February 22, 2010

Claire from Modern Family just wishes she could homemake like my Mom.

Perhaps this post would be more appropriately named “Attack of the Mommy.” She came, she saw, she conquered. Said more plainly, she kicked my krib’s butt.

During a visit of just over four full days (Thursday night – Tuesday morning), my mom did the following: painted my bed room, painted my living room, carpeted my bed room, carpeted my living room, hung curtains in my bed room, bought a bunch of random kitchen and bathroom stuff (some of which I knew I needed, some of which I didn’t even knew existed), found a really nice desk that also easily comes apart and lies flat (not that I’m already thinking about moving), did laundry,  and bought a lazy-boy chair I’m sitting in right now for $3. Oh yeah, and my refrigerator is practically overflowing with excessively healthy and/or home cooked food.

The amazing part? Most of this happened while I was either at work or asleep. We still had time to tour the (famous?) Carlsbad Caverns and the Living Dessert State Park, find the one hill in Carlsbad and it’s corresponding lookout over the city, go to church, invite my neighbor Dan over for brunch, watch Modern Family and go to Bible study (I think she also read a book while here too).

To be fair, I did a decent job for myself in setting up a reasonable living arrangement. Also to be fair, it felt a lot like college. Now with a touch of Mom love, it actually feels like a real home. So while it is no longer anything like ‘Worth the Trip’ it now actually is worth the trip.

And what a trip it is, as my mom unfortunately found out. To get here from St. Louis requires either a) a day and a half of driving, b) three flights or c) two flights and 1-2 hours of driving. When it snows in Dallas and nearly shuts down the airport (as it did on my Mom’s travel day) it takes even longer. So don’t worry, I only expect those of you who really love me to come out.

Speaking of love, I had quite the Valentines Day here in Carlsbad. Well, actually it was on the day after. In an effort to serve, honor and appreciate the girls at Bible study, us guys got together to make the day special for them. We showed up to the Trone’s house a couple hours early to cook dinner. Jeremy designed a hand drawn card and made copies for everyone. We also had a rose and a small box of chocolates fro each girl. If any of this sounds suspiciously like ‘Naventines’ to my friends back at Miami, that’s because this may or may not have been phase 2 of my efforts to turn Monday Night at the Trone’s into Miami Navs (Phase 1 was inviting Ellen, of course).

"Doin things I never do... I'm in the kitchen cookin things she likes"

The whole group, with the girls showing off their gifts.

Jeremy's hand-drawn card for the ladies

It’s occurring to me right now, as I think of what to write next, that I have failed post an update about the one reason I am even down here in the first place: work. So I will now close by telling you stories from my job… which is to tell stories.

Being a journalist is an interesting (for lack of better word) career because you fall somewhere in between a normal citizen and a public figure. I have now been here long enough that when I introduce myself to new people, more times than not they will pause, give an inquisitive look and ask for my last name. When I say ‘Kukla’ they will then reposition their head, give a new inquisitive look and say something to the effect of “I feel like I recognize you from somewhere.” So far I’ve decided to play dumb and tell them that I’m new in town so I don’t know how that could be.

It’s a funny thing, having your name put in the paper everyday but only your picture every so often (whenever I get enough time, energy and interesting thoughts about current events in the sports world – all at the same time – to write a column. This has only happened twice so far). It’s like people don’t quite know who you are, but they have heard of you. Not quite citizen, not quite celeb.

Once people do figure out who I am, it prompts various responses. The two most common are to a) say something polite like “we’re glad to have you here” / “you’re doing a good job” / “I liked your article” or b) offer advice.

“All I ask is that you be fair,” one lady said to me. “You know, women can be athletes too.”

“It would be nice to hear how all the lower level team are doing,” one man told me. “We care about the C-team, JV and the 8th graders too.”

“It’s great to get stories about the Cavemen,” another said, “but we need to know what’s going on with all of the 5A schools for when Carlsbad plays in districts and state.”

Um, does anyone happen to own a cloning device. Apparently I not only need to be in multiple places at once, I actually need to be everywhere, all the time.

The best comments, however, come by some form of mail (snail-, voice- or e-). These come from people so worked up about something that they feel the need to go out of their way to call or write me.

My favorite was the hand-written letter someone sent me to welcome me to town… and inform me of every single sports interest in Carlsbad from middle school (PR Leyva and Alta Vista), high school (CHS… and every other 5A school in the state), college (UNM, NMSU, Texas Tech and UTEP) and Pro (Cowboys and Astros because of proximity, Marlins because of former Caveman Cody Ross and the Dodgers for no apparent reason at all). I wonder what would happen if I just started running all Cardinals, Rams, Blues, RedHawks and Mizzou stories.

My least favorite was an angry phone call from a dad angry about my coverage of his son’s 8th grade basketball game. I will say, for the record, that I went to this game, stayed for the entire time, wrote a full story with TWO pictures and ran it top front. Unfortunately, in my picture of the team holding up their conference championship trophy after the game, I did not list the names of every single player… and his son, instead of celebrating with his team, decided to skip out on my photo op.

Apparently this is completely my fault and also complete bull s***, among many other four-letter words.

The most random message I’ve received? I’ll just give you the entire thing: “NASCAR. Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. Carlsbad want it. Now let’s see how good you are.” I wish he had left a phone number. He was so nice and I would have liked to tell him that he got the wrong number. There’s no way someone calling about cars driving in circles wanted to talk to the SPORTS editor.


Rolling in the green

February 4, 2010

Let's play a game! What is this picture? a) A delicous meal b) A heart attack on a plate c) "tossed cookies" d) Not food, that's for sure e) Happiness

Green Chili. Is. Everywhere.

I went to a restaurant for lunch Monday and literally every sandwich came with green chili on it. Last week when I went back to Danny’s Place (that awesome BBQ restaurant that serves St. Louis cut pork ribs) I was the only person in a group of five who didn’t order the green chili cheeseburger. At this point I’m just waiting to find out that the Wendy’s in town serves green chili flavored frosties.

According to the locals, green chili comes in varying degrees of flavor and spicy-ness. On my turkey sandwich it was very mild and added more texture than it did flavor. Apparently I am not allowed to pass judgment on the condiment until I eat on Mexican food where it tends to have more kick.

This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I found out that it is actually a very good thing, and for reasons much more objective than taste. I am told that some chemical in green chili supposedly raises endorphin production in our bodies. I am also told that this consequently biologically improves people’s moods. Thus, by transitive property, eating green chili = happiness.

After doing some very brief, non-scientific research on google, this seems to be a generally accepted theory. But I have better proof than that. The people here in New Mexico really are super nice. Seriously. My goal when moving here was to know enough people by Super Bowl Sunday that I would have a party to go to and not have to watch the big game by myself or at a sports bar. Well I now find myself having to chose between multiple super bowl parties. Half the stuff in my krib was donated to me by a local church or co-workers. Not to say that people in St. Louis or Oxford are mean or unhappy, but people here do genuinely seem nicer and happier than the norm. I’m telling you, it’s gotta be the chili.

Speaking of nice people, I had an interesting run in with some Tuesday morning. As I exited my car in front of the krib after running an errand, three passer bys stopped for a chat. “Did you just move in?” they asked. “Well you should know there are three ghosts that live in there.” They then proceeded to tell me a tall tale of an old black lady and two kids who haunt my place. Apparently, if I leave my bathroom light on a night and turn everything else off, I will be able to see them moving around from my bed. “But don’t worry,” they assured me, “they are nice ghosts so you don’t have to be afraid.” I am still quite curious as to how they know all of this, considering I am the one living here and not them. For the record, the only ghost I have encountered thus far is of the holy variety.
And speaking of that third member of the trinity, I recently joined a Bible study. Well, it’s a Bible study, but then again it’s so much more. The gathering is designed for guys and gals in the 18-25ish year-old range. A very nice couple hosts it in their home (an incredibly beautiful one, I might add… the couple I mean, but yes the home is quite gorgeous too). Janice makes sure to have a delicious meal ready for us around 7:30. This is no easy task since the group size both nights has been in the upper teens. After eating and socializing for half an hour we then gather in the living room where Paul leads the study/discussion on the night’s topic. I should also add that Steven leads us on the guitar in two worship songs (gotta make sure I get all my shout outs in). This weekly event has been so great for me because a) it’s another chance to get into God’s word b) the large and diverse group always provides interesting points of views that challenge me and make me think and c) it is a great way to meet some awesome people my age-ish.

I found this Bible study through a series of random but connected events. Ellen, the girl here I know from Miami, works with Robbey at the caves. I met Robbey on my first night in Carlsbad when I played volleyball with them. He took me to Church one Sunday where I met his cousin Stephanie. Even though Robbey was going hiking that afternoon, I planned on staying back because it was conference championship Sunday and I needed (yes, needed) to watch me some football. Stephanie kindly offered me to come to her Aunt’s house for family lunch (I would take Robbey’s place at the table). This is where she told me about the really cool Bible study on Monday nights.

My mom will be happy to know that between Sunday afternoons at the Bemis’ (I now seem to be adopted by that family… at least on Sundays after Church) and Monday nights at the Trone’s I am fed my two good meals of the week. So my diet isn’t completely based off of Ramen noodles, Honey Bunches of Oats and KFC.

And while we are kinda sorta still on the topic of church I should probably mention my latest encounter with my neighbor Dan. I often see him walking his tiny dog Fritzy (yeah, I guess tiny went without saying) around the block. One day he caught me at the mail box. I a very ‘I’m just trying to be a nice neighbor and don’t want to offend anyone way’ he asked if I would attend church with him that Sunday. After I agreed to that he also roped me into ‘Sunday school’ before the service. This turned out to be another Bible study, just one of a much older demographic than Monday nights at the Trone’s. I was a big hit.

Let the spiritual illustrations fly!

So I am now officially being courted by three area churches and still have 2-4 left on my list of ones I need to check out. Robbey’s church actually gave me a coffee mug with their logo on it and text that says “I was mugged at the Church Street Church of the Nazarene.” People from the Lutheran church I went to on my first Sunday in town continue to donate random items for the krib. And then it’s just really hard to say no to a neighbor who is the nicest navy veteran you will ever meet.

Current-Argus Update

February 4, 2010

Many people have recently been sending me messages like this: “Dan, why can’t I find any of your writing on the Current-Argus website? Do you really work them or is this all a big joke!?”

Well I am here to assure you that I do indeed work for the Current-Argus. I am also here to announce the publishing of my first column! My first two preview stories and my first game story will be coming out Friday and Saturday. As promised, I will not post these articles here but force you to look on our website. That’s what that flashy new link in the right hand column is for. Enjoy.

PS Stay tuned for the release of a Current-Argus Sports facebook page and Twitter feed. I’m not really sure when I plan on making these things but they will happen… eventually.

PSS The next Dan in Real Life post is currently half written (or is it currently half un-written?) Should be out soon as well but I won’t make any promises.