New Year's 1999

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Rang in the New Year with a special trip to LA. Angela was off to a spa in Palm Springs, so I took the opportunity to invite myself down to see Tom in Whittier.   I've been wanting to get down there and bring Tom onto the web, but events always conspired to keep us apart.  This time the planets aligned and I was in LA.  I didn't realize at the time, but I was inviting myself to join Tom's family in the long standing Rose Parade event.  Tom and I started with an early NYE drinking single malt scotch at his home on the 14th hole. It's so good to see old friends and we chatted away the night until suddenly the ball is dropping and we're into 1999.

The next morning I experienced the science of Rose Parade watching from a master. I'm up and groggy at 6AM while Tom tinkers in the kitchen putting together sandwiches and drinks; we have to be to his parent's house by 7:30. There we meet his folks and four sisters and about 25 other people who join in the festivities.  I haven't seen his family in years and right off the bat they make me feel at home. His father tells me to sit my butt down on a chair while everyone else runs around getting ready.  By 8:30 we've parked the car a mile from the parade route and walked to our private grandstands.  The Schaffers have been doing this long enough to have a sweet set up.  The grandstands are built on top of an 18 foot flat bed truck. Steel frame (design reviewed by Tom's dad), plywood platforms and a non-slip covering of grinding belts.  We set up the 30 folding chairs and take out seats just as the first marching band pulls into sight.

I've seen the parade from time to time on TV and it bores me a bit. But in person it is fantastic! It's hard to explain how big the floats are, how incredible it is to see them covered with plants, to watch them slowly lumber by. The intensity of the colors and textures the builders achieve is a marvel to see. This is also a special year as my brother Bob is having his swan song as SLO University advisor to the Cal Poly float. This year Cal Poly's float will be the last one (#106) followed only by one more marching band.  As we count floats and #105 goes by the street becomes empty, a vacuum forming as the pause goes on.  At last police cars cruise by blaring at us, "one more float is coming, one more float." The last marching band comes through and still no float. Then we hear a cheer from up stream and the nose of a large tow truck comes into view. Behind it is towed the Cal Poly float.  It is a glorious affair combining elements of California education - surfing, computers, and final exams. Tom's sister Janet turns towards us Cal Poly grads with a smile, she had predicted this.   Earlier she'd told me that the Cal Poly float is so often towed that she used to think it was sponsored by AAA.  Ho ho ho.

With the end of the parade the vacuum returns to the street sucking into it all manner of freaks and weirdoes. Wandering aimlessly behind the final float, almost as if they are caught up in an ethereal turbulence, is an eclectic collection of people tossing tortillas and freaks with signs proclaiming the end of the Earth or flashing some bizarre tale from the bible. As if their protest does any one any good at all. I've always felt there was too much ego-centric, "look at me" in the display of those signs. Not at all what God would want. (Despite Luke 38:12).

Once again the Schaffer's put plans into action. The truck is buttoned up and we're walking again. This time against the crowd of people finishing up the parade. This long walk back to the car puts us outside of the major traffic zone. We jump in the cars and wend through small residential streets - only getting a wee bit lost once - until we're once again back at the Schaffer homestead.

Now even more people join us and the food comes out. Massive amounts of food. Janet's cooking sausage, Tom's on the pirogue, Sharon's slicing ham, Cathy's setting out creamed herring. Mary, could you get me a cup of coffee? Thanks dear.

I am having a blast walking around and chatting with all the Schaffers. Each has a unique life, an interesting story all their own. Yet in talking with each I find the thread of a family woven in their tales. Each one is different, yet at one level each is the same. It's sad that we have to blast out at 5PM, Rich, Sheila, and Those Boys are meeting us at Tom's tonight.

Another night of drinking and laughing. Neal and Kevin are getting bigger every time I see them. This year we play with Zoobs and create some awesome creatures. Kevin is making crowns we can wear and Neal creates some tight crystal structure from these plastic blobs. The whole of Saturday is spent hanging out on the lanai watching errant tee shots on the 14th zip by us.  It may seem odd, but I am incredibly happy at times like this. Sitting with old friends, their kids, the sun, and a beer. Add a bit of local action, like the golf course, and I am in heaven.

I have to catch the 5 PM flight back to San Jose. It seems like the time has flown by, and yet we've done so much in just two days. There's nothing like spending time with old friends.

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