldest was a sophomore at an area university, and we made his return to school a bit of a mini-vacation. Walking up to the Capitol Building from the mall side is quite inspiring. But when we got to the building, the steps, the magnificent wide steps that led all up to the seat of power, were cordoned off. At the top of the steps were armed guards.

I wonder if those steps will ever be used again. Hell, maybe they're used now. I don't know. I haven't gone back. But the image of those guards, dressed in black, weapons glinting in the afternoon sun, watching us and assessing our threat level, will stay with me always.

But it's certain that we'll never get to walk in there again with the same freedoms we once had.

The change on the Public Safety Building (where I'm sitting on Grand Jury) is similar, if not as striking. The first time I had a reason to visit the courthouse was back in the 1980's. There were doors on three sides (the fourth side was annexed to the jail). In the early '90's three of the entranceways had been closed, and all everyone had to squeeze through one doorway, with a few guards checking through bags. Now, the courthouse has knocked a whole wall out, and replaced it with an unpleasant-looking group of chutes through which we all are sluiced. We get separated from our belongings at point A, and if we don't have anything dangerous on our persons (dangerous, in this instance means not only knives and guns, but metal spoons, glass bottles, and plastic crochet needles), we are reunited with them at point B.

On the whole, it's a pretty miserable example of the lives we all live.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day

I took the kids to a ball game for Father's Day. Here's proof:

I think I saw about four innings of the game. However, we did get a hot dog, some pizza, some dippin' dots, a bloomin' onion, some french fries, four lemonades, three baseballs, batting gloves, the picture above, autographs, a chance to play catch on the outfield grass, and sunburns.

It was a good day.

And now, it's time to play:


As I parked my car Sunday morning on my way to a meeting, I noticed a teenaged boy riding his bike down the street. Although our state has mandatory bicycle helmet laws, this young man was riding his bike without a helmet. As he approached, I noticed that he was wearing a replica NFL jersey.

For 1,000 irony points, plus rain on your wedding day:

What player's name was on the back of his jersey?


Saturday, June 17, 2006


I've been tagged. Lots of bloggers bitch about being tagged with memes. I don't. I like it. It's interesting to see what people want to know, and it's kind of fun to try and come up with the answers.

1. What time did you get up this morning? Mondays thru Fridays I wake at 6:15. Saturdays at 7:30. Sundays a lollygag around 'til 9.

2. Diamonds or Pearls? The only jewelry I wear is a diamond earring, so I guess it's diamonds.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Cars (review below)

4. What is your favorite TV show? The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is the only show I watch with regularity. My all-time favorite TV show would probably be NYPD Blue.

5. What did you have for breakfast? Same as always. A bowl of Cheerios (actually, the store brand knock-off) with raisins, skim milk and sugar substitute.

6. What is your Middle name? Henry. Same as my Dad's.

7. What is your favorite cuisine? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My cuisine choices vary.

8. What foods do you dislike? Lima beans, venison, and certain cheeses that have an aftertaste like ass.

9. What is your favorite type of music? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My music choices vary.

10. What kind of a car do you drive? My 1996 Ford Windstar, which I purchased when I had a wife and four kids. Now I'm single with two kids (the oldest two are out on their own). My next car (which I will purchase in April '07) will be either a Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe.

11. What characteristics do you despise? Hypocrisy, meanness, self centeredness, selfishness, ignorance. Those were the answers given by Madame X, who tagged me with this meme. There's no need to change them, is there? I mean, do you know anyone who actually likes these characteristics, or at least will admit to liking them? Conversely, does anyone go around saying: "That guy over there is always trying to improve himself and the lives of those around him. I think I'll go kick him in the nuts."

12. Favorite item of clothing? Fuzzy Blue. It's this shapeless blue terrycloth t-shirt that I got as a birthday present in 1976. It's somehow managed to stick with me all these years. I rarely wear it anymore. In fact for the past decade, I would only put it on to annoy STBEW. It will be 30 years old on the 25th. It usually sits in a place of honor in the bottom of my drawer, but I think maybe I'll wear it next Sunday.

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Starfish Trelawny resort with my kids Because I promised we would..

14. What color is your bathroom? Upper walls: Tan. Lower walls: brown. Floor: white and black octagonal tile. Who the fuck cares?

15. Favorite brand of clothing? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My clothing choices vary.

16. Where would you retire to? I don't see myself as the retirement sort, but I guess eventually I will be. I think the mountains of North Carolina would be an excellent choice.

17. Favorite time of Day? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My time of day choices vary.

18. Where were you born? Corning NY

19. Favorite sport to watch? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My sport to watch choices vary.

20. What is your favorite product that you use? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My product choices vary.

21. Coke or Pepsi? Diet Coke with Lime. Second choice: Coke Zero.

22. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Used to be a night owl. Don't know if I'm a morning person or not. My kids probably think I am.

23. How many kids do you want? I dunno. How many you got?

24. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Self-employed and successful, with a nice-sized house with three bedrooms and a dry basement that has a workshop and a TV room in it that can be converted to a bedroom when the older kids visit. The yard is decent sized, and well-landscaped, but not so damn big that I become a slave to it. The kids and I travel a bit, especially in the summers. Maybe there's someone in my life; maybe not. But this is where I'll be in five years.

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with everyone? I don't have favorites in categories like these. My exciting news choices vary.

26. What did you want to be when you were little? Loved

27. Favorite candy bar? I don't even remember what it was called. It had crispy wafers infused with cinnamon, covered in white chocolate. The little food market a mile from the bottom of the hill where we lived used to carry them when I was in high school. I used to ride my bike to get them and a Faygo Redpop in the summer, then ride back home. Then, they disappeared. I miss them. Damn, they were good.

28. What is your best childhood memory? I think I just described it. No, not really. In 1971, my Dad had six weeks of vacation from his job. So, we bought a new Impala (with air conditioning!), and a small camper trailer, and went out west one summer. I remember throwing snowballs with my brother on a mountain in Colorado on my birthday, climbing into pueblos that had not changed in hundreds of years in Arizona, eating frogs legs on Fisherman's Warf in San Francisco, just so many things. That's probably it.

29. What are the different jobs you've had in your life? Let's see...paperboy dishwasher potwasher soda jerk stock clerk "Doctor Gordon" tour guide tutor teacher photographer videographer documentarian stand-up comedian assignment editor newscast producer improv comedian actor documentarian writer director producer and not once did I ever get paid what I deserved.

30. Star Wars or Star Trek? I would have said "Star Wars" until Episode 1 came out. What the hell was all the love for Vader all about? Sure, he was a kid once, but he killed millions! What next? "Young Hannibal Lecter gets a puppy?"

31. Any nicknames? Not really. I was called Mercedes for a summer, because I ran into one. Smashed it up real good, too. Broke a headlight, dented the hood, cracked the windshield. Plus, I scratched my glasses. I wasn't driving. I was chasing a Frisbee and I ran into it. Oh, yeah, sometimes people call me 'Big Guy."

32. Eye color? Blue

33. Ever been to Africa? No. And I've never been to Spain. But I kinda like the music.

34. Ever been toilet papered? Just my ass.

35. Ever loved someone so much it made you cry? I've loved enough that I've wanted to cry. I don't cry much. I'd like to change that.

36. Croutons or bacon bits? Neither. I like my coffee black.

37. Favorite day of the week? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My day of the week choices vary.

38. Favorite restaurant? It's not around anymore. It was called the Corn Hill Cookery. The owner was a master chef who loved to experiment in different styles. One week he'd do variations on classic Italian dishes, the next he'd play around with vegetarian cuisine. Or Polish. Or Indonesian. Or Australian (Kangaroo tail soup is pretty good.) Although I enjoyed it, it wasn't the best business model.

39. Favorite ice cream? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My ice cream choices vary.

40. Favorite flower? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My flower choices vary.

41. Favorite day of the year? I don't have…oh, waitaminnit, I do. June 20th. The last day of Spring. The next day, Summer begins, and then the days start getting shorter. June 20th is the last day of the year where the next day will be longer.
My second favorite day of the year is December 21st, for much the same reason.

42. Favorite fast food restaurant? Waffle House. I've never eaten there. There are no Waffle Houses within 500 miles of me. I only see them when we take trips below the Mason-Dixon line. And, whenever I would see a Waffle House sign, I would scream out, in an exaggerated southern accent: "WAFFLE HOUSE!" Except it comes out more like "WAW-FULL HEY-OUSE!" I've been doing this since my oldest son was the same age as my youngest daughter is now. I've tried to stop. But they won't let me.

43. Favorite Website? you can find out neat stuff, like "Waffle House serves more than 3.2 million pounds of grits each year. That is enough to fill 86 semi-trucks!" Yum.

44. How many times did you fail your drivers test? Twice.

45. Who did you get your last email from? Someone named Capture J. Septuagint, who wants me to consider a career in Criminal Justice.

46. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? I don't want to max out my credit card.

47. What do you do most often when you're bored? Hunt the elusive white Bengal tiger in the rainforests of Rangoon. I'm not bored much.

48. What time do you usually go to bed in the evening? 11

49. Who are you most curious about their responses to this? Jennifer Aniston.

50. Last person you went out to dinner with? That would be my son and my daughter. We went to the diner up the street. Before that, it was with a woman whom I thought was interested in me. Turns out she only wanted me for my camera skills. Long story.

51. Ford or Chevy? I'm not picky. If you want to give me one, I'll take it. Hell, I might even take a Hyundai.

52. What are you listening to right now? My cats meowing because they want me to feed them. I just fed them 20 minutes ago. Go away! Lying sacks of cat.

53. What is your favorite color? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My color choices vary.

54. Lake, ocean or river? To swim, lake. To canoe, river. To sail, ocean.

55. Which came first the chicken or the egg? The egg, but he kept going until the chicken came too.

56. What is your favorite song? I don't have favorites in categories like this. My music choices vary. *

57. What book are you reading right now? Nothing. Just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'll probably see if Terry Pratchett has a new book out for the next one.

58. What is the one thing you can not travel with out? My moss-covered three-handled family credenza.

59. What is your favorite alcoholic beverage? Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale. Available only in Canada. Unfortunately, I'm not in Canada.

Happy Fathers' Day everyone!


*Although the song I listen to a lot at the moment is 'Lick of Split' by the Calvin Owens Blues Orchestra. Calvin's best known as BB King's bandleader, but the dude can play trumpet like a muthahucka. This song starts out with just a muted trumpet and a sparse bass line, and six minutes later is a full orchestra kicking out all the jambs. If I was making a movie, I'd use this cut about 55 minutes into the film, interspersing the hero and is love interest finally making love, with the hero's best friend getting beat to death in a rainy back alley by a bunch of goons. Yeah, that's the way my mind works.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fast Company

I had intended to write a review of Nacho Libre, the new Jack Black flick, since I had free passes to a sneak preview.

But there was a traffic jam, and apparently, not much to do on a Tuesday night in Smugtown. The combination of the two prevented me from seeing this particular bit of entertainment.

My friend Sugar Dave, however, did manage to get in. It was packed full, and he ended up sitting on the concrete on the top steps of the theater to see it.

His review? "Oh it was really good. Very funny."

So what was the plot? "Well, Jack Black and his friend try to wrestle and stuff...and it was funny."

Sugar Dave's not the deepest thinker.

But I was left at a movie theater with two preteens who expected to see a movie. I had expected not to have to pay to see a movie.

Then I looked down and saw something on my daughters' hand. There was some...thing wrapped around her little finger.

Turns out it was me.

So we went to see Cars.

Before I write about it, I want to point out a tipping point moment with the previews. There were four of them. And, for the first time (for me at least), every trailer was for a 3-D animated movie. Used to be, these movies were special occasions. Now they're run-of-the mill.

Four cartoon trailers. And two of them involved pests. Where the exterminator is a bad guy. Plus, there's Over the Hedge, currently in theaters. Hollywood wants you to believe varmints and pests are the good guys, and the guy you pay to get rid of them is some sort of murderous psychopath.

Speaking as someone who's battling a carpenter ant infestation, and who's got a raccoon trying to get into his garbage cans every night, I can safely say that this is not the case.*

Now, about Cars: It's always nice when a cartoon for parents has enough entertainment value to keep the kids happy as well. And that's what we had here.

This is not a kid's movie. Don't get me wrong--it's 'G' rated, and has lots of fun and flashy stuff in it that will make every kid kick the seat in front with delight and excitement, but that's not who this flick is focused on.

It's aimed at the NASCAR Dad.

I'm not a big NASCAR fan. I don't know Rusty Wallace from a rusty fender. But this movie was chockfull of car-culture references. Most of which I'm guessing were over the heads of the average 8 to 10 year olds.

Me? I ate it up. So many people in the automobile world were represented in this thing that even me, a guy who had gotten over car fever a few decades ago, was impressed.

"Look! That's Richard Petty!" I'd whisper to my son.

"Oh! That's Click and Clack the Tappit Brothers!" I'd murmer to my daughter.

"I don't care!" he'd offer.

"Shut up!" she'd suggest.

But it was cool to me.

And it's an interesting phenomenon: If there was a movie where Owen Wilson and Bonnie Hunt were flirting with each other on camera, my kids would be bored, regardless of the level of wit in the dialogue. But if he's a racecar, and she's a Porsche, they'll be enamored.

So anyways.

Owen Wilson is Ligthning McQueen, rookie sensation on the Piston Cup circuit, looking to be the first rookie to ever win the cup. He's cocky and selfish, and his arrogance costs him an outright championship of the Cup, and sets up an unprecidented three-way race-off to determine the championship, between him, the reiging champ, a gentlemanly King (Petty) and the eternally second place car, the aggressive/dirty Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton).

On his way to the race, McQueen gets waylaid, and ends up in the nearly-deserted Radiator Springs, where he meets a group of colorful characters, who show him the true meaning of friendship and give him a true sense of perspective.

Sound familiar? It's basically the plot of Doc Hollywood.

There's nothing new here. Not a damn thing. Not in plot, not in character, not in animation style. Even some of the naming gags--Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip--are used (anyone remember Stony Curtis from The Flintstones?).

That doesn't mean it's not good. To continue the metaphor: there's nothing new, really in the 2006 Bentleys, either. But they're still selling for six figures.

Even though it's old ground, it's covered with a muscular authority and grace. Every character is fully developed, both in terms of graphics and in storyline. Each character in the frame, no matter whether it's the main character, or just in the background, is drawn with the same attention to detail.

From the bugs on the windows of the old stores (VW Beetless with wings, by the way), to the individual chunks of broken-off asphalt that jump and bounce with the passing of the racers, every pixel is planned and executed with zero tolerance. Even with sequential processing on the fastest computers out there, the average frame render on this move was seventeen hours. That means each second of the movie took seventeen days to finish. That's just render time. Rendering's the last step in a CGI movie. To get to the render phase takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work. And it shows.

The dialogue is also predictible, but sparkling, and the characters are vital. Paul Newman is as curmudgeonly as he can be as Doc Hudson, the town Judge/physician, who has a bone to pick with race cars. Bonnie hunt is at her sparkliest as Sally Carrera, the big city Porsche with small town dreams. And it pains me to say it, but the biggest scene-stealer of all is Dan Whitney (AKA Larry the Cable Guy) who embodies all that is annoying and endearing (usually the same traits) about rednecks as the tow truck, Mater ("like tomater, but without the tuh"), while leaving out the racism, fear and misogyny.

In the end John Lassiter shows everyone why he is the King of the CGI movie world. And there's no hotshot rookie coming up behind him.

Go see it. Hell, you might even want to bring your kids along.


*although now that I think of it...

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Very Grand Jury

On June 19th, I'm on Grand Jury Duty.

Almost invariably, whenever I mention this to someone, they act as if I've just said: "On June 19th, I get castrated."

Also, most people have no fucking clue as to what Grand Jury actually is. This saddens me no end.

If you know what Grand Jury is, skip this paragraph (unless you 're in love with my sparkling prose). Most people are familiar with trial juries. A trial (or civil) jury considers the evidence presented for and against a person or persons accused of a crime, or a civil disobedience. At the end of the trial, they decide whether the defentant(s) is(are) guilty or not guilty of the charge (there is no legal term 'innocent'). That's an entirely different entity from a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury does not decide on guilt. It merely decides whether or not the prosecutor has presented enough evidence to take a case to trial. A Grand Jury is 23 (in my state) people who make sure that the government actually has a strong enough case against somoene to move on to the trial phase.

From June 19th through July 7, I'll hear evidence on about 80 potential cases presented by various District Attorneys. I can't wait.

Yes, it will be a hindrance to my job. Yes, it's inconvenient. Yes, I'll be sitting in a building designed and built by low bidders with a score of folks I don't know, and unable to leave for large stretches of time.

But it's one of the most important things I'll ever do.

Jury duty and voting. These are the cornerstones of what makes this society work. This is my part in keeping the checks in place. This is the work of America.

And most people don't do either. And I'm guessing a lot of those people complain about the state this country's in. Could thre possibly be a connection?

So I miss a few weeks of work. Guess what? I won't have to do this again for a decade. And I've done my part.

Why would I want to get out of that?


Tuesday, June 06, 2006


That's the sound of a confused yeti.

I on occasion resemble such a creature. Especially in the early eighties, when I had shoulder-length hair and a full beard and weighed about 260.

If something happened that I didn't understand, I would cock my head to one side and make that noise.


I made it this evening, driving STBEW home. I had a meeting tonight, and so she watched the kids. She watched them at my place, because she lives in an airless, cramped studio apartment that reeks of cigarette smoke.

As I was driving her to her place, we were listening to the Yankees/Red Sox game on the radio. I decided to drop a little trivia I had heard earlier in the game.

"Did you know that since 2003, the Yankees and Red Sox have played 39 games, and the Red Sox have won 20?"

Dear readers, what would your reaction to that question be? I'm guessing it would range from interest at the closeness of the contest, to disinterest.

STBEW's reaction? "I blame the terrorists."


The terrorists?

"Yes. Since 9-11, the Yankees have not won the World Series. The terrorists did this."


"And the Yankees won't win again-ever-until I can come up with a way to defeat them."


"Let me get this straight," I said. "The reason a baseball team in New York City hasn't won the World Series is because you can't figure out a way to stop the terrorists?"

"Well, you don't have a plan, so who else? I mean, the Red Sox is one thing, but--come on--the White Sox? It's the terrorists!"*

Yes, she's a pain in the ass. But sometimes I miss her.


*By the way, she also believes that if she and her sister both watch a Buffalo Bills game together, then the Bills will lose. Her sister, a lawyer for the county, believes this as well. Going 0-4 in Super Bowls can do strange things to you.

Monday, June 05, 2006


I don't usually revel in the misfortunes of others.

But some people just bring it out in me.

Like my old nemesis, the Salad Bar Witch.

When I went to get a salad for lunch today, the line was clogged by two salad vacuumers. You know the sort: wide loads, whose doctors most likely told them that they should skip the fast food and eat more salads, who now overeat at the salad bar instead. Two of these people were working their way along the bar, heaping massive amounts of cheese, mushrooms, croutons, et c., on top of their two or three leaves of lettuce.

The salad bar at this store is two-sided island. One side has mostly vegetables, and the other side has most of the more interesting toppings: garbanzas, seafood, grape leaves, artichokes, grilled chicken, pepperoni, et c. Typical of most salad bars of this type, the assumption is one starts at the lettuce, and works ones way clockwise around the salad bar.

The two vacuumers were at the far end of the vegetable end, and about to make their way down the other side.

I usually follow the same path as everyone else at the salad bar, but today, I didn't. I noticed that there was precious little grilled chicken left at the salad bar. While I make the vegetables the primary part of my salad, I like a little chicken in it. I knew that there would be none left once the salad vacuumers passed it by.

So that's where I started my salad. I grabbed my container from the olive bar, and tossed four or five fingertip-sized pieces of chicken in it. The sound of protein hitting plastic alerted the salad bar witch, who was busy refilling the now-empty mushroom bin.

Normally, the Salad Bar Witch greets me with a tight-lipped glare whenever she sees me. But this was too much for her.

"Oh, no!" she called out. "We don't put that in first!"

"Why not?" I asked.

"We put the lettuce in first! Then we go clockwise around the salad bar."

The salad vacuumers were bearing down on me, but I decided to take my time. I continued putting stuff in my container. "Why can't I put this stuff in first? It's not like I'm taking all of it." I made sure I wasn't looking at the massive towers of salad-like substance in the vacuumers hands when I said that.

The Salad Bar Witch had no logical answer, so as usual, she repeated herself. "We put the lettuce in first. Then we put the toppings on, and then we put the dressing on."

A thought hits me. "But if I do it that way, all the dressing goes mostly on the toppings, which already has flavor. This way the dressing goes mostly on the lettuce, which doesn't have as much flavor."

One of the women trailing the vacuumers piped up. "Hey, that's right! What a great idea!"

The Salad Bar Witch started to say something, but another grazer joined in. "Where did you get that container? I hate these three-compartment ones."

"Over there at the olive bar," I told her.

"No...we don't use those for salad," the Salad Bar Witch said.

"I do," I said.

The woman put down her three-binned container and went over to the olive bar, with the Salad Bar Witch chasing after her. I filled the container with lettuce, weighed and printed out my label, and left with a smile, and with what will certainly not be the last upside-down salad.

I like a little entertainment with my lunch.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

So Anyways...

Lt. Trouble's operation was a success. Which is not to say it didn't have its moments. Do you know how you sometimes get those awful headaches when you put new glasses on? Especially if the prescription's been changed fairly radically?

He had that. Times three. Two percosets and four extra-strength Advils (or Tylenols, I forget which) and he still couldn't sleep.

But damn, he sure could see.

He called me the next day to tell me he was alive.

He called me twice the day after that, the second time after leaving the emergency room at the base hospital. Seems he was putting eyedrops in every two hours that were supposed to go in every six.

He called me five times today. He's bored out of his skull. He's so ready to go back to work.


For those who were wondering: here's the skinny on why Texas knows when we buy chips: My daughter's teacher was trying to make a point about technology and commerce, using potato and/or corn chips as an example. Frito-Lay's headquarters is located in Plano, Texas, and that they keep track of where chips are being purchased, and in what quantity. I'm guessing that the teacher said something along the lines of "So whenever we buy a bag of chips, they know about it in Texas," where "Texas" was shorthand for 'Frito-Lay's Headquarters in Plano, Texas.'

My daughter's 8-year-old brain didn't grasp the subleties.

Last weekend, we discovered that the father of two schoolmates of my kids lives across the street and three doors down. His kids were visiting for the weekend, and all four kids alternated between my backyard and theirs. I don't know much about these kids, so I spent some time on the porch, keeping an eye out, making sure there were no problems.

At one point, while I was on the porch, my daughter ran halfway back to my house and bellowed 'Can I have a Pepsi?' I'm pretty lenient about these things, but caffeine and my daughter don't mix well, so I told her she couldn't.

A few minutes later, she did the same thing, inquiring about orange juice. That she could have.

A woman appeared on the front porch of the kids father's house. She was wearing a miniskirt, high heels, and dark stockings. I was far enough away that I couldn't make out features, but she looked like she was dressed to go nightclubbing. Which was a little bit unusual, since it was three o'clock on a hot Friday afternoon. I figured it was the kids stepmother or something.

A few minutes later, she started walking towards my house. Cool, I think, I'll get to check her out. Maybe she's a babe. I smile my best welcoming smile, and watched her approach. She had a trim figure. Very trim. nearly shapeless. Her arms, however, were muscular.

And tattooed.

And she seemed to need a shave.

Oh, dear.

Unlike the girl in the bathroom I met in 1985, there was little doubt that this person was born a male.

But you know what? It didn't matter.

She was being a gracious host to my kids. And that's all.

In many ways, I admire her. Because she's made a choice. It had to be a hard one, but she made it anyway.

We had a nice chat, and I told her if my kids were any trouble to send them home. She welcomed me to the neighborhood, and I said thanks.

If this is what maturity feels like, I kinda like it.