chicken kabobs as flavorful as beef ones, and other miscellany

Over the past few weeks I’ve crossed the West in planes and cars; I’ve crested a pass at 13,200’ and kayaked at sea level; I was sleeping in a tent on the ground and I was sleeping on a king sized bed in a bed and breakfast. There are lots of passages to write, but most of them — all of them — come up short. Being thrust back into things as soon as I got out of the car didn’t help. On the other hand, being away for three weeks has helped the psyche immensely, the above subject line notwithstanding.

The headline, “Chicken kabobs as flavorful as beef ones,” is what I read, above the fold in section B of the local paper of the town I grew up in. I would be critical, but this kind of sensational, random news is exactly the material and depth that I have to write about myself.

My epileptic autistic transgendered brother, who has both chest hair and breasts (or some homemade prosthetic, we think), stopped in to visit for lunch while we were at my parents. Later, he was the topic of conversation with my dad while we were at the grocery store. I was holding two melons, trying to figure out which was the variety my mother requested. It was awkward. My mother attempts to pretend to talk about these issues by showing us letters that others have written about my brother as she runs back to the kitchen, apparently busy doing other things.

Karyn and I spent three hours kayaking on the Alsea Bay. Harbor seals would poke their heads up and watch us. We kept watching them and went home to tell our children about it. Later I’d wonder if the harbor seals were heading home, out to sea, to tell others about seeing us. “They were so cute, just looking at us, always from the same distance, with those big, shiny eyes and whiskers.”

I grew a beard when I was backpacking. I never intended to keep it. I don’t think it looks particularly good. But it remains as evidence of the trip, and that’s really helpful, at least to me.

I tried to clean my office on Sunday. I moved a table from one place to another, forcing me to deal with the things that are on the table. On the floor I addressed the stacked, various folders and papers, all things to deal with “later.” I started sorting through them and found my own handwritten derivations and computations. I hate to throw these things out, which is exactly what gets me into trouble in the first place, but they are from old texts and from old courses. Still I hesitated, when a voice yelled at me: “These are outdated solutions,” in this case to problem sets from a year of college level physics for pre-med students. I smiled at myself and my idiocy. “Outdated solutions” seem to always be the thing that gets in the way of anything progressive.

We’ve been car shopping. Long story, but basically we’ve lived with a single car for all of the kids’ lives, mostly because it’s easy enough for me to bike, bus, or walk to work. But each year it’s harder, because the girls keep doing stuff and go places and, being their parents, need us to safely transport them. I “let” Karyn use the car, but more and more this means I let Karyn do all the moving of children to things that involve self improvement. (Mostly I think it involves yelling, like “hurry up and get your tights on or you’re going to be late for dance”.) As we were walking onto our first car lot, the girls both, on their own, pointed out to us that a second car meant more driving which meant “more polar bears dying.” Shit. We explained that most of the time we’d use this more fuel efficient car and hopefully, overall, we’d actually be using less fuel. (I can calculate this — it works.) I’ll still bike, saving driving only for those days when we have to divide and conquer violin and dance, martial arts and math olympiad (yes there is such a thing). But now I’m embracing that about the polar bears, so when the girls start to suggest fancier cars, I have a retort. “Yes, we could get the van with the fancy automatic door, but every time you press that button a polar bear drowns.” This is followed by a faint gurgling sound I’m working on, mimicking a large bear’s final gasps. I’m a good father.

Today I loaded up the truck, one student and several gallons of various science fluids and drove 90 minutes to do science. It was necessary since this was for the people who actually fund the program. In attendance were a total of two kids. Karyn asked how it went. I said it went well, which it did. The older child, a five-year-old boy, originally told me he wanted to be a ninja when he grows up. After seeing a film canister pop open after a few tense seconds and a chemical reaction, I think we changed his mind. (To a scientist; not an evil criminal.)

This evening I was fixing quesadillas and read the packaging to the tortillas. At first I thought it said “Warn tortillas before serving,” but then I realized it was “Warm . . .“ Still, I think it is only fair to alert all food before it is eaten or cooked. Chicken, or beef, kabobs, not excluded.

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