Tuesday, July 31, 2007

College and Cookies in California

(Malibu)- We visited Pepperdine University today. I can't imagine any college campus being more spectacular. There are two more colleges on the scedule tomorrow. Hopefully, we will finish with a flourish. We have tickets to see the Dodgers play the Giants. Barry Bonds comes to Chavez Ravine just one home run short of tying Hank Aaron's career record of 755. No fans hate Bonds more than Dodgers' fans. It should be interesting.
We did connect with our prodigal daughter. We drove around Hollywood and Beverly Hills, then had dinner in Westwood Village. We wrapped up the evening with cookies at Diddy Riese. It's been a long day, but Pepperdine is worth the effort and it was great to see the girl. I think she was happy to see us, too. Her experience so far has been spectacular; so it's with an overwhelming feeling of ambivalence that at the end of the evening, we watched her walk away from us without the slightest hesitation. I guess we will see her again in a couple of weeks.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

L.A., Baby!

(Los Angeles)-It's been a wacky travel day. I flew from Laredo to Houston to L.A., while the wife and son flew from Shreveport to Atlanta to L.A. The flights were without incident. In fact, mine arrived a little early.
We are all exhausted, of course, and trying to adjust to a Pacific Time Zone schedule, which isn't so easy. I had to see the Pacific Ocean, which is something that doesn't happen very often for me. So, we stopped by Venice Beach to smell the salt air and watch the Californians go by. This isn't a vacation, really. We're here to look over a handful of California colleges. The son has a notion he wants to go west when the time comes in about a year. We'll see how that goes. This is an enormous decision. It's a little stressful.
I'm also looking forward to L.A. traffic. Yep. I have to find my way around southern California on a Monday morning. Not that it will help, but I've already learned a little of the language. Today, I've been on "The Five," "the Four-Oh-five" and the Santa Monica Freeway, not to mention the Pacific Coast Highway.
To let you know how things are going, I'll have my people get in touch with your people.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wings Win in Laredo

(Laredo, TX) – Little-used WR Tramissian Davis torched the Laredo Lobos for four touchdown catches to lead the Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings to a 51-29 win over the Laredo Lobos.
Davis caught scoring passes of 25, 29, 40 and 20 yards from Quincy Carter to earn offensive player of the game honors.
Jason Schule, who ran for two touchdowns and gained 21 yards on seven carries, was named Iron Man of the game. Defensive honors went to BattleWings DB Phillip Geiggar, who intercepted a pass and had 5.5 tackles.
Only twelve points were scored in the first quarter, as it ended in a 6-6 tie. The BattleWings led 16-13 at the half.. They found an offensive rhythm in the third quarter, scoring 35 second half points. Carter completed 21 of 35 passes with five touchdowns, four to Davis and one to Jamaal Perry. Perry was the leading receiver, catching 11 passes for 131 yards.
The BattleWings finish the regular season with 11 wins and 5 losses, the best record in franchise history. They will play the Arkansas Twisters in the first round of the af2 playoffs next weekend. The Twisters and the BattleWings split their regular season meetings.
The Lobos finish their inaugural af2 season with one win and fifteen losses.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
Battlewings 6 10 14 21 51 Record: (11-5)
Lobos 6 7 7 9 29 Record: (1-15)

PASSING: James Pickney (LAR) 40-27-1-296 3 TD’s;
Quincy Carter (BSB) 35-21-0 5 0 TD’s
RECEIVING: Corey Ready (LAR) 9-93-1 TD; Jamaal Perry (BSB) 11-131-1 TD’s, Tramissian Davis 5-129 4 TD’s

Schutt Offensive Player of the Game: Tramissian Davis
U.S. Army Ironman: Jason Schule
ADT Defensive Player of the Game: Phillip Geiggar
Cutters Catch of the Game: Corey Ready (LAR)

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Late to Lovely Laredo

(Laredo, TX) - What was to be a two-night stay in this legendary border town has been significantly shortened by some kind of weather event. I was scheduled to fly through Houston last night, but we would not be allowed to land there because of heavy thuderstorms; so, what's the point? I stayed home, changed airlines and came through Dallas this morning.
The flights were made noteworthy by the people seated near me. On the plane from Shreveport was a woman, sitting directly behind me, who apparently was from deeply rural north Louisiana. Somehow, her accent gave her away. The frequency and tone of her exclamations seemed to indicate she doesn't fly much.
Moments that veteran air travelers would scarcely notice (like taking off and landing) brought out this lady's Love of the Lord, or some approximation of it. She started with a robust "Gah Dawg!" Apparently, this is a soul-saving version of the legendary "G.D. curse." One should never take the Lord's name in vain, but it's okay under stress to utter a tribute to a generic canine. The more we moved along, the closer she came to invoking the name of some deity. "For heaven's sake!" was next. Then, as her discomfort began to mount, we got an "Oh mah Loward!" We finally landed safely. She departed while hoping for everyone's safety as she removed her carry-on from the overhead compartment, saying "Ah sure hope ah don't hit nobody in the hay-id with this suitcase." So do we, ma'am. Happy travels.
The next leg of the journey was a regional jet classic. One row behind me was a beleaguered young mother. Her toddler son screamed...SCREAMED in Spanish, without stopping, for the duration of the flight. He SCREAMED SO MUCH that about an hour into the proceedings, he became hoarse. This made the screaming, if possible, more irritating. When we prepared for landing, the poor mom was holding the little guy in her lap. This is, of course, unsafe not to mention a violation of federal regulations. The flight attendant instructed her to put the boy in his own seat with his seatbelt fastened. This led to screaming, crying, kicking and whining. Yes, it all can be done at once, even in Spanish.
I had my Quiet Comfort headphones to help me through. There were people near me, though, who were actually on the verge of tears as they dealt with the frustration. It was so bad that the flight attendant apologized to us individually as we were deplaning.
Oh, Mah Loward. I have never been so happy to be alone in a quiet hotel room.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dispatches From the West Coast

My daughter is far away from home, and apparently couldn't be happier about it. I can't confirm her happiness, because so far she has refused to call us. Through the magic of text messaging, we can assume she is alive and well in Los Angeles. The little snippets of phone-type have given us glimpses of her life at the moment.
We know she is staying in a dorm on a specific university campus. Otherwise, we must be content with fragments of information delivered by cellular device in one to two sentences dispatches:
"I'm busy. I'm sorry. I'll call when I can." (Still no call)
"I'm on a bus with two girls from Miami, one from Boston and one from Maine."
"I've let y'all slip out a couple of times. They think my southern accent is cool."
"In my suite, there's a girl from Hong Kong, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and Paris. Also from Michigan and California."
I like her geographical references: Two cities, three countries, two states.
"I've met some very awesome people, especially in my suite."
"There's much freedom. It's awesome"
"We sailed today at Marina del Rey" "I'm shopping at Westwood." That sounds pretty good to me, considering she's been there two days so far. She's gone for three more weeks.
The text messages my wife is getting have a different tone. While I'm getting raw data about activities, Mom is getting observational messages. She's reading about developing interpersonal relationships.
This trip was a little scary for my wife. She put her daughter on a plane and then cried as it taxied away. I'm excited that my daughter is having these kinds of experiences and interactions; although I admit I miss her.
I somehow suspect my daughter, as we knew her, will never return.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Weary Skies

(Somewhere over America)- I know there are people who do this kind of thing routinely, but I'm not one of them. In the last 48 hours, I have been in Memphis, Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Detroit, Houston and Shreveport. I've been on big planes, small planes and one prop job. It's fun in its own way, and also a little exhausting.
To make this all the more unusual for my family, my daughter is flying in exactly the opposite direction. While I was between Detroit and Houston, she jumped on a jet bound for Los Angeles. She will be gone for three weeks, ostensibly learning a little about college life while while staying in a dorm at UCLA. The film making classes and the water sports had nothing whatsoever with her decision to make the trip.
My wife is overly emotional, having watched her baby girl get on an airplane bound for the big city. She didn't set out to be a mom to a jet-setter teenager.
Things will be unsettled at the house for a while, it appears. As for me, I'll just be happy to get home to my own bathroom. Then, I'll just lie still for a few minutes and I should be okay.
For the record, I had six flights in three days on six different planes using three different airlines. Every flight departed right on time and landed when it was supposed to. Somebody's living right.

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Pounded in Pennsylvania

(Wilkes –Barre, PA) – The Scranton – Wilkes Barre Pioneers intercepted three Quincy Carter passes and recovered a fumble at their own one-yard line on the way to a convincing 50-28 win over the slumping Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings. Pioneers’ quarterback Ryan Vena threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more to help his team improve to 14-1. The BattleWings have lost three of their last four games to fall to 10-5.
The Pioneers scored first and didn’t trail. On their first two possession of the game, Vena tossed scoring passes to Tyreak Saviour and Marcus Furman to lead 14-0. The BattleWings responded with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Carter to Jason Schule to make it 14-7 in the first quarter, but that was as close as they would get.
The BattleWings were sill in the game, trailing 20-7 in the second quarter with a 1st and goal at the Wilkes Barre one yard line. Three times, Jason Schule attempted to run for a score. On 3rd down, Troy Blackwell forced a fumble, which the Pioneers recovered. They went 49 yards in just five plays to score a touchdown which made the score 27-7. They never looked back.
Saviour caught two touchdown passes and Buchie Ibeh had one for Wilkes Barre/ Scranton. Terrance Glover ran for a score, as well.
The bright spot for Shreveport-Bossier was wide receiver Jamaal Perry, who caught ten passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Perry earned offensive player of the game honors.
Pioneers DB Chris royal, who intercepted Carter three times, was named defensive player of the game, while Wilkes Barre/Scranton’s Dog Harding earned Iron Man honors.
The Battlewings will close out their regular season next Saturday night in Laredo before starting the playoffs in two weeks. Their first-round playoff opponent is yet to be determined.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sights From the Heights: Fountains and Mountains

(Wilkes Barre, PA) - Having squeezed all the joy I could from the Susquehanna River (see below), given my limited time and resources, it was time to experience a little bit more of Wilkes Barre. I didn't realize that Christopher Columbus discovered Pennsylvania. Okay, maybe he didn't, but there's a statue of him in downtown WB nonetheless. It's right beside the lovely fountain which which looks just like the dancing waters you might see anywhere else.
I walked up a steep rise to stand in the shadow of the mountains and then made my way back to the hotel for a bite to eat. There is widespread complaining about the food here, but mine was pretty good. PJ took one bite of his potatoes and pushed them away. Dannie said his food was "sorry." Joe ordered prime rib and said, "it was cooked awesome, but I forgot I'm in the north. No seasoning. It sucked." Quincy said the highlight of his food on this trip has been a Dunkin' Donut. If you think about it, with the possible exception of Philly cheese steak, Pennsylvania doesn't seem to have a signature food item.
It's all about perspective. After all, were in Wilkes Barre. We could just have easily been in Scranton, and who knows what might have happened there?
Near the downtown fountain is a sign which reads "Public bathing is strictly prohibited." Yet, it is quite common to see children running through the dancing waters. I guess if you bust out the Zest and the Panteen Pro-V, you've crossed the line. " /

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Pleased in Pennsylvania

(Wilkes-Barre, PA) - Welcome to wonderful Wilkes-Barre, nestled neatly on the beautiful banks of the sleepy Susquehanna. This Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce moment is brought to you by Arena Football, which brings our traveling party to this unlikely destination somewhere in the middle of the Keystone State.
The place really is pretty, and it's getting better. A major development is underway along the city's riverfront. It's a big pile of dirt at the moment, but the renderings posted publicly indicate the largely neglected downtown waterfront will soon be transformed into something of a showplace. Highly-regarded Wilkes University is situated in a stately setting near the river and King's College is nearby.
I learned all this by fundamental means. I took a walk along the river. We are staying at a downtown hotel, right on the public square. We are surrounded by mountains and the weather is perfect, sunny with temperatures in the high 70's.
When I left, I wasn't sure if I was going to Scranton or Wilkes-Barre. The airport is actually in Avoca, so we could have gone either way. Since the hotel and the arena are in WB, I guess this is the place to be; and there's nothing wrong with that.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Freedom and Fear in North Louisiana

If you want to see happy, find a young driver. The feelings of freedom, mobility and power combine to create quite a rush. Mix in the inevitable sense of invincibility that comes along with being a teenager, and you have reason to smile.
If you want to see worry lines develop before your very eyes, find the father of a young driver. A look of stark terror can be found embossed on the face of Dear Old Dad.
Ride shotgun with a 15-year old girl behind the wheel, and you feel alive! You also feel as though you are near death at essentially any second. Toes curl, knuckles blanche, the heart races, pupils dilate and respiration rate increases. It's like being on a thrill ride with none of the thrills and all of the chills.
They accelerate too quickly and don't brake soon enough. They don't look both ways. They park too close to the next car. They don't understand the dynamics of driving in a parking lot. They don't grasp that every other driver on the road is an irresponsible dolt in charge of a 2,000 pound missile of death.
That, of course, is why Dear Old Dad has to spend a year of his life riding with the 15-year-old driver. Entirely too soon, she will be a 16-year-old driver, out there on the streets alone. Now, that will curl your toes.

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My Weekend in South Bossier

(Bossier City) - It seems I spent my entire weekend in one building. Saturday night, my little Arena football team played its final regular-season home game for this year and lost by three points. It's okay; they're in the playoffs. So, we might be back in the arena. The game was remarkable because there were four ejections for fighting in the first quarter. Nobody really wants to see that, but the crowd was jazzed up early and the game went down to the final seconds before the outcome was determined. Overall, it was a fun evening.
24 hours later, the arena had been transformed into a concert venue. I was excited to see the country group Little Big Town.
They were opening for Martina McBride, and I was happy to stick around for her part of the show, too. Okay, I undersold Martina McBride to myself. More on that in a moment.
Last year, while driving home from one of my weekend football trips, I ran across an interview show on XM radio. Little Big Town was the featured group. I liked their story and the way they presented themselves. Then, some of their songs were played. I was hooked. I bought their new CD the first day it was available. My teenage daughter and some of her friends even have LBT songs on their iPods now, so I'm spreading the love. I guess I'm not the only one to say this, but they sound a lot like Fleetwood Mac, with a little country/ swamp infusion. During the show, they covered the Mac classic "Go Your Own Way," and it sounded terrific. I was very pleased, and I think my wife is now a convert.
I haven't paid much attention to Martina McBride. Even though I seem to go to a lot of country shows, I'm not a huge country music fan. But, hey, this is Louisiana and that's what we get. I try to get out some, so I go to country shows. Can I just say she blew me away? I didn't realize how many of her songs I know. Duh. She's a mega-star. She displayed uncommon emotion at one point. Early on, she apologized to the crowd because she was suffering from a cold. Although she didn't say, surley she considered not performing. When it came time to sing the uncommonly challenging "Broken Wing," she stopped and spoke. "This song is either going to be good...well, it won't be good. It might be be passable or it's going to suck," McBride said. "I wish I had recorded easier songs to sing." She nailed it. The crowd responded with an ear-splitting ovation which moved McBride to tears. Her composure hanging in the balance, she confessed "I was so nervous before I came out here because I thought y'all would be disapponted..." Then, she turned away and cried for a moment more. The crowd was putty in her hands for the rest of the evening.
She covered some classics, songs I used to hear in my dad's truck: Loretta Lynn, Sammi Smith, Jeannie C. Reilly, and introduced a few new songs of her own. She sounded slightly raspy at times and had to work a little too hard for some high notes, but nobody cared. She blew it out and blew everyone away during an encore when she nailed Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." She said it was a night she will never forget and she can't wait to come back. If she does, I'll be there. Consider me a convert.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

David and Wendy's Glory Days Are Gone

This photo borrowed from the Associated Press brought back a flood of memories for me, as did the story associated with it. The masses have strong feelings about what has been going on with David Vitter.
Anybody runs the risk of having his private proclivities exposed when he runs for public office. Vitter certainly knew he was at risk when he engaged in the activities which have him so much hot water.
Now, it seems he is in hiding, and who can blame him? His demeanor is no doubt in stark contrast to what it was on this night. Work led me to the Vitter election night party. I had not met the man or any of his family, but he and his wife both were engaging as if they were welcoming a new friend. They seemed so happy, almost picture-perfect as their kids squirmed around the room the next morning essentially oblivious to what their father had gotten them into.
The image was carefully crafted, which everyone in the room knew intuitively. Yet, somehow the senator-elect and his wife came across as David and Wendy with their cute, rambunctuous kids. Maybe that's exactly who they are. Maybe their marriage will survive this. Maybe they'll have a chance once again just to be David and Wendy.
For the moment, I simply recall the look I saw in Wendy Vitter's eyes during that evening and morning in Metarie. I swear, I thought it was love and admiration for her husband.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wings Win Big at Home

(Bossier City, LA) – The Bossier – Shreveport BattleWings snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Arkansas Twisters, won their tenth game of the season and clinched the franchise’s first playoff spot with a 53-29 win.
BattleWings quarterback Quincy Carter was virtually flawless, completing 21 of 28 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. For his efforts, Carter was named the offensive payer of the game.
The BattleWings defense frustrated Arkansas Quarterback Brian Villanueva, intercepting him twice and applying consistent defense pressure, which forced him to rush many of his passes. The Twisters were held without a score until they went 41 yards on 7 plays to get a Villanueva to Jon Schoonover touchdown pass which trimmed the Battlewings lead to 23-7 with 2:03 remaining in the first half.
The Wings, who scored on every possession, amassed the 23-0 lead on the strength of two Jason Schule touchdown runs, a Brian Hazelwood field goal and a 21 yard touchdown pass from Carter to Jamaal Perry. Hazelwood added a 17 yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to give the Wings a 26-7 halftime advantage.
Schule, who scored three rushing touchdowns, gained 36 yards on nine carries, caught two passes and played kick coverage, was named Iron Man of the game.
The BattleWings opened the second-half scoring by covering 40 yards in eight plays. The drive was capped by Schule’s one-yard touchdown plunge on 4th and goal.
Manwell Talbert led BattleWings receivers, catching eight passes for 122 yards, which included a 42-yard grab from Carter. Perry had 2 touchdown catches, the second a 35-yard reception in the fourth quarter that capped the scoring. P.J. Winston caught three passes for 50 yards and a score.
Phillip Geiggar snuffed out the final Twisters’ threat when he intercepted Villanueva with 2:30 remaining in the game.
Chris Ibezim, who had a spectacular missed field goal return to set up a touchdown, an interception and eight tackles, was named defensive player of the game.
The Battlewings improve to 10-3 in 2007, assuring they will have the best regular season record in franchise history. They also clinched the team’s first-ever playoff spot, and for the moment took away the tie-break advantage for playoff seeding from the Twisters.
The Battlewings will host the once-defeated Rio Grande Valley Dorados in their final 2007 regular-season home game next Saturday. The Dorados’ only loss came at the hands of the BattleWings, 52-48 on April 21st.

Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
Arkansas Twisters 0 7 14 8 29 Record: (9-4)
Bossier-Shrv BattleWings 10 16 13 14 53 Record: (10-3)

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Great Place to Be

Wallowing in the morass of middle age, I watch my children with fascination and a fair dose of envy. My 17-year-old may not realize it, but things are really going his way. He has a part-time job which earns him some walking-around money but minimally impacts his freedom. The cash may actually provide him more opportunity for independence, if you think about it.
He is spending a classic high school summer, hanging around with his girlfriend and-or a buddy, all the while having no real responsibilities. It's the way it should be for a child not of privilege, but as a product of a family who has enough to provide him with a fex luxuries. This photo sums it up well.
I find myself staring at it. He looks happy there in his car. It's shiny, he's smiling and his surroundings are beautiful. There's hope there, a picture of a contented today with the promise of a brighter tomorrow. At 17, he's ready to launch. His father's image is faintly reflected in the car's finish as the young man looks at him with with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. He is in control of a vehicle which is taking him where he wants to go. In the split second after this photo was taken, the reflection was replaced with another and the boy's father was behind him, remembered but unseen.
What a great place to be.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

4th of July Madness

I just don't get it. On Independence Day, people take leave of their senses and blow things up for no reason. The Happy Couple, both gainfully employed, went against parental judgment and bought a bunch of junk at a local fireworks stand. The noise, the smell, and the mess just make me insane.
I like good fireworks as much as the next guy, but these are not fireworks. These are wastes of cash and wastes of time. Tonight, at the country club near our house, they will send up professional fireworks. I will be in my back yard with a magnificent seat. Downtown, there will be a spectacular fireworks show for the multitdues. Isn't that something like a thousand per Cent better than what's been going on in my front yard today?
I know, I know. I'm no fun. Not only am I on the brink of becoming a doddering old fool; I think I may have already morphed into the Grumpy Old Man. Happy Fourth of July.

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Humiliation at the Discount Store

I stand on the precipice of becoming a doddering old fool. I’m forgetting numbers and names, spilling food on myself; and now I’m becoming oblivious to my surroundings. A routine trip to Target for some last-minute 4th of July supplies slapped me in the face with the newest notion.
After buying soft drinks, a couple of steaks and a few other things (A couple of dozen items, an important detail), I went to the check-out lane. There was one person in front of me, paying. I started piling my items on the conveyor belt. Shavonsa, the lovely check-out girl, was staring at me. The conveyor belt was not moving. Something was amiss, but who knew what it was? Shavonsa, that’s who. After another awkward silence and an obvious lack of action, she looked at me and said in her sweet, inimitable Shavonsa way, “Ahmo check you out, but this be the spress lane.” I looked and, and well it sure be. The sign quite clearly requires one to have 10 items or less to gain access to Shavonsaland. I apologized and offered to go somewhere else; but being as how “they isn’t nobody behind you” (Love the Shavonsa), I was allowed to stay.
I appreciate Shavonsa’s politeness and flexibility, truly. I have learned another life lesson, for I am now a reformed harsh judger of those who abuse the express lane. They’re not inconsiderate idiots; they’re just formerly focused folks who have become aimless souls.
The express lane to old age is a dizzying place. Try to keep your balance.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Another Sure Sign of Aging

I have a legendary ability to recall numbers. Series of numbers, series of digits, it doesn't matter. I remember every phone number I've ever had. I remember my father's office number, and the business has been closed since 1980. I recall both phone numbers at my best friend's childhood home. People at work know I have ridiculous numerical recall. Once, in a college psychology class we did an exercise where a series of numbers was read aloud and we were asked to recite them in reverse order. I won the competition handily. I've always been proud of this little gift.
Last night, I pulled into my neighorhood and the gate was closed. No sweat. I pulled up to the keypad and couldn't remember my gate code. It's four digits.
It dawned on my that I was in trouble when I realized I was keying in my phone number for some absurd reason. Then, absentmindedly, I put in my ATM PIN. That didn't work. I started rifling through a mental Rolodex: Windows password, e-mail password, laptop password, pascode for my voicemail. The gate code would not reveal itself.
Sitting in my car foolishly staring at the screen, I called my daughter on her cell phone. That number, I remembered. I just said, "I'm having a brain tumor and can't remember the gate code." She reminded me and I made way way through the gate safely.
For a good time call 867-5309. Rikki, Don't lose that number. Four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie. 88 piano keys. 13 stripes on the American flag. 444 days of the Iranian hostage crisis. 5280 feet in a mile. Four quarts in a gallon. I could go on and on, but who wants that? It's getting old that's got my number.

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