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Monday, December 30, 2013

My Thoughts on The USS Leo's Refit and The Space Center Staff Christmas (Late) Party. Plus, A Very Large Imaginarium.

Hello Troops,
     The Space Center is dark for the two week holiday.  Central School is shuttered tightly and the simulators quiet. In the Center's golden age, the holiday season was a financial blessing.  Mothers were happy to pay us to get their kiddies out from underfoot for a few hours; and what better and safer  place to do that than the Space Center?!  Given that successful holiday track record, it would make sense to open for a few days to earn a few precious dollars for the program.  It appears the Space Center's old mandate to provide for itself and not be a financial burden to its primary stakeholder has changed.
     The Discovery Space Center and the Lakeview Center are both open for the holidays.  I chaperoned the Discovery's overnight camp last Thursday.  We had a good group of campers who had a great time. The Discovery Center also ran a Super Overnight Camp on Friday - an event I declined to chaperone because I'm too old.
     The Space Center started the Super Overnight Camp program in 2004 under the direction of Kyle Herring.  The kids, the staff, and the volunteers all loved the program. I hated it.  The kids didn't go to bed until 2:00 A.M., meaning I couldn't go to bed until 2:30 A.M.  Then it was up again at 7:00 A.M. so the kids could finish their mission before going home at 10:00 A.M.  I'd be a walking zombie the whole next day.
The USS Leo Receives a Face Lift
     The Lakeview Space Center's Leo simulator got a face lift last week in the form of a wall refit.

The Leo had a cinder block wall that had to go.  It was almost as bad as the cement walls easily visible in the Star Trek movie from a couple years ago.  Brandon Wright (red) is seen in the photo above with an unknown Star Fleet maintenance worker hard at work removing all signs of cinder block.  BJ Warner, the director of the Lakeview program, was also there offering moral support, administrative direction and photography :)

The wall, before, and looking very unspace like.

Brandon hard at work. BJ is snapping pictures and offering abundant administration :)

The front of the Leo. Do the words "Very Cool" come to mind?

     Brandon showing what the cinder block wall will look like when its all done.  BJ administered the event and offered proper guidelines to Brandon to ensure his arm was held properly and straight so as not to overly strain his shoulder muscle.  Another suggestion from our friends at Risk Management.            You know the people at Risk Management don't you?  Their motto is, "If it's fun, its dangerous".   They're the ones who had the paralytic fit over the Voyager's spiral staircase.  And how many of our high schools have spiral staircases?  I guess our 23 year history with a spiral staircase didn't matter in their calculations.

The Space Center Staff Celebrate Christmas (Late).

     The Space Center staff gathered for an after Christmas party Saturday night at Connor's Barn. Connor's Barn / Playhouse is nestled in the back woods of Forgotten Canyon just outside of Alpine. Megan was kind enough to invite this old party pooper.  She knew my being there would give her staff a chance to compare and contrast the ancient (me) with the new, hip and modern (her).  Only then would they realize how lucky there were to have me retired and Megan at the Space Center's helm :)    "Out with the old," I thought I heard her say to someone.  I couldn't tell you who that someone was or whether or not she actually said it, but she MIGHT have said it to someone at sometime.  And if its something she might have said, then its good enough to print in The Troubadour!
      Getting to Connor's Barn was an adventure in and of itself.  One minute I was driving down Alpine's Main Street, and the next I found myself bouncing up a dark remote canyon.  The heavily chewed ribbon of asphalt the locals call a road, was a real bone shaker.  I would have driven right by the turn off to the Barn had Jon Parker not been parked roadside directing traffic.
     "What's further up the road?" I asked Connor once I safely entered the barn and removed my shoes.
     "Don't know," Our host replied. "You hear stories about the people who live up there, but I don't think they're true. Let's put it another way, let's hope they're not true."
     I started up the stairs to the great room. "That's kinda freaky."
    "Don't worry, they only come down late at night." Connor's voice was calm.  "You hear them scratching on the side of the barn.  Flip on the security lights and they scatter like deer."
     "Reassuring," I replied. "What do you call them?"
     "The Walkers."  He answered.
     I stopped dead, turned and faced him.  "Walkers! Like the Walking Dead?"  My heart started racing and visions of living through the night of the living dead flooded through my mind.
     Connor laughed.  "Not the Walking Dead.  The Walkers.... that's the name of the family who live up there.  You've really got an active imagination."
     "Tell me about it," I said as the goodies on the kitchen table caught my attention.  

     Connor and Megan look out over Forgotten Canyon from the Great Room's picture window.  The table held a wide variety of sugars, crackers and chips.  Jon's contribution to the snacks was my favorite - a box of Keebler crackers.
      "A box of Saltine Crackers!" I exclaimed after spotting them on the table.

      "You got that right," Jon replied.  "Look at that there box and tell me if it ain't got Christmas written all over it.  Why there's an elf in the corner - ain't that Christmas?  And lookie here at the color, the box is red ain't it? Red is a Christmas color. Now tell me that ain't so?"
     "Jon, did you spend some time with your family in Price recently?" I asked.  A bit of the country always came back with Jon after visiting family in Price.
     "Yes Sir I did,"  he answered proudly.  "Where do ya think I done got that there box of holiday crackers?  Why is ain't Christmas at the Parker home without the Christmas saltines in the red box." Jon stopped talking for a minute when he realized why I had asked the question. "Oh...... is it showin?"
     "The backcountry is pouring out of your mouth like a broken beaver dam across a swollen creek."
     Jon covered his mouth, coughed a few times, then spoke.  "Is this better."
     "Say something more.  You know our test phrase.  Repeat it."
     Jon cleared his throat before reciting our agreed upon test phrase. "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the Plain."  He waited for my verdict.
     "You're good." I smiled and gave him a thumbs up.  "Now, I'll help myself to those Christmas crackers.  I find saltines are the best way to clear one's palette after an overdose of sugary treats."
     "I couldn't agree with you more, my fine fellow," Jon replied.

The Great Hall.  Our white elephants rest on the counter top guarded by the Warner sisters.   

     The Space Center staff gathered in the kitchen to enjoy the snacks and each other's company.
I sat on a fine leather couch closer to the gas fireplace and window.  It was a good place to listen for scratching as the night stole the light away.

     I stayed on the couch while Megan talked to the staff about this summer's camp schedule.  The Space Center will be offering a variety of camps this summer, so be sure to keep an eye on upcoming Troubadour posts to learn more.  
     As I sat there watching Megan interact with her staff,  I kept thinking how awesome it was not to be in charge of a Space Center gathering.  Megan is doing a fantastic job running the Space Center and definitely doesn't need any help from me.  She's got it down - and rightfully so.  She's been at the Center for over 10 years!  She knows what she is doing.  Good Job Megan!
     The gift exchange was fun.  Megan read one of those "left, right" stories.  The gifts kept going back and forth, around our circle until the story ended.  Then it was 4 minutes of controlled chaos as we traded gifts back and forth. Connor and I fought tooth and nail over one of Mrs. Houston's space pillowcases.  Mrs. Houston and Hailey Warner battled over a $25 iTunes gift card.  In the end I got my way.  Connor surrendered the pillowcase.  I think he felt sorry for me.  "Even little victories mean so much to people at his time of life.  Poor old duffer?" I thought I heard him say to Megan.  Of course I could be mistaken.  But he might have said it, and if he might have said it to someone at some point in time, then its worth posting in The Troubadour!  

Mr. W

P.S.  THE FINE PRINT.  Remember, I have this uncontrollable urge to garnish simple stories with trimmings which may or may not be completely digestible - if you catch my meaning.  So read these embellishments with that in mind and have a great day!  If you're on the receiving end of a garnishment then blessed are you indeed.   

The Imaginarium.
When life hands you ordinary, make it Extraordinary

The dog's face tells the story.
Who's the better driver then?

 A Few Amazing Photos

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