I'm sorry that you landed in the hospital, or that your nurse there isn't as responsive to your call light as you feel she should be. I'm sure she has several other patients, and is doing her best.
Mary and Annie are NOT your nurses. Just because your nurse is busy doesn't mean you should call my office to see if they can drive over to bring you pain medicine, have someone come fix your TV's volume, or get you coffee or a warm blanket.
Thank you for faxing me this remarkably helpful picture last night:
For the life of me, I have no idea what it is. Since you left the name off, I have no idea who it is, either. In fact the only thing legible on it was your name. So maybe it's you? But you're not one of my patients (perhaps you should be).
Anyway, I'm sure these amazingly clear pictures will be of tremendous use in my treatment of their condition, whatever it is. Whoever it is. And whatever the hell it's a picture of.
And so, after a day of flying, a delayed take-off, my kid barfing on a plane, messed up hair, returning our rental van, and one lost luggage item, we are now back home. Items that made it successfully home included Craig's hair and the humungous cloth basketball.
I'll be spending today catching up on junk at the office, and will likely return to my regularly scheduled whining on Friday.
School starts again on Monday.This year we ordered our supplies pre-packed, but I'm re-running my back-to-school shopping guide for your entertainment. Until I get caught up on my groove.
Dr. Grumpy's Guide to Life: Shopping for school supplies
Okay, so this is the 2nd edition of my helpful newsletter (If you missed the 1st one on surviving your child's birthday party, click here).
Today's issue will focus on what I discovered to be a horribly traumatic life-altering experience: Back-to-School week at OfficeStaplesMaxDepot. There's one right across the street from my office, so I go there regularly for supplies. It's quiet, the employees are generally helpful, and I know my way around it pretty well.
I naively thought this would be easy.
So on to the lesson:
1. Do NOT volunteer for this job (flip a coin, or arm wrestle, or have a duel to decide instead).
Silly me. When Mrs. Grumpy was wondering when she'd have time to get the school supplies, I volunteered. I figured "How hard can it be? Hell, it's just some pencils and a bottle of glue". DUMBASS!!! The list is HUGE, and features items from the mundane (No. 2 pencils), to the specific (Expo dry erase markers, wide tip, in blue, green, yellow, and black) to the odd (1 Pringles can with lid, original flavor, empty). It took me 2 freakin' hours!
2. Be prepared. Normally there are 5-10 other quiet business-type people in there. NOT THIS WEEK! Holy Crap! An African street bazaar is an orderly affair compared to this! Deranged parents running on caffeine! Kids running amok! Store clerks running for their lives! And all the crazed parents are trying to read off a list, push a cart, yell at kids, text, and scream into a cell phone at the same time. Bring a water bottle, food, a map, a cattle prod, and a flashlight. A card with your blood type, hospital preference, and next of kin is also a good idea.
3. Do not leave your cart unattended. People will steal your shit out of it. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! I had my cart 2/3 full with the crap on my list, when I left it at the end of an aisle to go find notebooks (spiral, wide-ruled, 100 pages each, single subject, 1 red, 1 blue, 1 green). When I returned 3 minutes later about half the stuff I'd already put in it was GONE! I watched a few minutes later as it happened to others. Apparently, when you walk away from your cart, people think it means they can raid it for supplies they haven't had a chance to pick up yet. "Hey, this guy has those index cards (2 sizes, lined and unlined, 100 each) that my kid needs. Cool. I'll scratch that off my list".
If another parent asks you what school your kid goes to, or who their teacher is, DO NOT ANSWER. Ignore them. Pretend you're deaf, or that you don't speak English. They are not making conversation. They are casing your cart, and if they find out your kid is in the same class as their kid, they'll wait until you aren't looking to take your stuff (or just switch carts).
Best part was when I went to ask an employee for help finding something (Flair Correction Pens, in 4 colors). When I got back to my cart the box of 12 ultra-fine tip Sharpies I left in it had been opened, and someone had taken one of them. They'd even doodled on the shopping list I left in my cart to make sure they were taking a pen that worked.
Oddly, you can leave valuables in your cart. Your wallet, purse, and gold jewelry will be perfectly safe if left unattended, but the $2.69 box of high-lighters (12 markers, large tip, in 3 colors) will vanish.
My recommendation: bring a child to guard your cart, preferably one with an iron bladder and who's old enough to use a Taser or firearm if needed. If your kids don't meet this requirement, stop by Home Depot and hire one of the day laborers who hangs out in front looking for work.
4. Do not look for certain numbers of things. The people who make these lists have no idea how things are sold, so it lists things as "1 Expo dry erase marker, chisel-tip, red). Great. They don't sell red ones individually, just in boxes of 4. Or the Flair Correction Pens don't come in only 4 colors, but they do come in 8. Just buy it. If you aren't certain what item the teacher wants, just buy everything in sight and return the rejects later.
Alternatively, if the teacher only wants 1 of an item, such as, say, an ultra-fine tip Sharpie (which only come in boxes of 12), you can always look for an unattended cart with a box of them in it, and take one. If paper is handy, try doodling on it to make sure you are stealing one that works.
5. Hold your place in the check-out line AT ALL COSTS. Reserve it as soon as you walk in the store BEFORE shopping. Use a child (preferably your own) if possible. Other options include day laborers from Home Depot, mannequins, dogs, and aggressive Venus Fly Traps.
6. When in doubt, ask the bleary-eyed, terrified employees for help. If nothing else, it's fun to watch them try to convince you that they don't speak English as they run outside for a cigarette.
Our room has the most idiotic feature on Earth (no, not Magic Fingers). The air conditioning unit blows straight up into the curtains, launching them away from the window. So you have a choice between being comfortable at night or having your room randomly inundated by the bright lights of the Strip as the curtains flop in the breeze. With the fan set on high it could cause a seizure.
The room also includes a copy of this generic local promotional magazine:
(click to enlarge)
Take a good look at the cover, and notice how none of the people watching the clown look even remotely entertained. In fact, the person immediately behind and to the right of Bozo is falling asleep. Now, maybe this is because the only seats they could get were facing the clown’s ass, but you’d think the photographer could try for more enthusiasm.
On a random note, I forgot to write about one of the kids' favorite things at LegoLand: The Fire Academy. This 2 minute torture session race is one of the most grueling experiences in the park: 4 families compete against each other to: pump (by means of a handcart) a firetruck down a road to a "fire", use a fire hydrant and 2 water hoses to put it out, then pump the truck back. The fire truck and hoses each take 3 people to operate, and you can have up to 4 people on a team. So this builds serious teamwork. You don't win anything except pride (not even a few measly Lego bricks). And, I'm pleased to say, the Grumpy family over the course of the day finished 3 and 1.
Today we walked around Las Vegas.
Going through the shopping areas is always interesting. In the Flamingo’s lobby they have a sex shop, featuring a doorway made to look like a very tall lady’s legs:
And inside the mannequins (love the adult diaper) are about to get it on:
A store over at Caesar's Palace is debuting the latest in womens’ fashion, which apparently involves wearing a large purse on your head.
This afternoon the kids wanted to hit the pool again. After passing several people trying to sell us timeshares (I’m in a fucking bathing suit, and DO NOT want to stop and talk to you here in the middle of the damn lobby) we got there.
The Excalibur has a bizarre layout where people in tower 1 have to walk through THE WHOLE DAMN CASINO to get to the pool. Tower 2 is right there. Why they don’t have an entrance at each end of the building (when the pool obviously connects to both sides) is beyond me. Because I’d think that seeing yours truly go by wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and flip-flops would scare people away from the slot machines.
We got down to the pools, and were reassured by a look at the lifeguards: there were 5 of them at the one the kids went to: One was busy texting, another was filing her nails, and a third was wearing, I swear, knee-high socks and high-top basketball sneakers. This is not something you normally see in an occupation that requires you to quickly jump in the water at random intervals.
After reassuring Craig that his hair looked fine, I went into the pool myself. There was a row of teenyboppers sitting at the front, cleverly stationed there by plastic surgeons to show off the coming 2012 line of breast implants. Across from them, as a public service announcement to use sunscreen, was a lady who looked like a bizarre cross between a Barbie doll, Charles Atlas, and a leather purse. After one look at her I wanted to buy out the Coolibar catalog.
The only real winner we had in Las Vegas was Marie, who over the course of 3 days found $9.80 in change at the bottom of the Excalibur’s pools.
As we walked back through the lobby, dripping wet, in swimsuits, some time-share guy blocked our path to ask “Hey! Have you guys been at the pool?” ("No, you moron, it was raining over by the buffet"). I don’t know what look it was that I gave him, but he backed off fast.
Tonight we went down to the medieval-themed arcade. When I was a kid the games were 25 cents each. Now they’re $2.
These places are always frightening to me because Marie is the MASTER of crane games (“be the crane, Squidward”). So we knew we’d be leaving with a few small stuffed animals. But we weren’t prepared to see her show up with this giant basketball (Diet Coke can placed for comparison) that she won.
Mrs. Grumpy and I exchanged the “How the hell are we going to get that on the plane?” look, so common to parents in these situations.
After a strenuous time playing arcade games, the tribe apparently thought we were on a cruise, and wanted to go for pizza, grilled cheese, and ice cream. So we went to the coffee shop, where Marie argued with the waiter that she also wanted bacon, even though it wasn't breakfast. And some chocolate chip cookies. She gave him some soggy coins from the pool as a tip.
And so, from somewhere in the Excalibur hotel, happy Summer Vacation to all, and to all a good night.
Being trapped in the hotel room in the morning is a torture session. Why? Because the only kids’ channel is Nick Jr., which is far below my gang’s ages. So we watch such moronic fare as "Team Umizoomi" until showers are done and I'm ready to slit my wrists.
After getting hosed for $100 (and that was cheap by Vegas standards, obviously) at a mediocre buffet last night, we were in no mood to try another. So we took the kids to McD’s for breakfast. The 4 bags they gave us seemed a little unusual for the 5 items we’d ordered, but I took them and wandered back to the table... Where Mrs. Grumpy discovered that, in addition to our regular order, we’d been given 27 orders of hash browns.
If you’re a McD’s shareholder who lost money on the error (or an Idaho potato farmer who made some) I must say it was unintentional and not my fault.
This is the lobby carpeting at the Excalibur. It’s a meaningless design, unless you’re a neurologist. Then it looks like a drawing of a nerve cell releasing packets of neurotransmitters across the synapse.
In a sign that all rock groups eventually sell out, the Excalibur is building "Lynard Skynard's Barbecue" (Freebird chicken sandwich, anyone?). Not that I have anything against selling-out. Hell, someone, please, buy me.
Today we went to Hoover Dam, then walked up to the new bypass bridge. It’s a helluva view, and you realize that if an oncoming semi-truck goes out of control, you have a choice between its grill or the canyon 900 feet down.
And here, from the top of Hoover dam, are (left to right) Craig’s hair, Craig, Frank, and Marie. Although you can’t see the line, Craig and his hair are in Arizona while Frank and Marie are in Nevada. And, as I said last year, all 3 are disguised as part of the Federal Witless Protection Program.
Shortly after this was taken Craig asked to leave because the wind was messing up his hair.
Then a fight broke out, because we'd all been in Nevada for a few days, but only Craig had been in Arizona (which was, say, a foot away). So Frank and Marie had a confrontation over who got to be the 2nd Grumpy child ever to go in Arizona, which ended when I pushed them both across the state line. Then they argued over who got to come back to Nevada first (it's a painted white line on the sidewalk, FFS!).
After all, one of the inalienable rights of siblings is that of fighting over stupid shit.
We talked about doing the dam tour, but the boys refused to go because it didn't include the room where they keep the Transformers.
On the drive back from the dam, the kids wanted to stop for lunch. After the fight on the dam I just opened the cooler and handed them a bunch of leftover McD's hash browns.
After getting back to the Excalibur, the kids and Mrs. Grumpy went down to the pool, and I went to play blackjack (I won $15). As I was sitting there... it happened.
Mrs. Sawme: “Hey! It’s Dr. Grumpy! What are you doing here?”
Dr. Grumpy: “Oh, Hi, Mrs. Sawme. Funny to see you here.”
Mrs. Sawme: “That surgeon you sent me to for my corroded artery...”
Dr. Grumpy: “Carotid.”
Mrs. Sawme: “Was awesome! Look at how well my scar is healing!” (rolls down shirt collar).
Dealer: “Sir, were you going to bet on this hand?”
Dr. Grumpy: “Uh, no. I, um, need to go.”
Dealer: “I understand.”
Mrs. Sawme: “Bye, Dr. Grumpy! Hey, do you know when my next appointment is?”
Dr. Grumpy: “No, call Mary. It was nice seeing you.”
Tonight, amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we dragged the kids to see the Bellagio fountains “Dad! It’s just water.” And then the music started, and they shut up.
I lost the $15 bucks back to the Mirage. And they don’t even have the cool white tigers up front anymore. That sucks. Between that and the manatees the world is just going to hell on a handcart.
We’re staying at the Excalibur. After getting up to our room on the 18th floor, the kids looked out at the strip and saw one of those mobile billboards drive by. Frank yelled, "Dad! There's a sign that says 'Hot Babes' and has naked ladies on it! What kind of town is this?!!!"
It’s Vegas, kids. What happens in Vegas... stays on Facebook.
People complain about the silent guys who try to hand you hookers' numbers as you walk down the strip. At least they aren’t pretending to be anything other than sleazy guys handing out call girl info. What REALLY grates my crank are the people crawling all over the hotel lobby trying to sell you a time-share.
They ask “Just get into town?” or “where you from?” or “How many days you here for?” The fact that they're dressed as hotel employees gives them just enough credibility that the first time it happens you answer them. Then they corner you, talking quickly about the great deal on show tickets they can get IF you spend the next morning listening to a time share presentation. They use high-pressure sales tactics ("these tickets could be gone in a few minutes, so better buy them now! If you go back to your room to check your schedule you'll probably miss them!") that make car salesmen look tame. Even more irritatingly, they try to get your kids involved “Hey, kids, I can give you some free stuff if you can get your parents to listen to me”.
After checking in we headed down to Circus Circus.
The Planet Hollywood hotel has a big "ph" sign at the top. With my chemistry degree all I can think of is the measure for acidity.
We passed signs advertising the “Frampton Comes Alive! 35th anniversary tour," showing his iconic picture from the 1976 album (but no updated ones). I found myself thinking that perhaps the tour should be called “Frampton Still Alive!” and imagined how his previous hits would sound today in Las Vegas:
“I want yoouuuuuu
To show me the waaayyyy
To the $9.95 all-you-can-eat early bird buffet.
“I want yoouuuuuu
To show me the waaayyyy
Back to my room 'cause I forgot where I stay."
We spent most of today at the Circus Circus AdventureDome park, which was a lot of fun. The hotel has seen better days, but the amusement park is still pretty good, with a decent rollercoaster, log flume, and other rides. It’s $27 for all day rides, which is a helluva deal when you consider the 2-minute roller coaster at the New York New York is ripoff-priced at $14 per person per ride (admittedly, if we went to a time-share presentation they could have given us tickets for only $10/person).
After I’d had enough of the roller coaster I bought a beer and sat down to watch the kids on a stomach churning ride. As I relaxed a homeless guy who’d somehow escaped security came up to me. I assumed he was going to ask for money, but it was even worse:
Homeless guy: “Hey!”
Dr. Grumpy: “Yes?”
Homeless guy: “Can you pour some of your beer in my cup?” (holds up unwashed coin bucket- with a few quarters in it!)
I told him he didn’t want my germs and walked away.
Craig and Frank wanted to play laser tag with me, and so we went in. It was the usual darkened room made to look like a seedy alley (granted, this was on the strip, so maybe it really was a seedy alley). To keep your nerves on edge during the game they blasted high tension-music overhead: Phil Collins’ & Duran Duran’s greatest hits of the 80’s. (REALLY!). Because nothing makes you want to shoot at another person more than listening to “Invisible Touch” at 200 gigadecibels. That and having Craig stop shooting to ask if his hair looks okay.
Right now the buzzword in Las Vegas (instead of artisanal) is “ultra”. Drives me nuts. The MGM has an ultra-lounge and ultra-pool. A local magic act is billed as an “ultra-magician”. If this catches on nationwide I’ll be ultra sick of it.
One of the funniest rip-offs here are the oxygen bars in the lobbies, where you see people paying $10 and up to breathe oxygen. Considering I've been inhaling it for free for over 4 decades I didn't see the point, but they sure had plenty of suckers customers. A sign advertised oxygen as being effective for headaches, back pain, fatigue, sinuses problems (sic), and others. It didn't say anything about it's real value as being the terminal electron acceptor in the respiratory chain, and Mrs. Grumpy threatened to kill me if I tried to argue with the 17 year old girl at the counter.
They were also selling plastic bracelets that claimed to shield you from cell phone radiation. When Mrs. Grumpy wasn't looking I asked the girl if she had some data to back up the claim, and she said "because my boss told me they do."
Today we loaded up the rental van for the drive to Nevada.
I haven't seen this road sign in a few years, but it was always one of my favorites here. I hadn't thought of it until someone recently sent it to me:
After we got on the road, we noticed a piece of paper tucked under a windshield wiper. At 75 mph it blew loose. plastering itself for a few seconds across the driver’s side. We had a brief glimpse of “GOT JESUS?” spread across windshield bug stains before it blew away into the desert.
During the ride we passed through an area with a previously unknown weather phenomenon. Every few miles was an electronic sign flashing "DANGER! HIGH WINBS!" I can only assume this rates with frost heaves as a serious event.
Road trips are always interesting. You see advertisements for movies you never thought of, such as “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date” sponsored by Shield’s Fig & Date plantation. We also saw signs for a place in Nevada selling “Fresh Alien Jerky”.
We stopped in rural Nevada to visit Mrs. Grumpy’s 95-year-old grandfather. Marie asked him for some water, and he brought her a cup. He than launched into a story about how, when he was her age, they used to get his family's water from a pond that always had sheep shit floating on the surface.
After hearing this charming tale Marie stared at her untouched water glass for a minute, then said "Grampa, do you have anything that comes in cans, like Diet Coke?"
I genuinely like her grandfather. He’s an intelligent self-made, self-educated guy. He’s also pretty much blind now. So when other family came over to his place to greet us, we noticed how they carefully avoided using his plates and utensils for dinner (they brought their own disposables). Upon examination I discovered that the majority of his dishes had things encrusted on them. Trying to be helpful, I began washing them, only to be told not to since it offended the man. So I settled on finger-foods, too.
While reviewing the pictures from the beach I found this one of a sand castle washing away, which someone took when I wasn't looking. And that's all I'm going to say.
After dinner we were out for ice cream with some cousins when my cell phone rang. It came up as the ID for Dr. Brain's (my call partner) office.
Dr. Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy."
Maxine: "This is Maxine, with Dr. Brain's directory. He'd like you to do a consult for him at Local Hospital."
Dr. Grumpy: "I'm not on call. He is."
Maxine: "Well, our schedule says that, too. But he was quite adamant that you are tonight, and told us to call you."
Dr. Grumpy: "I'm in Chickenranch, Nevada."
Maxine: "What are you doing there?"
Dr. Grumpy: "I'm on vacation."
Maxine: "Why would you go there for vacation? Isn't Vegas nicer?"
Dr. Grumpy: "I have in-laws here. Look, the bottom line is that I'm far away, and I'm not even on call."
Maxine: "Does that mean you can't do the consult?"
We've camped out tonight in a remote relative’s basement (at Mrs. Grumpy’s insistence, she didn’t want to offend anyone). Normally cousin Eddie uses the basement to store his unfinished projects. Unfortunately, his hobby is taxidermy. So we're spending the night staring at partially-stuffed deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, who are staring back at us.
Today we went to the beach. Unfortunately, a bunch of fat, smelly, guys had taken all the good spots:
Eventually we found a spot.
I am not a beach person. I understand that many of you are. My view is more like the Dead Milkmen's "Beach Song".
When I was kid, I loved the beach, but as an adult the sheer logistics of hauling stuff there, setting up umbrellas, keeping sand out of Diet Coke and food, and locating bathrooms without junkies sleeping on the floor, is just a pain in the ass.
We all, I think, have this idyllic view of the beach we WANT to be on, popularized through beer, cruise line, and resort ads: a perfectly smooth white sand beach, devoid of all but a handful of young, attractive people, bright sun, icy buckets of beer, no noise except for the waves and wind.
But the reality is this: A crowded beach filled with large families, each with a loud boombox, all of them setting up giant portable sun patios from Costco, dragging coolers full of who-knows-what back and forth from the parking lot, inebrated college students, screaming toddlers who haven't had their diapers changed in a week, guys with metal detectors walking back & forth, and sand that's chock-full of seaweed, fast-food wrappers, dog shit, chicken bones, cigarette butts, and lost hair clips.
Oh, and a guy wearing a T-shirt that said "Make your tits stop staring at my eyes!"
But the kids liked it. So, as my parents did for me, I did for them.
I want to mention a LegoLand ride I forgot: The Knight's Tournament. Sound's benign, huh? It's actually oddly out-of-place in the glorified kiddyland of Legos.
This is a new generation of emesis-inducing rides. The German robot company KUKA makes giant robot arms to assemble cars, planes, tractors, whatever. And somewhere along the line they realized that people would pay money to have a giant mechanical limb toss them around like a sack of potatoes. They call them "robocoasters", and the arms put you through the same series of twists, turns, loops, and more that a real coaster would. It even comes with 5 levels, so you can pick the intensity of your ride. I recommend 1 if you want to be a bit dizzy, 5 if you want to toss your cookies. Of course, MY kids dragged me on it at level 5, three times in a row (I recommend Youtube if you want to see this thing in action).
Tonight was our last night in San Diego, , so we hung out at the hotel with various relatives, while the kids and their cousins played in the pool with a bunch of other kids. The evening came to an abrupt end when the kids all began screaming and climbing out of the pool. I went over to see if a shark had somehow been airlifted to it. To my horror (hell, EVERYONE'S horror), the scene was reminiscent of Caddyshack: a huge turd was at the bottom of the pool. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't a Baby Ruth.
I want to dispel the idea (which came up after my previous Sea World post) that I don't like this place. I do, in the way that it's a fun thing to do with the family, and having a fun vacation is part of the Summer. But any family activity, at home or here, will have its irritants.
That said, I still think the "Blue Horizons" dolphin show sucked.
Sometime today Frank stole the camera from our backpack. This always results in strange pictures, and makes me VERY glad we no longer pay to develop film. Because when I get back to the room there are always lots of strange random shots like this:
I think this was in the "Wild Arctic" exhibit
And this awesome one, of a cousin on a plane simulator:
We went on the Shipwreck Rapids river ride this afternoon, and got soaked. Leaving the ride we saw this gadget:
It's a dryer. A multiperson family-size dryer. For $5 it blasts as many people as you can cram into it to an arid state. We didn't use it, but Sea World must be making a fortune from people who can't stand walking around in soaked undies. Mrs. Grumpy wants one for the house, to use on the dogs.
One phenomenon I've never understood at amusement parks are people who wear ponchos to go on water rides. These rides obviously get you pretty soaked. They have warnings everywhere telling you that. And you see the drenched people getting off the ride.
But there is always a group that is absolutely horrified to learn they may get wet, and so cover up from head-to-toe. WTF is up with that? Why go on the ride at all? It's not like you're all dressed up.
I'd like to use this space to gripe about the lack of manatees. They are cool, and guess what? They're GONE! Sea World moved them to the Florida park (where they already have wild manatees) and replaced them with... Turtles. Sea turtles, which I admit are cool, but not nearly as cool as manatees. Hell, they've had turtles in an exhibit here for years, but decided to move them to a bigger one, and send the manatees to Florida. So now they have no manatees.
They also moved Commerson's dolphins to a non-viewing area and replaced them with stingrays, but this is apparently only temporary. They needed a new home for the stingrays while they're building a roller coaster. Where the moray eels that lived near the stingrays are is not mentioned.
To help the wild bunch burn off some energy we turned them loose in the "Bay of Play". This huge playground is partially sponsored by Sesame Street, and so occasionally giant costumed TV characters go by. I offered to take Craig's picture with Bert and Ernie so he could show it to his 5th grade class, and he pretended not to recognize me. It was awesome.
While the kids were tearing the Bay of Play apart, Mrs. Grumpy and I camped out at a shady table across from it at Pineapple Pete's. And there, to my surprise, we discovered an all new, and entirely unadvertised, Sea World attraction: the Spandex Parade.
You see, they have these adventure things, where for a fee you get to spend a few hours as a dolphin/whale/walrus/whatever handler. So they put you in a spandex wetsuit, and you go off to your adventure.
Then, at 5:40 in the afternoon, you get marched back to the locker room. And in doing so you (and all your dolphin-feeding friends) walk past Pineapple Pete's.
Now I do NOT claim to be a poster child for physical fitness. Quite the opposite. In spite of my perpetual battles with the Wii Fit Trainer, I seem to be losing ground. BUT I AM NOT TRYING TO CRAM MY OUT-OF-RANGE FAT ASS BMI INTO A SKIN-TIGHT SPANDEX WETSUIT AND PARADE IT AROUND SEA WORLD!
Let’s face it: how many of you want to be seen in public wearing a skin-tight, form-fitting wetsuit? I thought so. Me neither. Very few of us are in the phenomenal shape of Sea World's trainers.
So people who likely would never even consider wearing Spandex in public anywhere else on Earth walk by in it here. And, I must admit, after seeing them I changed my mind about wanting to get a funnelcake.
At this point Frank and Marie wanted to re-ride Journey to Atlantis, so we walked over, only to find it was closed again. While I was looking for info about when it would re-open, some lady wrongly assumed I worked there (Ma’am, for future reference, SeaWorld employees don't wear "Motorhead" t-shirts to work), and asked me what the ride's problem was. I told her they were looking for someone's head, and walked away.
We stayed for the evening Shamu show, Shamu Rocks!, which is whale tricks done to blasting music. At one point they played KISS's "Rock and Roll all Night". This got me thinking: In 1975, when the song came out, KISS was marketed as the anti-family, pro-rebellious, piss-off-your-parents-by-listening-to-us band. Long hair. Bizarre makeup. Strange costumes. FFS, during "God of Thunder" Gene Simmons would vomit blood onto the stage! And what are they in 2011? Perfect for family entertainment at Sea World.
Today we went to LegoLand. I'm surprised my kids haven't outgrown this place yet.
LegoLand, in my opinion, is one of the more overpriced amusement parks out there (maybe 2nd only to Disney, but at least Disney has more to do) In addition to this, several of the attractions consist of letting your kids play with Legos and Duplos, which they can do back at home. Not to mention all the Lego sets they sell here (which you can buy online, or at Target, for less) that your kids will tear open in the park and lose the pieces.
But they do have some awesome deals, like this coupon we were handed when we went in:
Yes, Moms & Dads: if you spend $35 on Lego Star Wars merchandise, you get a free sticker! Is that a smokin' deal or what?
The kids love a play area called Pharoah's Revenge, which is entered by a spiral staircase. For reasons unknown, the stairs have a handicapped sign under them (there's no lift nearby, either). I have no idea how they think anyone with crutches or a wheelchair can access these:
LegoLand has 2 rides that are (allegedly) kid-powered. In one kids yank ropes (heavily assisted by machinery) to pull their bench up a tower. You're kids will love it. And are you naive enough to believe they'll do the pulling? Of course they won't.
This is, in reality, ADULT powered (sort of like the credit card you used for admission). YOU end up pulling the damn ropes, because your lazy kid is too busy looking around as you hoist your bench in the air, waving at siblings, your spouse, and anyone else he can use as an excuse not to do some measly manual work.
Likewise, they have a 2-person vehicle you pedal on a track above the park. And you think your kids are going to help you pedal? SUCKER!
At lunch today all the visible tables were taken, so one special family decided to set up camp on a sidewalk RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE KITCHEN DOOR. So when some employee came up, pushing a cart full of buns and condiment jugs and other supplies, they REFUSED TO MOVE! So he couldn't get his cart into the kitchen (and no one could get out) while this family argued that since they couldn't find a table, the whole problem of how to get supplies into the kitchen is Legoland's, not theirs.
One of the best parts of Legoland is a HUGE wooden play area. It's 3 stories high, and is what anyone dreams of having in their yard when growing up. It's a great place to let your kids run amok while you rest your feet (although it really needs more benches for adults to sit down- you hear me, Legoland?).
Mrs. Grumpy found a seat on a fence near where the main slide ends at the bottom, while I went up into this thing with the kids and chased them around. After a while I decided to go sit next to Mrs. Grumpy, and thought the big slide would be a cool way to get back down. Kids were going down quickly and flying out at the bottom, so since she was sitting near it I figured I'd pop out right at her feet with a little (snaps fingers) razzle dazzle.
So I climbed into the slide, but didn't pick up speed like those kids did. And about 5 feet from the bottom, I came to a dead stop.
Here I am, stuck in a tube slide, lying on my back. I can't sit up. All I can do is repeatedly hunch my butt up and down to try and scoot out. This made a hell of a lot of noise, and when my distinctive "no one else would buy sneakers this hideous, even on sale" shoes began to inch out the bottom opening, I could hear Mrs. Grumpy start shrieking hysterically.
I was afraid she was going to have to drag me the last few feet out, but then some impatient kindergartner came down the slide after me, landed on my head, and pushed me out.
In some ways I prefer Legoland over Sea World. We can find a quiet corner, read books, and turn the kids (they're old enough) loose. I don't recommend the adjacent aquarium, though. It takes all of 15 minutes to walk through, and you find yourself saying "was that it?". Go to the Scripps Birch Aquarium if you want sea life.
Although most of the park is geared toward the age 5-10 crowd, one of LegoLand's coolest features for anyone is MiniLand, which has Lego replicas of several major cities and monuments.
(click to enlarge)
They also have a Star Wars section.
In the afternoon my kids went on a mini-boat ride, where you steer a little electric boat around a course. I watched a guy in his mid-30’s, covered in tattoos, and smoking a cigarette (the attendant asked him to put it out, and the guy ignored her) get in one of the little kiddie boats BY HIMSELF and thought, “sheesh, that’s the most pathetic thing I’ve seen today.”
It quickly became the 2nd most pathetic thing, as Marie then got into a boat. At the breakneck speed of 1 MPH she lost control of it, spinning it completely around and colliding with Craig’s behind her, then getting jammed against the side. This aquatic traffic jam was finally solved when an employee put on hip-waders (in her case they were neck-waders) and went out to drag Marie’s boat onto the right course and give her a lecture about such complex activities as working a steering wheel.
While watching this water ballet I got to listen to Captain Cranky. This is a life-size LEGO figure nearby, who slowly turns machinery attached to a ride, all the while groaning and straining like a badly constipated man in need of prunes.
Late afternoon a lady walking ahead of me suddenly bent forward over a LEGO buffalo and yelled to a friend to take her picture. To my horror, her shorts dropped precipitiously as she leaned over, showing 6 inches of crack and a strand of purple thong. She stood back up before I could get a picture of the abomination to share with you guys.
And that's the way it is.
P.S. Don't get a smug "I don't live near LegoLand, so my kids won't drag me there" look. I don't either, and here I am. And they're building one in Florida. So there.
Before leaving Hotel Chateau Grumpé I was looking for online deals, and found this smokin' one:
(click to enlarge)
As a kid growing up here, Balboa park was always one of my favorite places. There are many awesome museums, and it's sad we only had time for a few. We did the science, natural history, and airplane ones.
Kids love dinosaur stuff, and they have lots of good ones at the natural history museum. They even have a display of this planet's all-time ultimate monster, Megalodon.
I don't care how big a dinosaur fan you are. This thing was the stuff of nightmares, more so than anything that ever walked the land. It was between 50-70 feet (16m-20mg) long, and its jaws exerted a bite force of 8 tons per square inch (5 times as powerful as Tyrannosaurus Rex).
Let's look at this graphic: you see the little green fishy at the bottom? That's a modern Great White Shark (i.e. Jaws). And the violet thing above that? The modern Whale Shark, biggest fish in the world. And the big gray thing at the top? That's Megalodon. The red thing is a smaller estimate of Magalodon. And, in case you missed it, that little blue biped in the lower left corner is you. Or in this case, a light snack. Good thing Megalodon died out 1 million years ago, huh?
I hope you're all taking notes, we'll be having a short quiz later.
Mid-day we took a break from the museums and went out to lunch.
My Mom is an avid bird person. She has bird feeders all over her yard, and is perennially filling them with seed and food scraps. She's known to take stuff home from restaurants and dinner parties just to feed the birds. The food attracts little birds, which then attract raptors, neighborhood cats, and bobcats. Some days she has a whole food chain going in her yard.
At lunch Craig and Marie got sandwiches, and (as usual) didn't eat their crusts and left some fries. My Mom reached over and grabbed them. She put them in a napkin, and stuffed it in her purse.
Dr. Grumpy: "Mom, what are you doing?"
Mom Grumpy: "They're for the birds."
Dr. Grumpy: "Ma, just leave them out here on the table. There are pigeons and seagulls everywhere here."
Mom Grumpy: "They're for MY birds."
Dr. Grumpy: "So you're going to take bread crusts back to the hotel, pack them in a suitcase, fly a few hours back to Grumpyville, and then feed them to the birds in your yard?"
Dad Grumpy: "Ibee, don't argue with her on this. I've tried."
Craig: "Hey, does my hair look okay?"
In the afternoon we hit the Reuben Fleet Science Museum. When I was a kid, this was my favorite place on Earth. Their theater was the first one I ever went to with a REALLY BIG SCREEN that simulated motion, and a lot of my interest in space started here. And the science museum is cool, too. Some of the exhibits are the same ones they had when I was kid, showing how timelessly cool interactive stuff can be.
They also have a "hurricane machine" where you lock your kids in a small room, plug in $2, and it subjects them to an 80 mph wind for a few minutes. Frank and Marie cackled hysterically during it. Craig screamed it was messing up his hair and WHAT IF SOMEONE FROM HIS SCHOOL IS HERE AND SEES HIM LIKE THIS!!!
Later we took the kids over to the park's play area. After a while the kids disappeared. I’d just started looking for them when they suddenly showed up, each carrying 2-3 empty bottles of hard liquor. Frank explained that they saw them behind the bushes, near a sleeping man, and wanted to help keep the park clean. I had them put them in the trash and thanked heavens for Purell wipes.
As we were walking away Craig reached under another a bush and pulled out a bong. He asked me what it was, and I told him it was for smoking and to put it back.
I think I'll sign off now, because we're at some restaurant with the extended family here. The waiter keeps typing on his iPad, and I suspect he's blogging about me typing on my iPad while I try to ignore my inebriated uncle who keeps ogling the hostess. Who's probably blogging about him on her iPad.
While walking through the parking lot I was amused to see this sign, apparently put there for people who didn't realize driving into concrete & metal objects could damage their car:
We started with the dolphin show.
It used to be interesting. The dolphins would do tricks while trainers would teach some facts about them. Of course, there were the usual corny jokes and trainer-in-disguise accidentally falling in the water, but you'd still learn something. When I was a kid I found it cool, and would go home and want to read more about dolphins.
A lot has changed since 2009...
I wasn't counting on anything quite like the "Blue Horizons" show they now have. I don't know who came up with this unintentional comedy skit. They tried to cross a dolphin show with Cirque-de-Soleil and a sappy Disney skit, and somehow ended up with the worst of all 3.
The show allegedly tells the story of a Princess named Marina, who wakes up one morning and wants to swim with dolphins. After she makes her appearance, her royal gowns are ripped off by a metal cable (I swear to God!) leaving her magically wearing a neon pink wetsuit.
I can only imagine the looks of horror that these highly trained aquatic mammal handlers must have felt when shown the script. I suspect even the dolphins were embarrassed.
But I digress.
Next, in a flurry of water and theatrical smoke, the male lead shows up. He begins lip-syncing a number about life in the oceans, and when he hits the line "dive into the water" he dives into the water (get it?) then, while he's still underwater, his singing part continues on the speakers. Even a little kid a few rows up noticed this and said "Mommy, how can he sing when he's underwater?".
To make the show even more absurd, a lady in a bird costume comes flying out on overhead wires. Her name was Aurora, which, as a Sleeping Beauty fan, I find horrifying.
For this she got a degree in marine biology.
She swings randomly over the water and the crowd, while we all hope the cable doesn't snap. Because nobody wants "killed by a falling lady in a bird costume at Sea World" in their obituary.
During this the dolphins do a few tricks, but you're so horrified by the theatrical train wreck occurring before you that you barely notice. At one point the bird lady swoops down into the water and lifts the male lead into the air, giving everyone an excellent look at his package.
Hey ladies! Can you see my lunch bag in the last row?
Next, 2 guys in black wetsuits wearing weird spiky yellow helmets came out to do a trapeze act.
I have NO IDEA what this guy, or his outfit, has to do with dolphins.
Somewhere in this visual cacophony they released birds, although seagulls were frequently passing by anyway. The dolphins did the occasional leap, and were likely laughing at the idiot primates watching this spectacle.
“I’d give this show 2 opposable thumbs down- if I had any.”
The performance ended with giant yellow ribbons unfurling over the stage and guys with giant flags waving at the audience. When it was all over I could only think of the immortal line from This is Spinal Tap, "there's such a fine line between clever and stupid."
Since they left them out of the show, guess where you'll find the dolphin facts? At the freakin' gift shop! Around displays of overpriced shot glasses, pendants, and baseball caps they have little signs saying things like "the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins used in our show can swim 23 MPH and dive to 1200 feet!". And, inevitably, they sell dolls based on the show's characters.
Save your money, Marie. They'll be at Big Lots before Hanukkah.
I was put in charge of getting lunch. This is never as easy as it sounds. You have to find a table by out-competing other families for one, leave a kid there to scare others away (we use Frank for that) try to get orders from everyone, and then wait in line.
No matter how dressed up the food places are at an amusement park, they're still just a glorified McD's, manned by teenagers trying to deal with frantic idiots on vacation who are trying to grasp why a PBJ with chips is $8.
So I finally get down to being the next person at line, and find (as usual) that I picked the wrong line. The lady in front of me suddenly began reading orders of varying complexity off her iPhone, "I need one cheeseburger with cheese and mayo, but no lettuce. Another with cheese and ketchup, but no pickles. One without cheese or lettuce, but extra tomatoes. A chicken sandwich with ranch and pickles, but no tomato" and about 8 other orders. She kept turning around while talking, I assume to make sure none of us in line were about to lunge with a spork.
I sympathized with the unfortunate teenager on the other side of the window. Maybe she's on his blog tonight, too.
Sea World has a rollercoater called "Journey to Atlantis". Why people think a 2 minute ride needs a theme (beyond emesis-inducing loops & dives) is beyond me. I just want a good ride, but they felt a story about being on it to save Atlantis and help people to remember their relationship with the sea was absolutely necessary.
The ride has one interesting feature- an elevator (rather than an incline) to take you to the top of the 2nd drop-off. And, of course, it was about halfway up the elevator, in the shaft, that the ride stopped with us on it.
So here we are, trapped in a roller-coaster car in a dimly lit elevator, watching fake ocean scenes go by on the walls, and overhead the speaker is blaring at full volume "YOU NOW FACE THE FINAL CHALLENGE! THE FATE OF THE KINGDOM OF ATLANTIS FOREVER WILL BE DECIDED BY YOUR ACTIONS IN THE NEXT FEW MOMENTS!" over and over and over again. I wished I'd kept my spork, so I could slit my wrists.
Marie announced she had to pee. Craig asked me how his hair looked. I was hoping to see Atlantis go down in flames, and was pretty damn happy when we began moving again. As soon as we got off they told us the ride would be shutting down for a while.
For all the silliness, we had a good time today. Isn't that what summer vacations are for?
This year the Grumpy Summer family reunion, as in 2009, is in San Diego.
Flying with 3 kids (and having to make a connection that got canceled, thank you Air Grumpy) is never without drama (Frank's mouth is considered a weapon by airport security), but somehow we made it here, got our rental minivan, and found the hotel. Unlike 2009, it was not located near the local doberman stables.
The only hitch was during our delayed connection, when I had to call the bank for an 8th mortgage to buy airport food.
It's been 2 years since our last visit here, and the kids, as always, are changing. Craig, for example, has developed an obsession with his hair, frequently asking if it looks okay. But all 3 still consider LegoLand and SeaWorld to be at the pinnacle of Western Civilization.
Near our hotel we saw this car, which had apparently been attacked by a flock of seagulls. I can only assume they ran.
To relax after the ordeal of trying to lose not lose our kids in the airport, we sent them to go drown each other play in the hotel pool while Mrs. Grumpy and I sat in the hot tub with my sister & BIL. At one point we were joined by an inebriated lady. She had "Shit Happens" tattooed on the inside of her right butt cheek. And at 5 minute intervals kept pulling aside her swimsuit (and butt) to show us.
After that none of us were really hungry for dinner.
In a sad commentary on the state of literacy, this sign is near the hotel elevators:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is obviously a hot-button issue. And I'm not taking sides, nor am I proposing a solution. If you think this yak herder can help, you've come to the wrong place.
But here's where it affects me:
There's a Parkinson's Disease medication called Azilect. It has some unique properties, and there's no generic, or direct competitors, currently available. It's manufactured by Teva, a company that does most of their business in generic drugs. It's the world's largest generic drug manufacturer, and if you've taken ANY type of pill at some point in your life, the odds are you've used a Teva product.
Teva is an Israeli company. I personally don't care. From my view, they make a useful drug, and if I think you could benefit from it, I'll write for it.
Most people are fine with this. But I always get a handful of calls a year from people refusing to take it, or calling to yell at me, for prescribing an Israeli product. Some refuse to take it because they don't want to support Israel. Others have accused me of secretly prescribing it over other drugs as part of some vast Israeli conspiracy. I've even had one patient fire me because I wrote for it.
Here's the bottom line people: I don't care where your medication was made, who makes it, or the name of the chemist in the assembly line.
I am your doctor, and when you're here, my goal is to try and make you better. I'm not getting kickbacks for these scripts, nor are they my way of making a political statement.
Improving you is what I'm trying to do. So try to see it that way, and accept my help.
Okay, it's time for all you armchair neurologists to help me solve a particularly difficult case. The following is, without any changes, the admitting note from Dr. Hospital, who asked for my help on this challenging case:
"88 year old male who woke from a nap with bilateral visual loss. Symptoms resolved when he opened his eyes. We will admit for stroke work-up, and consult neurology."
Annie: "No, this is Ibee Grumpy's office. There's no Bill here."
Ms. Loud: "I NEED BILL. CAN YOU AT LEAST SEE IF SOMEONE NAMED BILL GRUMPY WORKS THERE? HE USED TO LIVE IN CHICAGO, IF THAT HELPS."
Annie: "Sorry, there's no Bill here, and Dr. Grumpy isn't from Chicago."
Ms. Loud: "OH NO! OKAY, I'M TRYING TO CALL EVERYONE NAMED GRUMPY THAT I CAN FIND IN THE COUNTRY TO SEE IF HE MAY BE THERE. MAYBE THEY'RE RELATED TO EACH OTHER OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. I'M HAVING TO USE PHONE BOOKS BECAUSE THE DOG BROKE MY COMPUTER AND WON'T LET ME HAVE IT FIXED."
Annie: "Okay, well good luck, bye."
Ms. Loud: "WAIT! DON'T HANG UP. I NEED TO ASK YOU A FAVOR."
Annie: "What can I do for you?"
Ms. Loud: "IS BILL GRUMPY ALSO A DOCTOR? OR JUST IBEE GRUMPY?"
Annie: "I have no idea about Bill. You're the one looking for him, so you should know."
Ms. Loud: "I DIDN'T THINK SO, BUT IT'S NOT LIKE HE EVER TOLD ME HE WASN'T, SO I'M NOT SURE."
Annie: "Okay, have a nice day..."
Ms. Loud: "HANG ON! IF BILL GRUMPY DOES SHOW UP THERE CAN YOU PLEASE TELL HIM THAT ANGIE LOVES HIM?"
There are so many days that I want to put up a sign that says "Control Your Children or Leave".
I have kids. 3 of them. A rambunctious bunch. We generally avoid taking them anywhere like our appointments, and in the rare case where we have no choice we bring distractions: Nintendo DS, books, etc. I know that not everyone has easy access to child care, and understand that.
It's amazing how many people come in thinking my staff and office supplies solely exist to keep their kids busy. Neither Dr. Pissy nor I see anyone under 18, so we don't keep kid stuff around.
I've seen people tell their kids to just go sit up by Mary's desk and play with her. Or give them scissors, crayons, and glue to "make something" out of the lobby magazines. Or ask me if they can play online games on my work computer. Or just let them run amok in my exam room with my stethoscope, hammer, tuning fork, whatever. Ed has been knocked over 3 times in the last year by kids.
I've had patients leave my practice because their kids caused trouble during the appointment, and I've told them they can't return unless they find a sitter. I don't care that it pisses them off. I can't treat you effectively if I'm chasing your child all over because you think it's my job.
In a pediatrics office this is more common, and they are prepared for it. I go to my kids' appointments, and they have all sorts of books and toys to keep them busy (but we still bring Nintendos). But I don't see kids, and don't consider that something I should provide.
Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is common elsewhere. You see kids running wild, knocking stuff off grocery shelves. I know a veterinarian who had a kid, with his parent's permission, urinate on his office floor, and the family thought the vet was being unreasonable to ask them to clean it up. They figured a vet would be used to dogs and cats doing that, so what's the big deal if they let their kid do it?
Although frequently told by patients under these circumstances that "you obviously don't like kids," that's not the issue.
Dr. Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy, returning a page."
Mike: "Hi, this is Mike Hormone. You saw my girlfriend a few weeks ago for a left arm injury? She had a lot of trouble using her arm? I was with her at the appointment?"
Dr. Grumpy: "What can I do for you?"
Mike: "Well, she's getting a lot better, like you said she would and, um, I..."
Dr. Grumpy: "Yes?"
Mike: "Is there anything that might, like slow down her recovery? Not a lot, 'cause she's my girlfriend and all, but maybe just make it take longer?"
Dr. Grumpy: "Um, we're trying to get her better."
Mike: "Yeah, but she can use the arm for almost everything now, and when it was really weak she had me come in the shower to shampoo her hair for her, and that sort of got things going if you know what I mean..."
This blog is entirely for entertainment purposes. All posts about patients may be fictional, or be my experience, or were submitted by a reader, or any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate.
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Cast of Characters:
Annie: My Phenomenal MA Mary: My Awesome Secretary Ed: The office fish Dr. Pissy: The guy I share an office with Mrs. Grumpy:My Boss (also the world's greatest school nurse) Frank, Craig, and Marie:The Grumpy Tribe Snowball & Mello: The Grumpy Dogs
Questions? Comments? Biting sarcasm? Write to: pagingdrgrumpy [at] gmail [dot] com
Note: I do not answer medical questions. If you are having a medical issue, see your own doctor. For all you know I'm really a Mongolian yak herder and have no medical training at all except in issues regarding the care and feeding of Mongolian yaks.