Friday, June 23, 2017

Livermore Rodeo 2017

The Livermore Rodeo, "The World's Fastest Rodeo" occurs annually the second weekend in June. Usually our summer has gotten a good start and it is typically quite hot that weekend. We historically have avoided sitting in the direct sun for a couple hours to watch the rodeo, although we have done it on occasion in the past. This year, the second weekend was breezy and sunny, temperatures in the high 60's, and not at all like the heat wave we were about to have the third week of June where temperatures reached triple digits. I'd forgotten about the rodeo until the sounds of the Saturday morning rodeo parade drifted down to our house from the short distance away. The weather was so gorgeous Saturday June 10th that Frank and I decided to walk downtown and catch the tail end of the parade.

As we leisurely strolled the few blocks to a vantage point on the parade route, Frank and I reminisced about when the kids were younger and how the parade had been such a huge event. We'd carry chairs, and water bottles, and snacks and be there almost an hour before the parade began to get good curbside seats so the kids could see it all. We recalled Robin, over three decades ago, semi-reclined in her umbrella stroller, taking a long draw from her bottle of ice water. With an exaggerated smack of her lips she uttered a long satisfied "Ahhhh" that made Frank and me burst into spontaneous laughter. Now he and I walked along the route, not pausing to find a seat, and watched a few horse formations.

Although we'd missed hearing the high school and middle school bands, we were able to enjoy a mobile mariachi band.

We passed by the owners of our local toy store CooleyKatz TOYS, standing near the entry door, in front of the display window. They are a really neat couple with many grandkids and a love for the toys they select and sell. We visit their store often for our grandkids and for Alex. They have a great sense of humor and happily posed for us wearing their matching parade spectator outfits.

Normally we do not attend the rodeo because it is too hot, but again, since the weather was so fantastic, we impulsively ducked into Baughman's Western Outfitters, our local store for boots, hats, and equestrian supplies, to see if they were still selling rodeo tickets. They were not, but they informed us we could get some online when we got home. We took time to pat the horse mannequin out front and take in the display of boots within before leaving.

Once home, we bought three tickets for Frank, Alex, and me for the next day. They were in the center in some low numbered row bleacher seats that were pretty close with a great view of the action.

I picked up Alex from his home shortly after his lunch and we drove over to the rodeo grounds. Here is Alex at the entrance.

Our seats were not initially in the shade but soon the shadow of the canopy covered us. We were delightfully comfortable, even donning a light coverup because of the gentle breezes. Alex busied himself studying the program. Whatever event we go to, he consistently does this intently.

Here were the events, although they were not necessarily in this order. Bull riding had been rescheduled to be last.

The opening ceremonies were strongly patriotic, with a huge flag unfurled and waving in the center of the arena.

The music throughout was fun, a great blend of country western selections. Alex did love the songs, the hubbub of the people, and the general spectator antics; but the events themselves were not of great interest to him. With a duration of 3 seconds to 8 seconds, by the time I had him looking in the right place, the bronco or bull ride, or the roping endeavor was over. The barrel racing worked better since that took a bit longer – on the order of 3 to 4 minutes.

There was only one very close call. During the final bull ride of the day, when the rider fell off, the bull went after him. The rodeo clown and several cowboys had their hands full jumping into full distraction mode until the dumped rider could scramble to safety. After the rodeo, we had dinner with Alex before taking him back to his home. It had been a glorious day for a fun, unique outing. There is something to be said for spontaneity.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ponder Post: May Birthdays

June is about two-thirds over, and I am late blogging about the end of May birthdays. Alex and I share the same day. Alex turned 31. I turned 64 – a perfect cube in age and shape!  For completeness and tradition, this serves as our official birthday post. There is a perk in being a bit delayed, though; I am able to add some information on my using my present from Frank.

Alex's home had their annual party for him, at which they served a meal of his favorite foods: home made lumpia, pizza, and spaghetti.

Capping off this meal, instead of a big cake, Alex got to enjoy blowing out the candles on a special uber decorated cupcake.

Wearing his birthday-boy blue lei Alex poses for a photo. I was given a birthday-girl pink lei to wear during the party.

Alex breaks into a big grin while all sing ♪ Happy Birthday ♪ to him. He then waits for all to count to three, ONE, TWO, THREE - multiple times - before he blows out the candles.

Afterwards, Alex opened up his gifts. Staff members each picked out a shirt for him. Alex chilled on the couch with his new wardrobe draped over him soaking in all the compliments about how handsome he looked.

Frank and I buy dull clothes. Baby, Marian, and Chris have much more hip taste. They also know how to throw a great party.

Along with a United States puzzle and a container of Hershey Kisses, Frank and I gave Alex a stacking toy where brightly colored gears twirl as they travel down a threaded post. You can see it in action in the video at the Fat Brain Toys site where they call their product Kids Spinagain Toy. He loved it, as did many of Alex's housemates and Alex's nieces and nephew. Of course, as doting grandparents, we've bought this marvelous toy for them, too. It does not go "Zip when it moves", nor "Bop when it stops", but it does indeed go "Whirrr" when it stands still per the Peter, Paul and Mary song. (By the way, Frank and Robin did their father/daughter dance to that song at her wedding.)

In terms of my birthday, Frank surprised me with a melodica, a wind instrument with a mouthpiece at one end and small keyboard controlling a row of reeds. The instrument's name is a blend of melody and harmonica with the accent on the second syllable lod. We were watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and I noticed the band leader was playing an instrument. I cried out to Frank "He's playing a melodica! I had one of those as a kid. I wonder what ever happened to it. My dad probably left it behind in the house in New Jersey. Bummer." Frank went on and found me one.

My original instrument had only a curved permanently affixed mouthpiece like the one you see at the lower right but this model also came with an interchangeable flexible hose option so you can play it on a table top instead of holding it as you would a clarinet. The cool thing about this wind instrument is that you can play chords! With other wind instruments, one fingering combination gives one resonating tone only. The exception is maybe an accordion, but you do not blow air through that, you pump it through. Plus an accordion is rather large and bulky.

This new model melodica weighs only 2.6 lbs and, at the dimensions of 21" x 3" x 7", easily fits in my suitcase to take along and play for the grandkids. I bought some popular Disney music books with songs that the kids would recognize so perhaps they might be able to sing along.

Here I am playing out of one of those books when we visiting Dan and Carrie this past weekend. Vivian is dancing off screen. Frank made a cell phone video of us in action, but when I would glance over to watch Vivian cavorting about, I took my eyes off the music and my performance went to hell in a hand basket. That video, yuk, is not for sharing!

One option I had not considered was that Vivian wanted to blow while I played. That was challenging as sometimes notes just did not sound if her breath had faded away. It sure was fun though. We tried it in reverse, me blowing and her playing the keys. Cacophonous – but still fun. It was an out of the box interpretation of a duet.

I am looking forward to bringing my melodica along to Oklahoma on our visit next month to try it out with Autumn and Isaiah. Autumn knows every single word to the song How Far I'll Go from the recent Disney movie Moana. She sang the entire song to me over the phone, so now I can accompany her. If you are not familiar with the song (I wasn't) you can listen to How Far I'll Go on YouTube. It was a fun birthday for both Alex and me and the gifts were hits.