February 2006


Mel is convalescing nicely.  Right after surgery, she was so sore that she didn’t actually get up that much but she’s now moving around the house and even drove on Sunday.  I’d like to mention that by getting out and getting mobile, she may give the impression that we don’t need the church to bring us any more food and I’d hate for that to happen.  And yet it may since she is not the type to stay in bed for long. 

She’s been to the doctor twice but there’s been nothing interesting to report from those visits.  They go something like this:

Medical professional:  “Ok, that looks fine.  Come back in a week.”

Mel:  “When do these drains come out?”

Medical Professional:  “Later.”

I say “Medical Professional” because sometimes it’s the plastic surgeon and sometimes it ain’t.  You never know.

Last weekend, she felt good enough to get up and create a long list of chores for me and Erin to do.  Apparently, watching other people exert themselves is just about as good as exerting yourself. 

Evan spent the weekend at the church preparing for the spring break mission trip.  He was there on Saturday from 9:00 am till 8:00 pm and from noon till 8 on Sunday, so apparently there was much to be learned. He also had a great deal of homework so we didn’t see much of him. 

That left Erin and I to do the chores.  I only mention that because it was a learning experience for me.  Erin had swept up in one of the bathrooms and had announced her completion.  I noticed that she didn’t have the dustpan so I asked where all the dirt went.  That was a mistake; her answer was one word:

“Floor vent.”

AARRRRGHHH!  The sound of a shopvac sucking lots of things out of a floor vent is similar to the sound your lawn mower makes when you run over a bunch of sticks.  There were lots of things down there.  She shared further that all through childhood, she’d drop things down there; sometimes from boredom, sometimes from curiosity.  Lots of crayons.

Sometimes I think that it’s true when they say that there are some things you’re just better off not knowing.

Well, that's over.  I got assigned to a case and actually spent the last two days out of the basement and in one of the courtrooms on the upper floors.  It was not particularly interesting to a guy like me; just a conflict between two businessmen – one general contractor and one guy who moves dirt around.  I was then and am now more interested in the people I ran across than the points of law that were being decided.  

My favorite guy was an 84 year old fellow whose name I will keep anonymous  I guess but everybody should meet him.  He told many stories which I sat and encouraged him to do on breaks but my favorite was his story of hitchhiking from Sapulpa to Kellyville during the depression when he was about 12.  He was picked up by someone in a Model A Ford.  A woman was driving and a man was in the passenger seat with his hat pulled down over his face.  He said the woman had the craziest driving habits and the foulest mouth that he had ever experienced and he was glad to get out of the car.  Before he did, the woman said “Hey kid!  You ever hear of Bonnie and Clyde?” to which the man responded “SHUT UP!”  That was it and he forgot about it until a year or two later when Bonnie and Clyde were killed and their car was sent around the country on tour.  My Dad in Arkansa personally paid 10 cents to see the bulletridden car and the blood-stained seats.  So did my jury-duty friend.  Imagine his surprise when he recognized the car!  The photos on display confirmed it – those were the man and woman in the car when he was hitchhiking.  Hitchhiking with Bonnie and Clyde.  Pretty cool.  The Sapulpa paper did a story on it some time back also so the anecdote has been published.  

That's a story that's hard to top.

Here's my scientific analysis of the experience.

Most frequently asked question: Can I be excused because of (insert lame excuse here)?
Answer: No.

Most frequently uttered comment: You know I'm missing my soap operas because of this.

My most favorite occurrance was when the woman next to me said to those of us around her “I'm gonna turn that TV on.” and then stood up. As soon as she stood up, the TV just came on. Nobody else had moved. I said: “Hey, that's pretty good. Do that again!” The woman behind her made similar comments. They also offered a bit of applause.

As if in defiance of all common sense, the jury clerk who works all day every day down there actually seems to like her job and take it very seriously. Her face graced the cover of Tulsa People magazine one month; they have it framed and on the wall.   Carlene Tallent:  You can real all about her here.  She's nice – I hope she gets a medal for doing her job well; any other typical public servant could easily make the whole thing miserable for everyone.

I got assigned to a jury today and the trial starts tomorrow.  So, no more catching up on my reading. 

Well, here I sit – I've got the laptop but there's (not surprisingly) no wireless network in the courthouse for me to connect to. At least not in the basement where the jury assembly room is. No browsing for me today which is too bad. I could catch up on a lot of correspondence. Everybody with a cell phone gets a good signal though. Strange.

It's every bit as fun as I remember it which is to say not at all. By noon, I had read all the downloaded news on my PDA and begun on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I find that although there are vending machines, I have only $20 bills. Bad planning on my part. I drifted off to a light sleep around 2:30 so it was with a bit of a surprise that i awoke to find all the people around me were different. Many had migrated nearer to the TV to watch Dr. Phil. Right when Dr. Phil was about to make a pronouncement, a bunch of jurors were called to go upstairs. Their reaction was pretty funny – nobody was happy. Most of them were women and the ones leaving left instructions for those remaining to take notes. On the other side of the room was Martha Stewart's new show which apparently is just exactly like her pre-prison show.

Right after firing up the laptop, the battery pooped out. More bad planning on my part. Electrical outlets are in short supply so it wasn't until about 3:00 that an outlet became available for charging.

We were all sworn is using an amusing archaic swearing-in oath. I can't recall it exactly but it went something like: I state-your-name (and here I had to choke back a laugh while thinking about that scene in Animal House that started like that) swear that i am over 18, a resident of the state of Oklahoma, Tulsa county, (and here I remember the quote exactly)… “and that I am not mentally retarded.” How politically incorrect. And this from the bastion of politics itself: the court system.

Court houses in downtown areas are strange to me. Lots of random people standing around. Are they homeless? They certainly appear aimless and one hesitates to make eye contact. The restaurants near the courthouse are grubby and crowded. Where are all those cool restaurants that are reputed to be downtown? Snow is piled everywhere from this weekend's storm and it's starting to melt and get all dirty so the place looks like I imagine Mineapolis to look this time of year. Probably not as cold though. The public buildings themselves are a bit dirty and obviously built in some bygone era. The courtrooms themselves are quite grand but the jury assembly area and all the offices are just plain grubby with random photographs on the walls. I'm not sure when they removed the spittoons and painted the walls to lock in the years of accumulated cigarette smoke but it was probably in my adult lifetime

The marching band had their annual awards banquet last night. It was extraordinarily well attended with nearly 700 people crammed in the room around the round tables. Erin went with us but quickly ditched us to sit with a friend that she spotted nearby leaving Evan to sit with some buddies. There was nobody for me to talk to though. I of course was not introduced to anyone because I am 46 years old and to them, I do not exist. That's why I was able to take photos pretty much indiscriminantly and was able to do so without them apparently noticing or paying attention. Evan noticed once and I told him it was just for the parental spy network. He gave me that “are you kidding?” look and I responded with that “no I'm not” look.

I guess I have to refrain from commenting on any of Evan's friends even though my comments would not be negative. The one time somebody would read this it would probably be would one of those kids which would probably be bad in Evan's eyes.

The banquet was fun though – the food was good although the waiters gave up on the coffee before they got to me. The speaker was entertaining and the awards part was done pretty well although I could have done with less speachmaking. Evan tired of it pretty soon. He and his friends (including the young ladies by the way) made the motions of tossing rolls to each other and throwing the little cherry tomatoes at each other but didn't actually do it. To their credit, they didn't smash their mashed potatoes and try to make little sculptures with it. There was a time that they would have done so. Erin reported later that she got tired of her friend griping about the food. That kid's a finicky eater and if Erin finds it annoying, it must be pretty annoying.

It kept us busy till about 10:00pm. Not a bad evening for $5.

And now, for more on the trip to the hospital.

Mel had her surgery at a new place near the hospital where she had her other surgery.  This place is much nicer.  The pre-op place is different though in that you can see almost everyone else through the glass doors to the rooms.  There were several children about who were there to have their tonsils out or to have ear-tubes put in.  For these little guys they had wagons that they could sit in and have their parents pull them about as they waited for the anesthesiologists.  Plus, the hospital gave them all a teddy bear (with the hospital logo of course).

I’ve decided that the previously mentioned crying woman who wanted to wear her own pajamas instead of the hospital gown was one of those “high-maintenance women”.  Who else would have on all that makeup just to be sedated and have the medical staff remove it all?  She does have my sympathy however due to her comment that began with “everytime I’ve ever been here…”.  That can’t be fun.

Mel was in a lot of pain when she got home and all through the weekend.  She’s been up and about quite a bit and has been stretching out her muscles some.  But it’s obviously painful.  Thankfully, people have been bringing us meals.

High carb, high fat, high cholesterol meals.  Green beans cooked in bacon.  Turkey with lots of stuffing.  Lots of rolls and pastries.  Casseroles too.  I’m guessing we’ll be gaining a few pounds this week.  But at least Mel is obviously feeling better.

As much as I dislike funerals, it was not an altogether unpleasant trip.  The road to Eldorado, AR is a long one for me but it really only gets long after we leave Little Rock. From there on south, the roads get narrower and the speed limits get lower and so it really starts to drag at that point.  I’ve made the drive many times but I’ve never really learned to appreciate it although travelling through the northwest part of the state is pretty.  The last bit is the worst where we get on the elevated section of highway 167 near the Ouachita river bottoms.  The speed limit goes way down and it is difficult to speed due to the inevitable slow-moving car.  The road is lined with several miles of swampland complete with cypress trees with their creepy roots (called ‘knees’) sticking out of the water all over the place. 

We first stopped in Conway for lunch and I was struck, as I always am, by the strong Arkansas accents.  I would have thought that with TV and internet, the people there would have been exposed to enough of accent-free english that the accents would fade away but they don’t.  That uniquely Arkansan drawl is still there.  I suppose I’ve still got it too and it pops out whenever my concentration is low.

Funerals are always a chance to get together with a lot of people that you haven’t seen in a long time and which you’d like to see more often but never really do.  But they’re surreal at the same time.  It’s hard to get my head around the fact that Andy is not here any more.  He’s always been here – how can he be gone forever?  But that’s the way of it; that’s why we have funerals.  Funerals bring families and back together and stir up the grief into a crescendo and generally speaking, we feel better afterwards.

Then I got to experience again all those small town things.  I bought donuts at the SpudNut shop.  I’ve never seen one of those anywhere else but Google tells me that they exist.  Apparently they use potato flour; hence the name.  Everyone raves about them but they’re just another donut to me.  I took a photo of the shop since it’s from another era.  I guess the rusty sign has “character”.

My sister loaded me up with old amateur radio gear that belonged to Andy for me to dispose of on Ebay.  Thank goodness for Ebay or I would have no idea what to do with it.  She also claims that she’s going to get out more after staying home with him for so long.  I hope to see her up here soon. 

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