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Hail, Hail, the Angst's All Here

Christmas?  Come and gone.  Boxing Day?  Likewise.  New Year’s?  A dim memory.  Epiphany, Elvis’s Birthday, MLK Day, Australia Day, Mozart’s 250th?  Like sand through the hourglass, they’ve passed into history.  And you think “Alackaday!  Woe, woe! [1]   Where is my Tattler?” 

Well, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum and sigh no more, Little Bummer Boy, because you hold in your hands the 25th Anniversary [2] Edition of the Tolopka Christmas Newsletter. [3]   Though we relish ignoring deadlines, [4] even we have enough pride that “Marmot Edition” seems cheesy – so let’s get that trip down memory lane started.

We Are the Champions

Though our other organized sporting endeavors have fallen by the wayside over the years, softball still beckons annually.  Who’s on First? opened its season by losing a 9PM game in the rain – which turned out to be the first-half highlight.  The opener was followed by three rainouts and a holiday bye that made us “oh-fer-May,” then a crushing defeat, a game played under apocalyptic skies, [5] and another loss in the rain that set up four “dry” losses.  Thankfully, by late July the steroids kicked in and we went on a tear, winning four straight to land a spot in the playoffs.  Bellowing our team motto, [6] we took 1 of 2 playoffs games to carry off the coveted League second place trophy.

Elephants on parade

Bands on the Run

As usual, our bands each provided their own diversions.  We learned our first S&M drum cadence with the One More Time Around Again Marching Band. [7]   The Get a Life Marching Band set its “shortest march” record (3 blocks) leading the Elephant’s Deli Moving Day Parade in February, then broke it in the fall with a one-block parade for the opening of the Portland Art Museum’s new wing. 

For the second year, Janet trekked east to play in the Western Kentucky University Alumni Band at Homecoming.  We spent a glorious June afternoon playing outdoors at 620-ft. Multnomah Falls with Second Wind Jazz Ensemble to the wild approbation of a Father’s Day crowd. The Power Pep Band got radio airplay on the K103-FM morning program with its unique recording of Hap-PPB Birthday.  While playing at a Special Olympics Oregon event, we got to meet Dick Fosbury – 1968 Olympic gold medalist and originator of the “Fosbury Flop” high jump technique that completely supplanted the old “straddle” style. [8]

"Put it on my bill"

Click here for more photos and video from the great Elephant's Deli Moving Day Parade.

Blowin' in the Winds

In September, we made the shocking discovery that we had one free night left during the week, so we promptly joined an additional band to remedy the situation.  Portland Community Wind Band fills a hole in our musical portfolio with the kind of “concert band” music [9] we haven’t played since WKU days.  Steve thinks it’s cool because he’s playing clarinet [10] regularly again; not to be outstripped, [11] Janet filled a hole in the band by moving over to play tenor sax, so we’re both playing out of position. [12]   Hit the PCWB section of tolopka.com for selections from our inaugural concert.


Canadian Sunset

Vancouver (British Columbia) beckoned in the fall; since we’re suckers for a “come hither” look, we drove up to hang out for a few low-key days. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the heart of the city, so we pretty much walked everywhere.  Beautiful Stanley Park lived up to its reputation; on our hike around its 5.5 mile perimeter seawall we enjoyed the city skyline punctuated with an armada of arriving and departing seaplanes, waterbirds galore, spectacular views of the 1517m Lion’s Gate Bridge soaring high above Burrard Inlet, the fabled Girl in a Wet Suit statue, [13] totem poles – and an interesting lunch experience.

Lion's Gate Bridge
Brockton Totem Poles

Two miles into the Park, we’re ready for lunch and check a park map for food opportunities.   “Hey, there’s a place out on the point right near the bridge, views should be great, it’s only another ¾ mile.”  So on we go … only to discover that the map omitted one steensy detail:  there’s no path from the seawall to the café hundreds of feet above.  On we schlep, hungry and cranky, until we finally reach a beach with its requisite “desperation food” shack.  We walk up to order, only to find that it was robbed minutes ago by a guy who ran off with the till!  While the cops look for clues, our “chef” says we can buy food if we have cash – and exact change.  We tote up our meager Canadian dollars, compute a precisely affordable lunch, and finally get fed.  Whew!

What else … We ogled horologist [14] Raymond Saunders’ Gastown Steam Clock, had a marvelous Italian dinner at Al Porto Ristorante, [15] and endured the loooong AquaBus ride from downtown to Granville Island’s shops, galleries, and eateries.  We drove the Sea-to-Sky Highway, enjoyed a couple of waterfalls en route, and wandered the Alpine-flavored streets of Whistler Ski Resort.

The long voyage to Granville Island
Stawamus Chief (Peak-a-boo!)

On our way back to the U.S., we detoured 20 miles [16] to see a small town that Steve’s Intel team was using as a project code name – good geek fun.  Then we headed for the nearest border crossing, which we figured should be relatively uncrowded since it wasn’t the major one on the interstate.  A good plan … but flawed.  We crawled two hours in a bumper-to-bumper line of refugees fleeing the harsh rigors of Canadian life.  By comparison, it took us about 10 minutes to enter Canada a few days earlier.  Hmmmm …

Back to the Future

On our way home we overnighted in Seattle for an out-of-this-world experience.  The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame is chock full of famous first editions, memorabilia (Captain Kirk’s command chair, Darth Vader’s helmet), fantastic weaponry, robots, the Star Wars cantina, BEMs [17] like Sigourney Weaver’s Alien, and much more.  Steve was in heaven (or some planetary facsimile), but Janet enjoyed it too.  Pricy, but recommended if you’re in town.

Janet: Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Lush Life

One of the galleries [18] we hit on Granville Island had très chic hand-painted martini glasses on display.  Steve only had to sniff around them five or six times whining about how cool they were before Janet suggested we could give them a good home.  Hence our new hobby:  cocktails!  Steve is intensely proud of his first-ever cocktail shaker, Janet discovered that a citrotini [19] puts a blissful smile on her face, and we feel as suave as Nick and Nora Charles when we pour concoctions for our friends.  Second Wind rehearsals on Monday nights are further evidence we’re Hurtling Down the Road to Depravity; the early-arrivers have discovered the pleasures of a shared bottle of wine before we play. 

Extraordinarily civilized.

Click here to get a flavor of the snappy dialogue from The Thin Man.

Citrotinis, anyone?

When You Wish Upon a Star

What do you get when you cross a goofy marching band with Southern California?  Two completely different parade experiences!  The weekend before Thanksgiving, the Get a Life Marching Band flew south for a weekend of sun and silliness.  While waiting for Steve to arrive, [20] Janet spent a day fighting crime with her sidekick at Universal Studios.  We whiled away Saturday at the Disney theme parks, and then in the evening GAL led the Christmas Parade through the jam-packed streets of Disneyland! 

The band was decked out in new uniforms and on its best behavior to meet the buttoned-down standards needed to maintain the Disney mystique.  We met our stage manager near Toon Town, walked around a corner, disappeared through a “cast only” door, and instantly we were in the back lot.  After transforming from a ragtag group into a band, we walked past floats and trumpet players in life-size Parade of the Tin Soldier costumes, lined up behind a big gate, and started playing.  The gate swung back and BAM!  There we were on Main Street with people everywhere.  We boogied through the whole park in exuberant GAL fashion, disappeared through another gate, and suddenly it was over.  Dreams do come true; the magic lingers on.

"Don't get all clingy on me!"
*I* wanna be the princess!
Get a Life meets the Magic Kingdom


Camptown Ladies Sing This Song

The next morning we loaded up the buses and headed into the heart of Pasadena for the 29th annual Doo Dah Parade.  Doo Dah provides a counterbalance to the formality of the Pasadena Rose Parade [21] and is just a hair different.  How strange is it?  Well, it was easy to spot the registration table because it had an 8’ Raelian saucer flying high above it (see below). 

Parade units included Claude Rains & the 20-Man Memorial Invisible Man Marching Drill Team, [22] traditional house band Snotty Scotty and the Hankies, and the Bastard Sons of Lee Marvin (“white-haired god of the cinema”).  The BBQ & Hibachi Marching Grill Team wheeled a huge grill down the street while firing hot dogs into the crowd with bratapults.  

GAL was the most normal thing there by a looooong shot, [23] despite performing a street routine while leading the crowd in a rousing rendition of “YMCA” (which Steve arranged).  We figure we must have done something right since we had lots of tortillas hurled at us – a charming Doo Dah custom to indicate approval.

We even had fun while waiting for the parade to start.  The Travel Channel contacted us a week before we left to say they’d come by to film us during warm-ups.  The tricky part was that we couldn’t use any copyrighted music since they didn’t want to pay for usage rights if they broadcast the segment.  Since “tacit marching band” sounded like a bad idea, Janet and I took one of her original jazz solos and turned it into a little funk tune called GAL Groove.  With luck, you’ll hear it on the Travel Channel one of these days.

We'd show the rest, but ...
Look! Up in the sky!
Y-M-C-A! I wanna stay at the Y-M-C-A!


Be It Ever So Humboldt ...

Our other pre-parade entertainment was jamming with the Humboldt State Marching Lumberjacks, a band so strange we can’t even aspire to be like them. [24]   Anyway, the HSML were trading solo choruses on their funky version of Louie Louie when their bari sax player jumped into the circle and did an entire solo using only his mouthpiece!  Not to be outdone, our own Wayne De Vore yanked out his trumpet mouthpiece and buzzed away on the next chorus.  After another Lumberjack lick, Steve got ready to jump in for a turn ‘til a hand on his elbow pulled him back.  “We need a girl,” intoned Janet, and then she wailed. [25]   Girls rock!

Lumberjacks take a parade break
Steve & Intel banditos.
Explains the stock price, doesn't it?

Five O'Clock World

Yeah, we’re still employed.  After 11 years at Metro, Janet received her first-ever performance review; looks like they’re gonna keep her.  Steve’s got his fingers in many pies at Intel and was thrilled to receive the “Godfather of Soul of TSLRP” award, a foot-high animated James Brown that sings I Feel Good on demand.  He was also appointed co-chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology’s Workforce Alliance, working on diversity issues with a focus on career paths for technical women.


Believe it or not, we’ve only scratched the surface of the magnificent panoply of our lives.   We haven’t told you about winery hopping with one of our math profs from WKU days, or our delectable Christmas lunch in Dayton (snacks from a gas station, the only thing open), or our side trip to Mason, Ohio to see the amazing Carson Williams Christmas light display that swept the Internet like wildfire and eventually showed up in a Miller beer commercial. [26]  Steve hasn’t even bragged about his win in the Monday Night Competition of the 2005 Football Pool. [27]   But we see you glancing at your watch, [28] so we’ll close.  Stay healthy and happy!

 With love,

Steve & Janet

A proud FBP moment for Steve and the other 2005 champs
With cousins Randy & Rick Selleck

[1] Or perhaps “Giddyup!”

[2] In many parts of the world, this torture would be condemned.  Fortunately, our government takes a more enlightened position on such matters.

[3] For the absurdly curious among you (i.e., pretty much all of you), it wasn’t formally dubbed the Tattler until 1998.

[4] Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

[5] We swear we saw War, Famine, Pestilence, and Two-Base Overthrows riding the lightning-torn skies over Portland.  And really – we’ve never seen those colors in the sky before.

[6] “Old age and treachery triumph over youth and skill!”

[7] Our section of the band punctuated the drum riff with a periodic “Spank me!”

[8] True story he told us:  Fosbury invented the Flop because he was so bad at the straddle he was in danger of being cut from his high school track team!

[9] You know it’s serious when they call it “literature.”

[10] Or as one guy in the band calls it, “the cane of pain.”

[11] Since it’s not a nude band.

[12] Generally speaking, true of softball season as well.

[13] Honest – we’re not making this up!

[14] Stop sniggering - it means “clockmaker!”

[15] Janet: “You know it’ll cost more if it’s spelled that way!”

[16] In Canada, that’s 47 macroliters.

[17] Sci-fi talk for “Bug-Eyed Monsters.”

[18] Sounds so much more sophisticated than “tchotchke shops”, doesn’t it?

[19] In shaker, combine ice, 2½ oz Sweet & Sour mix, 1½ oz limoncello Italian liqueur from freezer, 1 oz triple sec.  Shake, strain, savor.  Ahhhh!

[20] Steve was scooting in from a business trip, taking a shortcut from Pittsburgh to LA via Atlanta.

[21] To be in the parade, you show up on Sunday morning, pay five bucks a head, line up somewhere in the street, and wait your turn. 

[22] A mummy-wrapped guy dressed in black with 30 feet of empty street behind him!

[23] Yes, we’re properly abashed.

[24] For instance, in this parade they laid down in the street to rest for a while, then played The Stripper while a few band members bared down to skivvies.

[25] Yes, Steve eventually got a turn so he didn’t have to mope through the whole parade.

[26] Unfortunately, the display was shut down because of traffic jams, but seeing the house was still cool.  Check it out at http://www.snopes.com/photos/arts/xmaslights.asp.

[27] Steve’s cousin Randy Selleck joined us for the season-ending pizza party, meeting his fellow competitors for the first time in 4 years since he lives in Centerville, Ohio!

[28] And praying for deliverance!