Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kiddie Party Time! Texas Style!

It is hard to entertain Kids these days. They live in a fast moving high tech world where it takes a lot to impress. This is especially true when it comes to planning their birthday parties. When I was little a birthday party meant having a maximum of 6 friends round for beef paste sandwiches and Jelly (made in the special rabbit mould that was only used for birthdays). If someone was really pushing the boat out they had French Fancies or Swiss roll. We couldn't afford French Fancies! Fortunately I hate French fancies so I was always very excited by party ring biscuits! Still am! Nothing like a sugar coated party ring!
There was no such thing as party bags. If you were lucky you got the prize from pass-the-parcel and a slice of home made birthday cake! These days party bags are such a nightmare. I have spent many a sleepless night worrying about whether I’ll measure up with my party bag offerings! The world of party bags is very competitive, and it isn’t limited to party bags. My daughter went to one party where there was a basket of toy fluffy cute puppies at the door, for each girl to take one as they left. I’m surprised they weren’t real pooches! In my day the party bag was the girl who had already started puberty early and behaved inappropriately with someone’s brother, or worse, their dad! Still is!
In America my son’s birthday is well into the Summer holiday so I was at a loss as to what to do as there are only a few of his friends around. My daughter had her party at a place called Gatti–Town! You can eat as much Pizza as you want and I have to confess to loving their coconut and custard pizza (I know! Irresistible!) but that aside it was as vulgar as it sounds! You buy each party guest a ‘credit card’ which they use to gamble on Amusement arcade type games. They win tickets which they can exchange for tat. A $25 card will win them enough tickets to exchange for around $2 worth of absolute shite. The kids love it. They expect at least $25 each on their cards! One of her friends manically tried to win a big ball in one of those grab machines. Each go cost $2.50. The balls are for sale in Wal-mart for $2. Two of the girls managed to get a ball. She spent her whole card trying to get one in the first 10 minutes of arriving. I had to buy her another card so that she wasn’t sitting alone for an hour with bugger all to do, while I walked round with huge balls! I don’t want to go there again (except for the pizza pudding) I really don’t want to engage in such blatant corruption of small children again. It encourages gambling and a desire for big balls at the very least.
There is no point taking him to somewhere like the new $60 million Pleasure Pier at Galveston. Not only will there be height restrictions on some of the rides which will be sure to frustrate and disappoint the Birthday Boy but it will be worse than Blackpool! Redneck heaven! ‘Galveston’, ‘Pleasure’, and ‘Ride’ are not words that should be naturally associated unless you’ve been on the moonshine or you are on holiday to Galveston from Kentucky with your cousins!
I have found something authentic for his birthday. Something that is Texan through and through and it is very local! A birthday party at the local Gun range! I don’t accept the obvious criticism that a party atmosphere in the context of firearms for children is wrong, misguided, dangerous or irresponsible! I know some kids get a sugar rush after cake but it’s not like they’ll be doing anything dangerous - just firing off a few rounds! This is Texas FFS! Better still, there is no age limit and the only height requirement is that the kids can see over the shooting tables (approx 36” so even toddlers might qualify!)
There are some rules from the Arms Room in Houston to ensure maximum health and safety:

  1. Keep muzzle pointed down range AT ALL TIMES. Do not point a weapon at anything you do not want to destroy.
Best make sure siblings are not together then at the party… oh and the class weirdo that no one likes. Don’t invite him. Have you read ‘There’s something about Kevin’? It starts when they are young.
  1. Index your finger out of the trigger guard. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
Have you ever played any sort of competitive game with a 7 year old where they have to wait? They never wait until the ‘Go’ on ‘Ready, Steady…’ I knew a trained professional police office who once ignored this rule to his complete shame! He put his finger on the trigger, got over excited and discharged his fire arm all over the place. Very messy!
  1. Do not load firearm until ready to shoot. Loaded firearms must always remain in the shooting stall, pointed down range.
Confusing! Once loaded and ready to shoot how can you shoot if they have to remain in the shooting stall? Apply a small child logic and that rule has none! I have a small child mentality and it isn’t logical!
  1. Hearing and eye protection must be worn AT ALL TIMES when on the range.
This will work, because my son always wears the nerf gun safety glasses and never purposely shoots anyone else in the face with foam bullets.
  1. Absolutely no running or horseplay when on the range. All children must be under adult supervision AT ALL TIMES.
Children! Absolutely no running or horseplay …at a birthday party where everyone is over excited. Don’t be having any fun! Oh and parents – control your f**king own children. I can barely control my own!
  1. No shooting from the hip or quick drawing. Fire from chest level or above only.
So, kids, all those cowboy movies you’ve seen where the hero quick draws and kills all the baddies… Not at this party! No Fancy Nancy gun slinging here! No rootin tootin paula style twizzling of your guns!
  1. Everyone must obey the instructions/directions of the Range Safety Officer AT ALL TIMES.
  2. In the event of the Range Safety Officer ordering a Cease Fire: UNLOAD your firearm, place your firearm on the bench (pointing down range), and step back off the firing line.
As a teacher I know, according to professional research, it takes 5 seconds for student’s brains to disengage from whatever it was they were focused on in order to focus on an instruction from me. As a mother I know that is just bollocks and kids will do whatever they like at a birthday party (or anywhere else for that matter. Selective hearing is an art form of the young!)
Oh…and that small child logic? If they have obeyed rule number 4 and have their hearing protection on they have a perfect excuse not to hear any adults!
  1. When leaving the firing line: All weapons MUST BE UNLOADED, locked in the open position (with chamber visible) and carried in a safe manner off the firing line.
No last minute Dirty Harry shoot out to be the last man standing! This isn’t musical chairs with a difference. Everyone must still have legs to stand on! Are you listening Kevin?

For my fortieth birthday, ‘friends’ took me paint balling. It was great. I got shot in the head and had pink paint running down my face to prove it. Those paint balls hurt! The big issue for that was how much ammo to buy. Too much and it can get out of hand. Too little is no party at all! I confess I went completely over the top and got paint grenades and smoke bombs and way too many paint ball bullets! I got shot so quickly every round I didn’t get chance to shoot anyone else! I thought I was Rambo! Children were not allowed to go paint balling as it was seen as too dangerous! Texas is a proper place. They give the kids real guns for fun at the kiddy ‘birthday cake and guns’ party. My big dilemma will be how much ammo to apportion each child! There will always be one trigger happy mo-fo that uses up all the ammo in the first 5 minutes and spoils it for everyone else! Especially if the kiddy in question is called Kevin, didn’t much like the other kids and abided firmly by rule no.1.

Addition September 2014
After writing this blog, in August 2014 a 9 year old shot dead her instructor at a firing range in Arizona, with an Uzi. There really is nothing funny in the message of my blog. It is deadly serious. There is something deeply disturbing and tragic about the American psyche. It's no laughing matter. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Something Fishy!

I have a fish phobia. There are several incidents I can connect to this but I’m not sure which ones caused the phobia and which are the result of my dislike for all things fishy!
When I was very young my Dad would take me fishing with him, in the early hours of the morning. Why is it that fishermen feel the need to go fishing at 4am? Are fish nocturnal? Are they early risers? Being dragged out of bed at 4am to sit on a freezing cold riverbank for hours on end may have been the start of my dislike.
I’m not sure if it was the horrid little wriggling gold fish in the net or the smell of my sister’s rancid fish tank made me heave when I was forced to clean it after she left home and abandoned her fish but by the time I was in my teens I had a serious aversion to fish! One once leaped for freedom from the tank and my little Jack Russell dog picked it up and delivered it to me in my bed! It is painful to relive the moment! Too Gross!
I don’t mind eating them as long as they no longer resemble fish! Live fish make me physically heave! I once virtually cut my finger in half trying to chop the head off a trout I was going to cook without looking at it. The first time I met hubby’s whole family was at his Grandmother’s birthday. I ordered fish and prawns but to my horror they arrived with all their shells and bits still attached. I pulled a head off a prawn and yellow snotty gunge oozed out while the fish looked at me through its milky boiled eye! I eat nothing and blamed my subsequent level of inebriation on lack of food. It, or should I say I, failed to ever impress the future in-laws but his 80 odd year old grandmother enjoyed the show and the family discord that followed!
I probably shouldn’t say this but my own dear grandmother used to fish …on the settee! Perhaps some gynecological problem related to old age! It certainly left an impression on me!
When we moved to a house with a double garage I got hubby a pool table for Christmas and installed a brand new beer fridge in the garage. The fridge had barely cooled when my mother house sat for a week. She has a fisherman friend and was often the lucky recipient of Seaman Stains’ catch from his little tug boat on the high seas. When I returned there was a gigantic dead salmon in there, with head, bitey teeth and blood dripping! It was so huge it had to be curled round on the empty self so it could fit in! I think that was the moment I switched to red wine which doesn’t need to be chilled. Indeed, fish may be the route cause of my alcoholism! …and I never played pool!
The local supermarket here in Houston boasts a live crawfish fest every weekend they have a huge vat of live crawfish (crayfish) that look like a cross between huge beetles and cockroaches. There are big tongs to use to pick out the best for your crawfish gumbo. . I don’t understand how a nation with so little taste and so lazy (you can buy spray cheese and all your vegetables ready chopped – if you are insane enough to cook and not eat out) buys living, whole creatures to boil alive! I try not to look every week but it has the same pull as a car crash. I head to the wine aisle quickly afterwards!
I have been driven to drink again today by fish, lest I dwell on the new horror I face here in Texas. I have spent the day vacuuming and spaying toxic bug killer that, knowing America will contain chemicals known to render my children infertile, but is completely acceptable because it kills the bugs! The cause of this frenzied activity? No! Not acceptance of my lot as a desperate house wife …I will never surrender on that one! It is my fear of fish. I don’t care that SILVER FISH are not technically fish; they look and move like a fish -out of water. I could accept that they might lurk in damp dark bathrooms but I found one in the wardrobe on an item of clothing! That means they could be anywhere! They like eating books, clothing, hair and dandruff and while they can live a year without food they wont need to in my bedroom with all those things in abundant supply! They like it hot and humid! So did I till I discovered them! Welcome to Texas!
The bastards are nocturnal! As I go to bed tonight, glass of red in one hand, Dyson hand held vac in the other (and hubby in Detroit where it is cold and dry and silverfish free) I will reminisce fondly of those early mornings on the river bank with my father … because , come to think of it, he never actually caught a fish!