Danny & Family

Just Some Random Stories About Me and My Family

Thursday, August 23, 2007

School Days, School Daze

Last Fri. night I attended a high school reunion of sorts. It was not my graduating class reunion, but rather, a reunion of all band members of my high school during the years of our beloved band director, Mr. Haar. I attended Richard Gahr High School in Cerritos, CA, and graduated in 1979. Mr. Haar was the first band director at Gahr, which opened around 1965, and remained there until 1989. He was such an influence to so many students, and made an impact on so many lives, it was no surprise that a celebration in his honor was finally held.

So yes, I was a member of my high school band, and I'm proud of that. In the marching and concert bands I played clarinet during my first two years, and bass clarinet in my second two years. In the dance band (jazz, big band music, etc.) I played piano. My three sisters were also members of the same band, under the direction of the same teacher, Mr. Haar. The only difference is that Mr. Haar left Gahr H.S. after my youngest sister's first year in high school. Us three older siblings got four years of Mr. Haar.

There's a wonderful web site set up an run by one of the Gahr Band alumni, which I will link for you here. If you feel compelled to, please check it out. If you're looking for my goofy picture, you won't find it very easily. It's under the photo album link - 1979 - a few pages in. The only one I could make out was the band officers' picture, and the quality is pretty bad. I think it was scanned right out of the year book.

Back to the reunion story. It was good to see so many of my friends from so long ago. I have done a poor job in keeping in touch with them. In fact, there are only two that I've seen on occasion over the past couple of years: Janeen and Dorothy. Both were at the little Christmas gathering that Laura and I had last December. But several other band alumni who graduated in my year, and the neighboring years, were there Fri. night, and I hadn't seen them in years. All three of my sisters were there, including Diana who lives in Portland, OR. Diana is on the reunion planning committee, and was there with her husband Scott.

Even my mom, a band booster, and my grandmother were present. There were quite a few band boosters present. This was also nice, because I hadn't seen some of these people (parents of my schoolmates) since about the time we graduated high school.

Laura and I arrived fashionably late, and I started recognizing familiar faces. Laura had not met most of these people, so I made many introductions. (Side note: Laura would have met some of these people - the ones who graduated with me in '79, but we didn't attend my 20th H.S. reunion. It was held the week before our wedding, and we had too many things going on). We found Mr. Haar right away, and greeted him and talked for a couple of minutes. As the guest of honor, he was being sought by many former students.

Laura and I went through the buffet line and sat at our table. My sister Diana had arranged to have other people from my year with me. That included Janeen, accompanied by her husband, Bob; Janeen's mom, Liz; twin sisters Marci and Mary Jo - all the way from Colorado; Mike; and Dorothy (class of '80) accompanied by her mom. Russ (class of '78) squeeze in to make a cozy 11. We no sooner sat down when the video presentation began.

A stream of pictures were shown from all years of students, parents, and Mr. Haar, all set to band music. Some was concert music, some was marching band music, and of course the pictures matched. There was even a tribute to some of the students and boosters who have died since graduation.

Following the video presentation, the reunion chair made a speech honoring Mr. Haar. Then Mr. Haar himself made a speech. As the evening went on, people visited with each other (and Mr. Haar), browsed through old year books and various photo albums that people brought, and otherwise had a good time.

We took a few pictures, which I will post soon, as an addendum to this post. We didn't stay too late though. The following morning was Laura's and Nina's first game of the season; a scrimmage, and we knew we wouldn't be able to sleep in. Right now, cheer leading is running our lives.

I was okay with leaving the reunion anyway. I had visited enough, and I'm not really good in these type of social situations. I was not exactly blessed with the gift of gab; I don't easily strike up conversations about any hip topic, and don't have a lot to say about much anyway. Ask me about something I know about or I like, and I'm good for a couple of words, but other than that - I got nothing. So we left, but it was an enjoyable evening.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Bittersweet Anniversary

It's hard to believe that seven years has passed. It seems like just yesterday. Brady's 7th birthday party was taking place on a hot Saturday afternoon. Laura was 8 1/2 months pregnant with Nina. We were trying to keep our guests comfortable in our patio, but that's hard to do with little shade and a warm breeze.

The kids were playing in the backyard, alternating between our Dough boy pool and the jumper with slide that we rented for the party.

My mom (Mama Norma) and grandmother came to the party, but my dad (Papa Kirk) had to work. Papa worked at Disneyland, and on this particular day was working at the toll booths at the main parking lot entrance.

I remember that the party was pretty much over, although there were a few guests left. Some friends and relatives traveled quite a ways to join us, so they weren't in any hurry to leave. Most of the guests had gone when I got a call from my sister that something had happened to Papa at work, but she was not sure what. All we knew is what hospital he was taken to.

It wasn't until I arrived that I found out the sad news. Sometime during the following week the funeral was held, and during the reception after the Mass, several employees of Disneyland (co-workers and friends of Papa) made a presentation to Mama Norma. They had all signed one of Papa's uniform shirts, which they gave to my mom. And they presented Mama with a plaque to commemorate a stone marker which would be placed in the large open area between the main gates to Disneyland and California Adventure.

Every time any family member visits Disneyland, they stop at the marker to visit Papa. Here is a picture of the actual marker:
Luckily it's very easy to find, as it's at the end (or tip) of a large group of other markers. Anyone (guest or employee) can purchase one of these markers, and if you've ever been to Disneyland or California Adventure, you have to walk over hundreds of these in order to enter either park.

The date on Papa's marker (11/6/1994) refers to his date of hire at Disneyland. The initials PL (for Parking Lot) indicate the job group he was attached to. Papa performed several jobs, including toll booth operator, parking lot attendant, parking tram driver, and train conductor on the Disneyland train that circles the whole park.

The next time you visit Disneyland or California Adventure, do stop by and say "hi" to Papa Kirk. Here's a picture of me, Nina and Brady doing just that:


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Couple Of Updates

Saturday's golf tournament (the Carlos Aguirre Memorial) was fun. I really enjoyed myself, and my mom, uncle, and cousin had fun too. It was not as hot as we expected; only 90-ish. I didn't shoot as well as I would have liked to. Out of embarrassment I will not tell you my score, but I will tell you it was over 100. Considering I haven't played in a full year, and the difficulty of this golf course, it's no surprise.

There were a couple of memorable holes that I will share with you: Number 5, a par 5, dogleg right with water at the beginning and the end. You need to hit a shot that must carry over water in order to land on the green. The last four years I did not play this hole very well. This time I hit a good drive and a good 2nd shot. I knew I couldn't reach the green on my 3rd shot, so I hit short of the water. My 4th shot needed to be about 75 yards to the center of the green. I purposely selected a club that would easily carry the water (I've been in the water 3 times before). Oops. Too much club. I flew over the green, and then my ball bounced on the cart path and flew over a block wall into the street. I took the stroke penalty (but not the distance as the rules called for). I still had to chip on the green and putt out. I took an 8 - ouch.

That was not the worst hole I played, but I wont bore you talking about them. A hole that started off promising - number 8, a par 4, straight and not too long, I actually landed on the green in regulation. (That means my 2nd shot landed on the green, and I was putting for a birdie.) Oops. I 3-putt for a bogey 5.

The 18th hole was one of my better ones. A long par 5, with an elevated tee; you must hit into a valley and work your way back uphill to an elevated green. Did I mention the water? A stream with little waterfalls and pools, descending from the front of the green to the fairway from right to left. I hit a good drive and a 2nd and a 3rd shot. My 4th shot was the approach to the green, less that 100 yards which had to carry the water. It landed on the green close enough for me to 2-putt. I took a bogey 6. In total I only had 4 single bogeys. No pars, everything else doubles or higher - ouch.

Laura continues to improve, and has been back to work for nearly 2 weeks. Thanks again for all the well wishes and prayers. She is coaching Nina's cheerleader squad, and they are practicing for opening day ceremonies. Laura had a run-in with a couple the girl's parents. 3 girls have been showing up late to practice, which affects the other girls on the squad. Laura talked to the parents after practice last night, and they didn't like it. It got ugly, and Laura had to call one of the league officers to step in. The bottom line is if the kids are going to be late (or absent) Laura wants to know before practice starts. Also, if the parents are going to briefly leave the practice area (parents are required to stay at practice at this age group) to go to the snack shack, or the restroom, or to stretch their legs; just let Laura know. That way if there's an emergency, Laura will know where to look for the parent(s). No big deal, but these bitches really gave Laura a bad time about this very reasonable request.

Brady is about two weeks from starting high school. He's also helping Laura plan his birthday party - a late night bowling party. This time of the year is crazy due to so many family birthdays. Complicating that is back to school, the start of cheer (football) season, and the start of our off road club riding season.

Finally, work has been very busy lately. I don't want to talk too much about work, but it does factor into my life. As I say on my profile - it's a necessary evil.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Golfing With My Dad

One of the fondest memories I have is playing golf with my dad. Papa Kirk, as my sisters and I called him, and as he was affectionately know to many other relatives and friends, was an avid golfer. It’s because of my Papa Kirk that I learned to play golf, and learned to love golf.

These days, due to family commitments and a busy work schedule, I rarely play golf. However, this Saturday (8-11-07), I will be playing golf in a tournament named in Papa’s memory. This is the forth year in a row that I’ve played in the DWP Golf Club tournament at Temeku in Temecula, CA. I’m not sure at what point the DWP renamed this golf outing the Carlos Aguirre Memorial Tournament, but I’m proud to be able to participate. I will be in a foursome with my mom (Mama Norma, as my sisters and I, and many others call her), my uncle Gilbert, and my cousin Michael.

For those readers who don’t recognize the acronym DWP, it stands for Department of Water and Power. The golf club’s participants are employees and retirees (and guests – like me) of the City of Los Angeles - DWP. I participated with my Papa in many a golf outing with this club during my high school years and shortly thereafter.

But the DWP tournaments were but a few of the total rounds of golf my Papa and I played. For years we would go to La Mirada golf course early on a Sunday morning and play the back nine. I can’t tell you how many times we were one of the first foursomes to tee off on the back nine, often times before daybreak. I had to give up a lot of sleep back then, but it was worth it.

We didn’t just play La Mirada, we played other area golf courses too. In fact, I remember when the City of Cerritos (where we lived) completed their golf course, Iron-Wood Nine. We played there many times too.

Papa was so proud of me when I joined my high school team. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was quite an accomplishment. I had only started playing golf in the summer before my sophomore year, and by the spring of my junior year I had made the team. Unlike other sports teams at school there was only one golf team: varsity. So after the season ended I was awarded a varsity letter, and my parents bought me a letterman’s jacket. At the time, I was not as proud about this as my Papa was. From my perspective, it didn’t compare to a varsity letterman who lettered in football, or baseball, or soccer, or track, or any of those more physically demanding sports.

During my senior year, my game improved and I moved into the # 2 spot on the squad. It was during this period of time when I was at the best of my game. After all, playing nine+ holes three times a week (twice with the team, and then again on Sunday morning’s with my Papa) and going to the driving range two times a week with the team; I was as best as I had ever been. After high school I started working, and the following fall started college, and Sunday mornings as well as DWP tournaments were few and far between.

My Papa and I still managed to play on occasion. Eventually, after my Mama retired, she learned how to play golf too; Papa taught her, of course. The three of us had several golf outings together, and they too are cherished memories. On August 18, 2000, there was a DWP tournament at Temeku that Papa Kirk played in. In his foursome was my Mama Norma and my Uncle Gilbert. The following day The Lord had an opening for a lefty in the Big Foursome in Heaven.

So tomorrow I will proudly play in a tournament at the course my Papa played his last round of golf at. I'm sure we will have a great time, as we have the last three years. I'll post my score after the tournament. My guess is that I'll shoot over 100, and that's okay with me.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Corn Festival Parade

The first Weekend in August is when the City of La Habra celebrates it's Corn Festival. This event has been celebrated for many years, and a lot of people participate in various ways. There's a carnival with rides, food booths, game booths, craft booths, and vendors of many items (kind of a swap meet). This carnival begins on Friday afternoon, and continues to Sunday evening. On Saturday morning, a parade goes down La Habra Blvd. This year, just like last year, my wife Laura and my daughter Nina were in the parade. Nina is a cheerleader for the local Pop Warner football and cheer league, The La Habra Lions, and Laura is the cheer coach for Nina's squad.

Here's Nina's squad - Flag Blue - getting ready for the parade. The youngest squad of cheerleaders is the only one that gets to ride on a float in the parade. All the other squads of cheerleaders and football players have to walk the parade route. Nina is second from the right.

Here's a picture of the float the flag squad gets to ride on:Here's a close up of Nina (on the right) and a friend of hers, Isabel. Isabel was not on Nina's squad last year. In fact, there are six new cheerleaders and four returning veterans.Laura took this picture of the boys Flag Blue football squad as they headed towards the start of the parade route. These are the boys that Nina and her squad will be cheering for over the next several weeks as the games are played.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to share from my vantage point on the parade route. Laura had our digital camera with her to take all these pictures (and more), and I wasn't going to use our old camera (the kind that takes a four letter word beginning with F). I did last year, and as you can see by reading my post from then, the picture quality isn't that great. What you don't get to see in this post is just how good my vantage point was. I will briefly describe it.

Towards the end of the parade route is the competition and judging stand. Across the street and a few yards west from that is the La Habra Community Center. In front of the center there is a strip of grass separating the parking lot from La Habra Blvd., and this grass strip is raised up like a grassy knoll (no, not like the one in Dallas). Because of the grassy knoll, I get to see over the tops of people's heads sitting on the sidewalk in front of me. Well this grassy knoll is becoming so popular, I'm having to get there earlier each year in order to secure a spot. This year, I was there just after 4:00 a.m. - and I wasn't the first one there. By 5:30 a.m. (4 hours before the start of the parade) all the available spots on the knoll were taken. Ten or 11 EZ-Ups side by side and dozens of folding lawn chairs, patiently waiting for their occupants, being watched by a handful of guys willing to give up sleep to secure the best spot.

An update on Laura. She's doing better both emotionally and physically. A few days ago, she underwent a surgical procedure that was recommended after someone suffers a miscarriage. In the days following that procedure, she's been in a lot of pain associated with the anesthesia. She has not been able to practice with her squad, and didn't think she would be able to be in the parade. She felt well enough to participate, but luckily she didn't have to walk. Her dad drove her in a small gas-powered cart and followed behind the cheerleader's float.

Thanks to all of you who left comments on my last post. Your kind words were very encouraging.