Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's Bleatings (Christmas 2007)

You may choose to think of this yearly dispatch from the Greene clan to be the holiday equivalent of an annual proctology exam. For some, you may look to this event as a necessary evil and take solace in the fact it’ll all be over in a few moments. Others may find it completely unnecessary and wonder what type of paperwork snafu got them on the list. It’s possible that there may even be a small minority who actually enjoys it, and all I can say is that there are support groups and therapy out there to help. Regardless of the category that may apply to you, I am willing to bet that you all share one happy thought about this: at least we have another year before the next one. With that said, happy reading!

It’s not been a good year for the Greenes, honestly. Sure, our house hasn’t burned to the ground, nor have I been fired from my job – keep your fingers crossed – but those of you who haven’t kept in contact with us through the year may be shocked to learn that Erin has gone completely insane. It’s an insanity stemming from bringing the newest member of our family, Lola, into our home. No, I’m not talking about postpartum depression (you’ve seriously lost contact with us if you thought Erin was pregnant); I’m talking about the fact not only did Erin relent and bring a dog into our home but she is barking mad (pun intended) over this dog. Lola is a Chihuahua/Terrier mix, and Erin has been seen nuzzling, kissing, and hugging this dog repeatedly. Fear not, it’s nothing shocking enough to make YouTube, but it’s completely wrong to all of us who have listened to Erin’s oft-stated dislike for dogs for so many years. I believe this vehemence is best summed up by a pre-Lola quote from Erin: “They lick their butts, then they lick your face.” Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Erin the Flip-Flopper. Be careful, she may run for President next year – she now has all the necessary qualifications.

Sam is now in second grade, and he’s becoming quite the writer. Recently, he was asked to write about the Pilgrims and the ordeal they faced crossing the Atlantic. Rather than taking the usual approach by describing the fetid, cramped living conditions or the long hours of ennui and facing harsh elements, he summed up their plight by writing that the Pilgrims were “always hurling” over the sides of the ship. Not putting too fine a point on it, he simply described the journey as “dreadful”. From the mouths of babes . . .

For those of you who have been doing their research, Jack turned ten this year and started the fifth grade. Jack excels in science and math at school, and this wouldn’t be troubling except for the fact he’s keen on putting this newfound knowledge to use at home. I fear the day I’ll come home from a trip and find Jack standing on the roof and holding the neighbor’s cat with a piece of buttered toast tied to its back. I’ll have to ask, but he’ll of course say, “Dad, come on. I’m trying to see which phenomenon is true: ‘cats always land on their feet’ or ‘toast always lands buttered side down.’” Whether it’s fatigue from being on the road or looking a perfectly reasoned scientific experiment in the face, I’m afraid I might just shrug my shoulders, wish him good luck, and go inside the house. Frankly, I just don’t want to void my roof’s warranty. I’ll keep you posted.

As for myself, I’m still trying to create a force field around the house that will allow our family and friends to pass freely but keep out kids selling magazine subscriptions, religious zealots, and people leaving flyers on our porch. I’m trying to do this by using the available cell phone towers in the area and triangulating their signals around the house. However, I can’t quite get the frequency right because I’m constantly finding the Verizon guy standing on my porch with his host of thousands surrounding him. I’m sure it would be pretty easy to hide a couple of magazine sales people and missionaries in that kind of crowd.

May this Yuletide yammering find you warm and happy – hopefully without the help of medication. Drop us a line when you get a chance.

P.S. Erin wants to go on record that she’s not altogether pleased with the proctology analogy at the opening of the letter. Just so you know.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Giving 'Til it Hurts

I went down to the local church house and donated blood this morning. Evidently, there’s a great deal more peer pressure involved with donating blood than I had ever imagined. One would think that spur-of-the-moment cow tipping or Britney Spears impersonating would carry with it a stronger pull to be a part of the group – a pull with enough power for you to abandon your senses and do something you normally wouldn’t do sober or free of any prescribed medications. (Obviously, the sobriety or state of being drug-free might impede your ability to do a really good Britney impersonation.)

Before giving blood, one of the technicians takes you to a temporary cubicle away from prying eyes to ask you 348 health questions in 30 seconds to which you are supposed to answer “no” on each one. The “privacy” of this set up is what causes me to think there’s such a strong element of peer pressure. Sure, the questions they ask are mostly personal, but if you truly answer “yes” to any one of the majority, you have bigger fish to fry than taking the time out of your day to make it down to donate blood. “Have you had in the last six months or do you currently have bodily fluids that defy description with a standard pallet of primary and secondary colors freely flowing from any natural or recently created orifices?” (They read those suckers so fast – I think that was one of the questions.)

One would think that they could hand you a laminated card when you first check in that had all of these questions, and at the bottom of the questionnaire there would be a note saying: “If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the previous questions, you may not donate blood today – you have more important things to worry about.” Instead, they bring you back to the cubicle and grill you. Some of the technicians give you the evil eye if they think you’re lying. With all of this privacy, you’re waiting for the tech to lean across the little table, look you in the eye, and say, “Look. I understand you got caught up in the moment when everyone was signing up for the blood drive – you wanted to impress everyone with ‘Hey, look at me. I’m as selfless as any of you.’ But let’s be honest. You’re not eligible to donate, so I’m going to let you sit here for a couple more minutes and gather your wits about you. When you get up to leave, if anyone catches your eye and questions you, just tell them you have iron-poor blood. Do you understand? And don’t let me catch you back here again. Peer pressure’s tough, I’ll grant you. But the business end of my size eleven shoe up your keister is tougher.”

Peer pressure or not, I do find a great deal of personal satisfaction with donating blood. Sure, it’s nice to think about the people I’m helping, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what I really enjoy about the whole experience is watching how nervous people get with the whole ordeal. I feel beholden to feed that fear.

The son of a friend of ours walked up to me and said he accompanied his dad so he could understand the whole process. Noting a look of trepidation on his face I said, “Not a bad plan, Chet. But I’m surprised it’s so quiet here today. Usually you hear a lot of screaming and moaning. They must be using some pretty strong drugs today. Better make sure they don’t slip you something – you could end up with a needle in your arm, too.”

As the boy screamed and ran to find his dad, I noticed a lot of people were looking at me. I just told them, “Poor kid just found out he has iron-poor blood.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Theory of Relativity

Sharing family stories carries with it a certain degree of responsibility, a sacred charge if you will. Granted, it’s not exactly the equivalent of Moses coming down from the mountain with stone tablets, but I need to mind my Ps and Qs or else I face an even greater wrath – my wife’s.

Some of you may recall that a little over a year ago I wrote a column about my side of the family and the personalities that populate that peanut gallery. It was my contention that when taken as a whole, the dysfunction and borderline insanity displayed by my kin represent probably 95% of the population – in other words, they’re normal. This weekend, I attended a reunion for a branch of my wife’s family tree and learned that they’re just as “normal” as my family, and probably yours. It’s all relative, certainly. More on that in a moment.

Last week we went to our oldest son’s very first band concert. He plays the trumpet. He’s no Herb Alpert or Dizzy Gillespie, and last week’s band concert demonstrated that he’s not a child prodigy either. But that’s okay. When the band finished their first song, we had a little trouble clapping because we were busy keeping our youngest son’s hands down in his lap and not covering his ears. It would be safe to say that our youngest lacked the wisdom to see that the band’s performance went relatively well – no windows were broken and the neighborhood dogs didn’t join in a communal howl. My wife’s father, I noticed, had a very big smile on his face at the end of the first song – I couldn’t tell if it was a result of Grandpa Pride or if he had just turned his hearing aid way down. It was no philharmonic offering by any stretch of the imagination, but the relative simplicity of the song had my wife and me bursting with pride to hear our son blowing that horn like mad and following the bandleader’s direction.

Relative simplicity can go a long way. Take Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll, Part II” (otherwise known as the “Hey Song” frequently heard at sporting events) as an example. In the three-minutes-eleven-seconds song, only four words are uttered along with a whole slew of inaudible “ughs” that sound like a tennis player lunging for the ball played out in front of a catchy guitar hook that just keeps repeating itself – it’s not Beethoven even on a good day. Nevertheless, that simple song, more often than not, will find you painting your chest, belting out those four words, and grunting like a Caveman. Do that alone, and you’re a freak. Do that in a stadium with 60,000 other fans, and you’re normal. It’s all relative.

Now, back to the family reunion. I heard one story about two couples (the two women were sisters) taking a trip down to Tijuana; one couple ended up leaving the other on the side of the road south of the border to hitchhike their way back to San Diego. I got the distinct impression that alcohol was involved. Another story involved the granddaddy of combovers that would have put Donald Trump to shame and given Bob’s Big Boy a run for his money in the styling department.

No one on my wife’s side of the family has ever been famous like Gary Glitter for penning and composing what has become known as a sports anthem, but I’m proud to have married into this “normal” family all the same. We can look at it in another way: neither has anyone on her side of the family been convicted and imprisoned like little Gary for doing naughty things with underage girls in Vietnam. Good thing, too, because it would be hell – relatively speaking – trying to get everyone together for another family reunion.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Giblets All Around

With the prospect or specter of having thirty or so family members and/or friends jammed around a table designed to seat eight for Thanksgiving dinner, many of you have reached your wit’s end (a shorter trip for some than others). This is evidenced by the fact you have resorted to sending e-mails to me, a humor columnist, asking for advice on matters concerning the holiday ranging from the aforementioned seating question to proper menus. I’m guessing Martha Stewart hasn’t been returning your phone calls.

Wendy Wisnewski writes, “What should I do to entertain the children while I am finishing the last-minute preparations in the kitchen?”

I’m assuming the husband/father here is either in jail or he has already been tasked to keep Uncle Herb and Cousin Phil in opposite ends of the house. Clearly, hiring a clown to come in and perform a small magic show and make balloon animals for the kids is out of the question – not necessarily because getting a clown to work on a holiday may be difficult but because you may not be able to tell him apart from your Aunt Phyllis. If you’re not planning on taking a family photo sometime that day, a nice paintball war in the backyard would be a good activity – dress the kids up like Pilgrims. Get them all tuckered out running around and then fill them with turkey (Mother Nature’s sleeping pill, tryptophan), and they’ll zonk out for hours after dinner. If you are planning on a family photo, just substitute the paintball guns with BB guns – it’s really easy to airbrush out any red marks the BBs might make on the children’s skin.

Bradley Rykoff asks, “I woke up this morning with a tattoo of a Smurf on my chest and a message on my answering machine telling me that I agreed to have all the guys from my office over for Thanksgiving dinner. I just bought a turkey, and it’s got a bunch of strange things stuffed up inside it. What are they and what do I do with them?”

I can’t help you with the Smurf on your chest (although I would recommend forgoing that trip to the Bahamas with your buddies until you resolve that issue), but the turkey thing is something I can address. That bag of goodies inside the turkey is called the giblets: the heart, gizzard, liver, and other edible organs of the turkey. If you were going to stuff the bird – that’s not a euphemism – you would take the giblets and chop them up and mix them in with the stuffing. My recommendation, though, would be to find out who got your drunk enough to get you to have a Smurf tattooed on your chest and place them in his sock drawer or bed sheets along with a note that says, “Killer.”

Lastly, Kelly Chadwick poses the question, “With seating at my one and only dining room table limited, where should I seat the children?”

When I was a child, we were banished to the kids’ table, which was basically a folding card table with a white paint stain from a long-forgotten home-improvement project. And while one could make the argument that such an arrangement is good for children’s socialization skills, the reality is that you’re going to spend more time ferrying the kids back to their own seats because they want to sit at the adult table. If you don’t go with the paintball activity mentioned above, and you don’t anticipate an opportunity to get your kids completely exhausted, the best thing to do is seat the children at the big table and have the adults sit in the family room with TV trays to watch the football game. Believe me, you won’t hear any complaints about not sitting at the adult table. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Blue Shame

There’s a saying about cars that goes something like this: “What’s the world’s fastest car? A rental car. What’s the second fastest car? A company car.” I have tested and proven both of these statements to be true, and I have come up with an addendum: “What’s the third fastest? Anything you are insane enough to give a teenager.”

When I was such a teenager, an old two-lane highway near my house had been widened and improved. And in between the time that it was finished and officially re-opened, it was used as a drag strip by the local kids because either the local sheriff’s office was unaware of this new development or they were turning a blind eye. Either way, I decided to take this opportunity and turn this strip of road into my own personal Bonneville Salt Flats.

My weapon of choice in my assault on the land speed record was the family grocery-getter, a baby blue 1985 Honda Civic – a car I had taken to calling Sid. The speedometer topped out at 120 mph, and I was intent on seeing that Sid reached his limits . . . or die trying.

After making a couple of cursory passes on the highway to check for Smokey (that’s 1970s trucker talk for “the law” for the uninitiated) hidden behind a billboard or hillock, I placed Sid in first gear, revved the engine (imagine how menacing those four cylinders of fury must have sounded!), and popped the clutch. (I want to say I had something really cool like The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” pumping on the factory-installed, two-speaker “stereo”, but it was probably something like Pet Shop Boys or Duran Duran.) At any rate, I took Sid through the motions and into fifth gear. When I reached 84 mph, the car started shaking. By the time I got to 92 mph, I could feel the fillings in my own mouth starting to loosen. But that didn’t stop me.

Funny thing here is that all those things I was taught in Drivers Ed – you know, the one about reaction times exponentially increasing for every mile an hour you are over the speed limit, the one about the likelihood of death should your car reach the speed of sound, etc. – didn’t suddenly leap to mind. While it was highly possible that the rivets and weldments holding my parents’ car together could fail at any moment due to the fact it was shaking like it was attempting re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, and I would have to pull up to the house in only a car frame with four wheels and an engine, that concern didn’t cross my mind. The only thing I was thinking was, “Holy smokes, I can’t believe I didn’t bring my friend Craig as a witness. Who’s going to believe a factory-built 1985 Honda Civic is going 120 mph?”

Poor planning on my part, I admit. However, let us remember I was only a teenager. And had my parents found out at the time that I had done this, their reaction would have been something like, “Son, you could have killed yourself out there.” With my own experience as background and feeling as though I have learned something from my parents, I believe I would be able to take a more modern – if not more enlightened – approach to such a situation if I found out one of my own children participated in a re-creation of Death Race 2000. I would look my son squarely in the eye and say, “Son, do you realize gas costs $3.00 a gallon?” Kids!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

My oldest son has a good sense of adventure, and for the past two years he’s indulged me in the Halloween costume department. The year before last, I got a large cardboard box, cut armholes in it and mocked up one of those “Hello My Name is” stickers on the outside of the box. You see, his name’s Jack, which I wrote in below “Hello My Name is”, so he went as a Jack in the Box. For those in the neighborhood who already knew his name was Jack, they thought it was funny. For the balance who were seeing this young boy for the first time, however, I believe about half thought it was creative and the other half probably thought, “That kid’s got the laziest parents in the world.”

Last year, I took a plastic garbage can, cut out the bottom and sewed a T-shirt into it to fit over Jack’s head. I then took a long piece of Velcro and made a chin strap out of it and fastened it to the lid so Jack could wear it like a hat. The stroke of genius with the T-shirt, if I do say so myself, is that Jack didn’t have to carry around a bag for candy; people could just throw it in the can, and the T-shirt sealed off the bottom so the candy could just gather around Jack’s person. Judging by the mixed looks Jack got that night as he made his Trick-or-Treating rounds, people just weren’t appreciating the creative genius that gave birth to this unique costume. We creative geniuses suffer so for our art!

With that said, I have come to the conclusion that the vast majority either wait until October 30th to come up with a costume, or they have children who have no vision (like my younger son who insisted on store-bought costumes like a ninja and Batman). Take the “ghost” costume for example. How many movies have you seen (excluding Abbott & Costello or “Beetlejuice”) where the ghosts look like your Queen bed’s flat sheet took flight and decided to start chasing people? In 1937’s “Topper”, Cary Grant plays a dashing ghost. Although the ubiquitous Internet wasn’t around yet to document it (perhaps because Al Gore hadn’t been born yet to invent the Internet), I’m willing to bet that Halloween didn’t see a bunch of 9-year-old boys running around in finely tailored gray wool suits and saying, “Look, I’m a ghost.” In 1937, most people would have said, “Oh, great. The kid’s dressed as the Angel of Death, a Union negotiator.” In 1990’s “Ghost”, Patrick Swayze plays a banker who is killed and hangs around his wife as a ghost to keep her safe. That year, you didn’t see kids running around in silk shirts and poofy, blown-dry hairdos saying “Look, I’m a ghost.” In 1990, most people would have said, “Look, honey, he’s a cocaine dealer.”

Parents, you need to take a little time (read: more than the ten minutes it takes to drive to your local Target or Wal-Mart) and give the costume question some thought. While you’re brainstorming, picture the following: Melissa and Joan Rivers are at the end of your street critiquing every child’s costume. As your child nears, you hear them say, “A witch was clearly the wrong choice for this little girl. She doesn’t have the hips for it. Wait, that’s a little boy, and I believe he’s trying to look like Gandolf. His parents should have known better. He needs a longer robe.”

Here are just two timely suggestions. (1) A plain, white T-shirt with a big, black asterisk: Barry Bonds’ 756th-home-run ball. (2) A crumpled car fender with the words “Lindsay Lohan was here.” Or, you could dress your child up as a fuel-efficient family car, and you’d hear people say, “Look, honey, it’s a ghost.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flea Collars Optional

Dr. Spock, it is said, understood babies extremely well and helped a generation of parents in the raising of their infants. I’m not sure how he had the time to do this while cavorting around the galaxy in the Starship Enterprise, or why so many parents would trust a guy who looked like he cut his hair by placing a bowl over his head, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s clear he wasn’t so much the Dr. Smartypants as he would have us believe because he never came out with a best-selling book on how to raise children past those infant years. He, like all other parents, was completely baffled. As a public service, though, I’m here to fill the breach.

Rather than trying to read our children’s minds, let us look to the animal kingdom for help. Understanding the stages of development and comparing them to the attributes of specific species will grant us inner peace – we still won’t understand what the heck’s going through their brains, but we’ll at least know that we’re not insane when we think our kids are acting like animals.

When children are very young, they’re like dogs. Beside the fact they would poop wherever they felt like if they weren’t wearing a diaper, I’m willing to bet that they would chase cars and bite tires if we left them to their own devices. Be that as it may, children and dogs commonly share a huge lack of patience. When Kramer the family dog is waiting by the door to go out/come in, he’s feverishly hopping up and down. You might be dumb enough to believe that you can win this battle of wills by making absolutely no move toward the door – and at that moment, your IQ will be half of the canine’s in question. Displaying that severely stunted IQ, you talk to the dog and say something like “I’ll be there in a minute, Kramer” fully expecting the dog to look at you thoughtfully, sit down on the sofa next to you, cross its legs, and pick up a magazine. (And you know that’ll never happen because if he had opposable thumbs, he’d open the door himself, silly.)

In addition to the fact you’re not fully realizing that all he hears is “human human human human, Kramer”, you’re forgetting that everything to him is seven times slower. If one of our years is like seven to dogs, they’re bound to be extremely impatient with us. We must seem like glaciers to them when it comes to moving. We think they’re yapping and running circles around us in the backyard when, really, they’re just scoping the area out at a trot and telling us, “I’d like to play fetch with you, old boy, sometime this century.” Children are much the same, and our only hope is that with growing older will come the ability to reason with them, and a sidelining injury will slow them down, at least temporarily.

It may come at a different time for every child, but they will eventually leave the “dog phase” of their lives and enter their feline years. Cats, it is believed, have nine lives. Not necessarily because of their inherent ability to cheat death or avoid crippling credit card debt – it’s all in their attitude. The reason cats couldn’t care less what you think about them, make no effort to come to you when beckoned, or find any reason to be your friend unless you have food is they believe they’ll outlive you – thus the “nine lives” phenomenon. With that said, many of you are telling me, “You just described my prepubescent son and/or teenage daughter.” Exactly. I can’t explain the reasons, only point out the similarities. Be warned, though, many of these children will adopt other attributes of other species while still living in the feline years.

Some will adopt the elusive Unicorn behaviors and disappear when household chores are afoot. This association with the Unicorn in the teenage years also holds true when they get that huge zit on their nose that feels like a singular horn protruding from their face; this will cause them to disappear in social situations, too.

Although it won’t apply to important matters like the things they’re taught in school or the fact you asked them to put gas in the car, they will employ the memory skills of elephants when it’s the most inconvenient for you. And they’ll use that information as slyly as a fox.

At some point, and this will be the true testament to their maturity, your children start to care about more than cleaning themselves and finding ways to sleep as much as possible. They get married, take on a mortgage, pay taxes, and start to have offspring of their own. And somewhere along that path, they will become one of us: the tortoise who can’t get anywhere fast enough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rules of Engagement

Although I have never resorted to putting them in writing, my wife and I have certain expectations of behavior for our two boys. Some of them are oft-repeated phrases like “No burping at the dinner table (unless Mom lets one fly)” and “No yelling at your brother (unless the house is on fire)”. Other expectations, though, we seem to take for granted and assume them to be understood.

However, because these seemingly “understood” expectations are not engraved on a plaque and hung on the family room wall, our sons will sometimes veer off into taboo territory and act shocked when we bust them. “Do you mean to say that the hardwood floor ISN’T a good chipping surface for golf practice AND I shouldn’t be doing it in the house anyway? It’s like I don’t even know who you people are!” Those may not be their exact words, but that’s pretty much what the looks on their faces tell us.

In that vein, I have compiled a list of “rules” that should be etched in stone (or at least carved into a warm piece of burled walnut) and affixed to a prominent place in the home where the children are sure to see it on a regular basis. (In my house, I’m thinking of engraving the toilet seat because they never lift that thing up.) With that said, I give you the list:

  • No spitting on the floor or in your brother/sister’s mouth even if he/she dares you
  • Making holes in the wall without prior written consent by both parents is forbidden
  • You will wear underwear
  • Any change found under the couch cushions is the sole property of Mom or Dad
  • Gun play is to be confined to the den and the den only (this might be more regional in application)
  • The law of gravity will be strictly observed and heeded in and on this house
  • We have indoor plumbing; it will be used exclusively
  • The family pets are not to be spray painted or set on fire – EVER (younger siblings, unfortunately, aren’t usually covered by this proviso no matter how hard you try)
  • This is a nuclear-weapons-free zone

Looking back on my childhood, these were all rules that governed my home, and quite successfully I might add. We all made it to adulthood able to bring children into the world – so we could take our turn on imposing our rule on them. Following those rules, we made it through childhood with all ten fingers and ten toes intact and functioning (despite the fact I once let my older brother run my hand over with a Chevy utility van – oddly enough, Mom wasn’t altogether shocked).

Now, if you’re hoping to raise the next X Games gold medalist, career politician, performance artist, or Hollywood starlet, throw those rules right out or through the window. If that’s your plan, though, be warned that if they aren’t successful in reaching those goals and are unable to support you in your retirement, you could find yourself in a wheelchair without any underwear and being set on fire by your grandchildren. Good luck with that!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't Call a Rose "Red"

After having a flat tire repaired at the local garage recently, I opened my car door to find a largish sheet of paper set over the floor mat of the driver’s side. No surprise. At first blush, one would think that this is the garage’s way of saying, “Hey, we realize we’re pretty messy – it’s sort of your car’s fault – but we didn’t want to get your car dirty and have to pay for a carpet cleaning.” Good form. What was actually written on the paper is what made me laugh: in big letters right smack in the middle were the words “Eco Barrier”. Eco barrier? Are they trying to tell me that the guys out in the bays are wearing haz-mat suits and walking through toxic waste and biological ooze that would best be kept from making contact with the carpet in my car? If that’s the case, is a piece of bleached white paper really going to act as a “barrier” against such an eventuality? One word: marketing.

Someone in the corporate office was sitting there thinking, “There will be people stepping into their car, reading the words ‘Eco Barrier’, and saying, ‘Thank all that is holy that they spared my car from possible toxic contamination.’ I should get a healthy raise for that little piece of brilliant word play. That’s way better than Bob’s idea of writing ‘Stain Stopper’ on the paper mat. Way too pedestrian!”

The marketing folks’ job is to make us feel good about our purchases and spur us on to make more purchases. Right now, there’s a commercial running on TV for a feminine pad in which you see the product on an animated roller coaster doing loops and dives. Seeing how much fun that pad was having made me wish I could wear one. It’s like having a roller coaster in your pants – that could be a great slogan!

Speaking of slogans, marketing makes sure just the right word or words are used to paint an enticing picture. Quite often, marketing has to put this valuable word play into just the name, so they choose their words very carefully. For example, that gas-guzzling, blind-spot-the-size-of-Texas vehicle that is so ever present on the road isn’t called an OSW (Overgrown Station Wagon) or a 2T2S (Truck that Seats Seven). It’s called an SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). Although the name may be completely off the mark, we want to feel like it perfectly defines our tastes and who we are. But seriously, whom are we kidding? If going to the grocery store and taking up two parking spots – because you can – is an NCAA-sanctioned sport, then okay. Or, if driving around the block by yourself to a Pilates class is classified as a utility, fine.

Clothing companies employ armies of wordsmiths to come up with thirty-seven different names for the color red. They’re not about to tell you that the shirt is “orangeish red” – if they did, they could only charge you a mere fraction of the price they’re trotting out there. The shirt you are considering is “heather cayenne”. “Heather cayenne? That color could only come from blind monks who dye each yarn by hand high up in the Andalusian mountains and carry them by mule down to the nearby town to sell in the market square. At $274, this T-shirt is steal. I’ll take two.” That may not happen with anyone you or I may know outside of Hollywood, but it’s the stuff of marketing folks’ dreams.

Here’s the rub, though: even when the marketing people have their lapses in judgment, we blindly follow them down the primrose path of post-industrial purchasing. What do I mean? Two words: Leisure suit (a.k.a. the Iron Man). There was so much polyester in those puppies, you wouldn’t have to worry about haz-mat suits or Eco barriers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Suburban Madness

I’m either pregnant or I have reached a point of total and utter gastronomic abandon. Tonight, while sitting in my hotel room, I felt the need to go out and get some dinner. As I mentally ran through a list of possibilities ranging from pasta or pizza to fajitas or fish, I was suddenly overcome by an insatiable craving for – are you ready for this – a gas-station burrito. Technically, that’s not true: I was craving TWO gas-station burritos. Adding to the lost-my-mind-hell-bent quest for my dinner is the fact I went to three separate gas stations to find my quarry.

Sure, we’ve all been on road trips where we’ve eaten our body weight in yellow peeps and cheese log. That’s largely because you’re in the middle of nowhere and that’s the only thing you can get at the gas station. (It makes you wonder what the people working at those out-of-the-way gas stations eat on a regular basis – and judging by some of the ones I’ve met in my travels, yellow peeps and cheese log pretty much sum it up.) However, I’m in a very suburban setting with full-service grocery stores and every restaurant imaginable – my culinary options are limitless. Regardless of the bounty that surrounds me, though, I’m single-mindedly after gas-station burritos.

After failing to find what is to the food pyramid as The National Enquirer is to newspapers, I left the first store, got into my car, and proceeded to the next gas station. (I would imagine the people working the counter at a mini-mart aren’t used to people strolling in just to browse.) The second location produced the same result as the first, and I must say that I was weakening. For a couple of seconds, I was strongly considering two Polish hot dogs with off-color sauerkraut. Is it possible I grew up in a house full of lead paint?

At this point, I’m getting a little loopy (too late, some of you might say). I honestly can’t remember driving from the second gas station to the third gas station, or Shangri-La as I have come to call it. It’s quite possible that I ran over a line of traffic cones and caused a group of nuns crossing the street to scatter because I ran the red light – it was all a blur. I didn’t quite come to full consciousness until I was inside the store and standing before the heated case in which the burritos were awaiting my retrieval. The attendant either cleared his throat or barked like a dog to arouse me from my fugue state. I can’t remember.

Suffice it to say, the burritos did not disappoint. I’m not sure if every gas-station burrito is prepared and cooked in one location by one company or if there’s a universal recipe that all purveyors of gas-station cuisine share with one another out of professional courtesy, but they taste the same whether you’re in Bangor, Maine or Bakersfield, California.

I’m hoping a good night’s sleep will bring me back to my senses and tomorrow will see me eating a more healthful fare like salads and lean meats. Failing that, I might make a midnight run back to Shangri-La. I just hope it’s not too late in the season to get yellow peeps.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Indignity Knows New Lows

There’s no beating around the bush: cargo pants/shorts are men’s equivalent to women’s purses but worse – I’ll get to that in a moment. (I’ll pause here for all the men reading this to make that funny face that communicates the absurdity of such a statement and do something singularly masculine like spit a giant loogie across the room or pick up a sofa with one hand.) Sure, one can make the argument that cargo pants/shorts are pretty straightforward and remain uncorrupted by the likes of Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton, but the reality is that we men stuff the ever-living crap out of those extra pockets just as a woman does her purse. If you don’t believe me, stop any man you see in public wearing the apparel in question and ask him.

I wouldn’t recommend phrasing the question thusly: “What do you have in your pants?” That’s just asking for trouble, especially if you’re in a place like West Hollywood. Nevertheless, when you ask to see the contents of their cargo pockets, some may give you an odd look. If this happens, the best way to get around their consternation is to lie to them by pointing to a tree or shrub somewhere over your shoulder and telling them you’re a television host and they’re on hidden camera. More often than not, you’ll get their full cooperation.

As they empty their pockets you’ll see everything ranging from a bus map and short umbrella to a half-empty pack of chewing gum and pen advertising a local real estate agent. You might think the only things separating a man’s cargo pockets from a woman’s purse would be a tube of lipstick and a compact, but if the guy’s married, and he’s strolling with his wife, you’ll find those items, too. No lie!

The makers of cargo pants/shorts think they’re geniuses (especially those women who have figured out this is the best way for them to get men to “hold my purse”), but they’ve obviously never stood behind a man wearing the diabolically designed apparel at the airport security screening. A woman instinctively places her purse (which holds all of her personal effects) up on the belt of the x-ray machine; the business traveler places his/her briefcase in a similar manner. The dude in the cargoes, however, forgets he’s carrying the equivalent of the inventory of a small business and tries to walk through the metal detector. He’s turned back and asked if he is wearing a belt or a watch. He shakes his head and tries the pass through one more time. Beep! He’s asked if he has an artificial hip made of titanium or a plate in his head. Nope. Beep! All the while, the line is piling up as long as opening night of the latest Harry Potter movie. Scratching his head, the benighted TSA agent starts to ask if the man is wearing a necklace or a large ring. Before Mr. Cargoes can answer, you scream out, “For the love of all that is pure and Disney-licensed, have him empty out his cargo pockets!”

You would do well at this point to turn around and change your travel plans while your fellow travelers hale and applaud you, but you have to make that meeting in Des Moines come hell or high water so you march on to the security checkpoint. However, you know full well that you are now a marked man on TSA’s list of “agitators”. You’ll get the extra screening from now on, and you’ll be lucky if the agent checking you out is only wearing rubber gloves because of an aversion to touching the paper stock used for airline tickets.

From now on, when your wife or significant other asks you to hold her purse, don’t delay. But make sure it matches your shoes. That would be embarrassing!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Horror!

My wife is shamelessly corrupting our children. When we married over 15 years ago I had about $500 in savings, a baseball card collection, and a 1985 Honda Civic with well over 100,000 miles on it, so it didn’t even cross my mind that a prenuptial agreement would be needed. I should have had more foresight. Obviously, I was captivated by her beauty and the fact she would be a college graduate before our wedding date – I still had a year left in school, so I was going to need a Sugar Mama to take care of me and support my Big-Gulp-a-day lifestyle. But that’s neither here nor there. I had no idea she was going to melt the minds of my children by subjecting them to Country music and getting them to like it.

One would think that half the blood coursing through my sons’ veins – a blood suffused with a love for music ranging from U2 and Led Zeppelin to Elvis Costello and The Clash, along with a deep-seated loathing for all things Country music – would at the very least give my sons the strength to resist the guitar’s twang and the lyric’s longing to bring the girl back (along with the singer’s pickup truck). The young mind is a mercurial thing. Getting my sons to see the logic behind the need to take a bath/shower on a regular basis (read more often than once in a lunar cycle) is apparently on par with astrophysics, but getting them to like a musical genre that sounds like a cat undergoing a wax treatment and the singer is actually singing about it is like breathing or picking their noses.

The little minx (that’s what I’ve taken to calling my wife) has extended her evil to the kids in carpool. How do I know this? One morning, I was filling in on carpool and the youngest of the group squeaked from the backseat, “Grant, can we listen to _________?” (I don’t even dare mention the name of the band.) Before I could steer this youngster right by lying to him (the only proper thing to do in the face of this miscarriage of musical justice) that my radio didn’t receive Country stations, my oldest son reached over and slid in the CD in question and selected number 13. Now my own children are complicit in this crime! I’m not sure how to broach this subject with the carpool parents.

I can assure you I’m not taking this lying down – it would make the driving all the more difficult. The only way to fight this cancerous cacophony of Country is head on. Whenever I have the boys with me in the car, I’m flying around the radio dial in search of examples to which I can both expose them and teach them to recognize what they should appreciate in good music. The opening to “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, the mesmerizing stylized guitar in “How Soon is Now” by The Smiths, the angst-filled lyrics of “Baba O’Riley” by The Who, and the passion of “Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop – these are just a few of the arrows with which I am hoping to fill their quivers against this insidious foe coyly masqueraded as Good Old Boys just having a good time. However, the ranks of the opposition are filling, and I think I’m fighting a losing battle.

In many ways, it feels like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Good, close friends of mine – friends with whom I’ve rocked out to White Stripes – have declared to me that they like, say, Garth Brooks or Toby Keith (it hurts just to write that). And they say it like it’s the most natural thing in the world! I don’t dare challenge them on this for fear they’ll let out that blood-curdling scream and expose me for one who is not like them. I’m not sure if my wife is one of them or if she’s just independently evil. Either way, it’s clear I don’t stand a chance – she spends way more time with my sons doing things like teaching them to say their prayers, helping them with their homework, baking them cookies, etc. It’s absolutely shameless the depths to which she will go!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Darwin's Mistake

This may come as quite a surprise to most of you, given the lengths I have gone to decry my objection to such a thing, but I’m not going to sugarcoat it: we now have a dog. Funny thing is, though, that for the first little while when I would admit my lapse in judgment to a friend and tell them not only about the dog’s existence but what type of dog it is, many would reply, “I thought you said you got a dog.” See, the animal in question is a Chihuahua/Terrier mix. Her name is Lola, but she’s not a showgirl nor is she a cross-dressing man who likes to go to clubs in Soho and pick up on other men. She’s still growing; however, at present, she’s bigger than your average rat but still much smaller than a rat you would find roaming the New York City subway system.

Another common response I get is, “My dog could eat your dog for breakfast.” While many of you may be wondering why I’m hanging out with Michael Vick, suffice it to say that I’m not, but I have a number of acquaintances who have canines of a much larger variety like a Boxer or German Shepherd. These are what they like to refer to as “a man’s dog”. I’ve never pinned my proof of masculinity on the pedigree of a dog, but I guess it’s cheaper than buying a Corvette.

Living with a dog has given me a glimpse into the behaviors of that species and caused me to reflect on how we, as humans, have come to accept those behaviors as normal. For example, when Fifi or Baxter is unhappy with something, the dog in question will quite often choose to display his/her dissatisfaction by dropping a steamer on the imported area rug in the living room – no, not the cheap one from Ikea in the family room. We’re none too happy with this “outburst”, but we quickly shrug it off by cursing (a singularly human behavior) and muttering under our breath, “What do you expect? It’s a dog.” Nor do we find it altogether odd that the family dog goes around the perimeter of the house and pees everywhere to mark their territory. (This one may be less due to our simply accepting this canine proclivity as a given and more because we’ve had young boys full of orange juice and soda – far beyond potty-training years – let it fly all over the bathroom and hit everything but the water in the bowl. Maybe that’s just my house.) At any rate, we believe these behaviors are what separate us from dogs.

Unfortunately, these are not the things that separate us but point to our similarities. For example, when a politician gets caught breaking the law, he or she does the same thing to the nation’s area rug, the Constitution, by getting off with a mere slap on the wrist. And we wring our hands, curse a little, and mutter under our breath, “What do you expect? It’s a politician.” Some sports stars, rather than for the love of the game but for the love of the glory, get full of juice and then let it fly all over the field of play to leave their mark. More often than not, we just want to watch.

My wife tells me that we need to take Lola to Obedience School to break her of some of her nasty habits. I’m all for that, but I’m a little sketchy on the cost of this whole affair and just exactly what it will yield. Having our dog learn how to sit, stay, and roll over is fine and dandy, but it would be more worthwhile if we could teach her how to mow the lawn and take over the driving on long road trips. On second thought, driving seems to bring out the cursing and we want to preserve that trait for us humans – perhaps the only thing truly separating us from dogs.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Inspiring a Felony

I was having writer’s block with the deadline for this column looming over me, so I did what any normal person would do: I looked for any and every excuse to walk away from the keyboard and do something else. This is not a new habit of mine.

Among the many things I learned in college (business management, communications, statistics, humanities, the proper manufacture of a dry-ice bomb, etc.), perhaps the most useful skill I acquired in my collegiate career was Procrastination. Sure, I had an entire semester to absorb the material and make it a part of my consciousness so I could not only recall the pertinent points for the final exam but use my new knowledge throughout my life whether I was in a business setting or auditioning for Jeopardy. That was the plan. However, the reality was I would wait until two days (or two hours) before the exam and start memorizing as much as possible. I would then approach the test in the hopes that I could, figuratively, unlatch the upper part of my skull and pour out the answers onto the paper before me. Although it’s a reality that many have trouble understanding (much like Stonehenge or the Electoral College), I somehow graduated and got a degree, so it worked.

I’m the youngest of four children, and there were a lot of things that my other siblings were better at doing. However, I excelled at complaining about having to perform any type of manual labor. It wasn’t that I thought such work was beneath me – I was just lazy! With that said, my well-developed talent of Procrastination helped me overcome that childhood tendency yesterday. I saw my neighbor had just begun the chore of moving six tons of decorative rock from the street to his backyard, and I made a beeline to my garage to grab a shovel and help. Deliverance from having to think about the looming deadline!

However, after about the third or fourth shovel full of rock, I quickly realized that the beautiful Siren song of Procrastination had lured me in and crashed me into the very rocks I was scooping. (Oh, the irony!) At any rate, I was stuck until we were done with the pile. Noting that we only had one wheelbarrow between us, it was obvious that we needed a second one to move things along. While some might say this new-found virtue of helping others through manual labor was quickly replaced by a vice (or a felony for that matter), I choose to look at my next move and say that Procrastination spurred me to think creatively: I hopped the fence of another neighbor who I knew was out of town and “borrowed” his wheelbarrow. The addition of this implement moved things along and helped me preserve just enough energy to handle some of the more pressing matters of the evening, namely hold the remote control in one hand and a Coke the size of Delaware in the other while I sat in my recliner (and continued to avoid finishing this column).

Between yesterday’s rock-moving experience and now, I have continued my efforts to avoid writing this column. I came up with a list of ten questions men should ask themselves at the end of each day (#6: Was it really wise to eat that?) and seven retirement options for Bob Barker (#4: Herbalife distributor). Benjamin Franklin is said to have “discovered” electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm. Don’t you think he knew the dangers of this? Sure, but he was probably putting off writing another Poor Richard’s Almanac entry.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Topless Communist

All of us have a tendency to put certain people up on pedestals and think of them as better and worthy of being set apart. My children stopped doing that with me at about the age of three. (My “humanity” shocks them more each day, I’m sure, and their expectations of me and my abilities plummet with each birthday – my ratings should reach negative numbers around puberty.) Be that as it may, we need to gain proper perspective and realize that we’re all just human. You’ve heard the old saying “Just remember that he puts his pants on one leg at a time like everybody else”. That’s probably true, but a great deal of the people whom society places on a higher plain than us, the unwashed masses, probably have people that they pay to put their pants on for them. The way I see it, the great equalizer in the world is this: Navel lint. Everybody gets it, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Some may say that our inability to avoid death is the great equalizer. To that I respond, no, that’s the great finalizer, but let’s not get too philosophical. This is a humor column for Pete’s sake.

For example, if you really want to make history come alive, create a mental image of the person or persons involved. Consider George Washington the night before crossing the Delaware to attack the British in Trenton. He’s in his tent and it’s colder than a . . . it’s cold, and he’s unfastening the thirty-eight buttons on his uniform as fast as he can so he can put on his jammies (whether they were a one-piece with the feet sewn in or not, that’s up to your imagination). As he lifts off his shirt, he looks down and sees a bit of fuzz lodged in his bellybutton. He pauses but for a moment and wonders what every man and woman since the dawn of time wonders, “Where did that come from?” (I suppose he could have saved it, put it in his journal, and someone could have sold it on eBay centuries later, but that’s beside the point.) Here’s a man, about to make history by accomplishing what many have declared extraordinary, and he’s dealing with navel lint. No one’s exempt.

Karl Marx, banging away on a cheap typewriter with no shirt on to complete his manuscript of the Communist Manifesto by the deadline given him by some capitalist pigdog, most likely paused at moments and looked down to find the fuzzy foreign matter gathered at the navel region. Frank Lloyd Wright, designing the engineering and architectural marvel known as Falling Waters, surely had to deal with it. An overabundance of navel lint may help explain some of Salvador Dali’s more surreal works. History’s most notable achievements and events were wrought by men and women who battled the fuzzy navel. The only person who may never have had to deal with this midriff detritus was my 9th-grade Health teacher, Mr. Delpippo, because I swear he was hatched from a pod – thus no bellybutton.

Recently, my wife informed me that she has never had navel lint in her life. While I worship the very ground that she walks on, and I would move heaven and earth to keep her on a pedestal, I knew her declaration was a bold-faced lie. I gave her the breakdown of notable people I just listed here and asked if she was better than all of them. She smiled and said, “Of course. They’re all men.” Exasperated, I did what any red-blooded American male would do in a case like this: I called her a Communist!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Shoe Wisdom

Apparently, some high schools are more fortunate than others when it comes to speakers at the graduation ceremony. You’ll see a news story here and there about Bill Clinton or Barbra Streisand being the surprise speaker at a particular high school graduation. The reporter interviews a couple of the graduates, and you hear comments like “I was really inspired by the speech” or “Who’s Barbra Streisand?” At any rate, it’s all well and good at the moment, but if you were to ask those same graduates a week later to recall something that was particularly touching or inspiring, you would get comments like “I don’t really remember much about that night” or “Who’s Barbra Streisand?”

Quite honestly, I have no idea who spoke at my commencement twenty years ago, nor do I remember anything he/she said in the speech. I do remember Mike McGuire, our salutatorian (that’s Greek for “the warm-up act”), quoting a line from a Def Leppard song in his speech. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t quite fit the context of his message. (I still applaud his effort, though, to slip a little rock and roll into the affair.) Needless to say, the contents of a graduation speech are just words that are so easily forgotten.

With twenty years of hindsight as my guide, here’s a graduation speech that would have been memorable:

Starting today, most of the men will gain three pounds a year. However, you’ll only notice the weight gain when it’s too late: the night before a job interview when you’re trying on a suit, a week before a cruise when you realize you’ll be shirtless the whole time, the day your 20-year high school reunion announcement shows up in the mail, and so forth. It won’t matter if you become a doctor or an auto mechanic. The male-pattern migration of muscle from the chest southward to flab over the abs knows no occupational exceptions.

Starting today, most of the women will feel like they never have the perfect pair of shoes for the outfit they’re wearing at the moment. You may have Zen-like moments when you find those Ferragamo pumps in the perfect shade of gold to match your purse, but your occupational requirements will dictate otherwise. Only the lawyers on TV will wear stiletto heels all day to show off their gams and accent the thigh-high business suit to parade in front of a jury. Real-life attorneys wear comfortable shoes.

I’m going to tell you a little secret that many adults, possibly some of your parents, will want to kill me for revealing: We’re still winging it. Even at our ages, each new day presents new and unique challenges, and we’re still making our way. Over time, you just get better at faking it.

I could tell you a bunch of other stuff like “When facing life’s toughest challenges, never back down” or “Never settle”. That’s all fine and dandy, but what does it mean? That’s the whole reason you have your whole lives in front of you. You get to find out what it all means – and when you do, let me know. It might make a better graduation speech. With that said, I can promise you that when you get together for your twenty-year reunion and you ask each other what they remember about this speech, one of you will suck in his gut and look down at a killer pair of pumps that are strangling the feet of your Homecoming Queen and say, “I don’t know.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wedded Blitz

I’ve been invited to a wedding this weekend. It’s a wedding for a friend/co-worker of mine. You can sort of tell the station in life you are by the type of wedding you attend. Right now, I’m young enough that I’m still being invited to people’s first weddings. I’ll know that the mid-life crisis is just around the corner when I get invited to someone’s second wedding – that’s for sure. And I’ll know that I’m getting really old when I start getting invited to the wedding of a friend’s kid.

If we’re lucky, places like Target will have kiosks stationed right next to the wedding registry where you can select your retirement community and even pick out your casket and burial site. (With cross marketing like that, Walmart may already have something like this!) Heck, if they attached one of those blood-pressure cuffs to the side of the kiosk, that might save even more time. Some of us might get a message popping up on the screen after the blood-pressure test saying, “Please skip Steps 3 & 4 (retirement options) and go straight to funeral preparations.” I could see the AARP backing something like that. But I digress.

After I received the invitation to this weekend’s wedding, I began thinking about the gift I was going to need to purchase for the couple. I’ve never met the bride to be – I’m sure she’s lovely – so I was truly on the horns of a dilemma in the gift department. You know, do I get them something simply based on my friend’s personality? But then I thought, perhaps a dozen hot dogs and a handful of beers at Angel Stadium might not quite send the right message. Or, do I try and guess at the personality of the woman he’s marrying and shop in that vein? That’s a Pandora’s box right there, too, and I don’t think I need to go into detail on the myriad reasons. Do I?

But wait, there’s the Wedding Registry! It’s a helpful list of a gajillion things, hand picked by the bride and groom (read: by the bride), that lets you know what items they will need to start a home and begin their new life together. The rub here, though, is that my friend is in his 40s, and both he and his fiancée own their own homes – and I’m fairly certain that neither’s home is necessarily lacking in the house wares and furniture departments. Oddly enough, when I went online to check out the several registries, house wares and furniture were exactly what they had on their lists. (I did notice that my friend had chosen some beer mugs from Crate & Barrel . . . but the @#$% quantities had already been purchased!) So, rather than trying to decide between the Casablanca Round Placemat and the Savoy Mocha Placemat (which, incidentally, is rectangular for all of those who are scoring at home) or between the Cookie Dough Scoop and the “Y” Peeler (yes, the letter Y was in quotations, and come to think of it, I’ve never had occasion to peel the letter Y or any other vowels for that matter), I decided to get them a crock pot. You laugh now (and they may think I’m a moron when they open the gift), but they’ll thank me when they’re looking to make a great chili to go with the hot dogs and beer. I’ll be their hero – I’m a patient man and can wait for the accolades from them.

I am curious to see what other gifts they’ll be receiving. You know, to see if other guests are as thoughtful as I am or if they’re lazy enough to get the couple something on their registry. More than that, I’m curious to see how you peel the letter Y.

Friday, June 29, 2007

American Idle

Traveling on a regular basis finds me standing around a lot in airports waiting in line to board a plane or to order, perhaps, the world’s sorriest excuse for food – and pay money for it. I recall one winter evening ordering what I thought was a chilidog. It looked like a chilidog, and it even smelled like one. However, my taste buds warned me that it was, in fact, an impostor, but I plowed through it overtaken by hunger. My stomach later objected in an “I told you so” sort of manner all through my subsequent flight by sending gas bubbles back up my throat and out my mouth. I, of course, kept it as low key as possible, but be sure those sitting near me stealthily inched as far away from me as FAA regulations would allow. While the heartburn and subdued belching weren’t pleasant, I was successful in going through the entire flight without having to engage in small talk about how I look just like a Hollywood sex symbol or my seat mate’s take on aluminum foil versus Saran Wrap.

By no stretch of the imagination could I be called a “misanthrope”, which is a fancy word for someone who hates all mankind. There’s another name for such a person: Michael Moore. However, I must admit that traveling has caused me to be ever so wary of engaging practically anyone during my sojourns because on the outside a person could look like an easy-going, funny individual who in reality is the king of the take-no-breaths-run-on sentence or the queen of the never-ending story. There are others lurking about whom you would do well to avoid – do not make eye contact if at all possible:

  1. Ms. Coincidence: The conversation will start out innocently enough, but if she senses (usually subconsciously) any lag she will start pointing out coincidences the two of you share. “I see you’re a big Yankees fan. I watched a Yankees game once in 1978.” This will go on forever. The only thing that will save you is a carefully planned diversion involving a herd of buffalo or cardiac arrest for either one of you.
  2. TMI (Too Much Information) Tom: Within ten seconds, he will either start showing you diseased or scarred body parts normally cloaked by clothing or telling you about his time in jail and/or prison. Either way, it’s too late to book a different flight.
  3. The Inquisitor: At the slightest hint of recognition, she will begin to ask you a thousand questions ranging from where you live to the name of your first pet to your favorite wallpaper pattern. Admittedly, there is the entertaining possibility of completely lying to this person and fabricating a totally new life history, but there are two possible pitfalls here: (1) she’ll circle back and ask you the same question – you better remember your previous answer because she will, and (2) you just might start wishing the life you made up were your real life. No good can come of this.
  4. The Loud Talker: Now, he has a loud voice, and there’s nothing you can do about that – at least not until Congress passes that controversial bill allowing you to shoot them at will – but if you’re the one who gives him the slightest reason to open his bullhorn-level yapper, you can bet everyone around you is wishing your name specifically will be added to that Congressional bill.

Just like airport chilidogs, you can’t tell which of your fellow travelers is going to cause you mild to severe discomfort and regret. You’d do well to avoid them all – fellow travelers that is, because there are some really good chilidogs just waiting to be found.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Long Live El Cid!

What possesses us to name our cars? For those of us who don’t own Herbie the Love Bug or KITT from Knight Rider, it’s not as if we can call them and have them come speeding over to us. Additionally, if we’re asked to come down to the impound yard to pick up our car, it’s a safe bet that the cops found us by using the Vehicle Identification Number rather than asking the car its name. Nevertheless, many of us – myself included – name our cars as if we were naming offspring.

When I was a boy, we had a maroon 1962 Ford Fairlane that my mom called Henrietta. Wanting to spruce up the old girl, I decided to give it a yellow racing stripe with a rather wide brush and interior house paint. (Back in 1974, they made house paint that stuck – believe me!) Sadly, I believe my parents sold that car (yellow stripe and all) for $250 when I was about ten years old.

My siblings tell me that my family had an old Chevy named Bessie that had a hole in the floorboard, and you could watch the roadway beneath speed past. The fact my parents got rid of this car before I was born only goes to show that I’m their favorite – they weren’t all that concerned about my two brothers and my sister and whether they fell through this gap at 60 miles per hour. But that’s another story for another day.

When I was twenty-one years old, I purchased my parents’ 1985 Honda Civic and made it my own. I gave him the name of Sid – short for Sid Vicious. (Honestly, I was never a big Sex Pistols fan, but the name always sounded kind of funny to me.) Four or five years later, while living in Southern California, my wife and I passed another Civic of the same vintage that was completely tricked out: lowered, shiny rims, neon running lights, and fat tires. The windows were tinted, and the bass from the stereo could recalibrate pace makers within a five-mile radius. My wife said that if we were to do that to our car, we could rename him El Cid. Although it was tempting, we figured both the historical and Hollywood references would be wasted on most people.

Since that time, we’ve owned a handful of other cars. We had a Saturn we named Pepe, and a Dodge Caravan named Gordo. Although we have since parted ways with the Caravan and replaced it with another one, we’ve kept the name Gordo – it’s a shame to let a good name like that go to waste. We currently have a Honda Accord that doesn’t have a name because the family can’t agree on one. My youngest son wants Wolverine, and my wife is to the point that she doesn’t care – imagine that – but I’m leaning toward Bruce or Spike.

Speaking of names, if you’re going to go to the trouble and expense of having personalized license plates, you should use whatever you named the car rather than the cutesy combinations some of you concoct in your heads. You know what I’m talking about: MYVETTE, 1KULBUG, 75PINTO, RADZ28, and so on. If you need to remind yourself and others on the road what type of car it is that you’re driving, you probably shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel of a large metal object that has the ability to exceed 120 mph and run over small animals. Failing that, the government should allow me to more obviously mark your car so we know you’re coming. I’m sure I could scare up a can of yellow house paint.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Feeling Fuzzy

You’ll have to forgive me for another column about baseball, but it is summertime. Let’s look at it this way: it’s either this or some feeble attempt to make the latest escapade of Paris Hilton seem funny and not sad.

Professional baseball – in order for any of it to really make sense – must be looked at as strictly entertainment. We’re not saving the rainforest one home run at a time, nor are we helping fight illiteracy (I hope I spelled that right) with the designated hitter rule. It’s just fun to watch. The sooner we remember that the better we’ll all be – and if you’re not sold on this idea, allow me to demonstrate.

During the regular season, each team is allowed a roster of 25 players. Most teams have eleven or twelve pitchers of whom four or five are starters. The balance of the pitching staff sits in the bullpen with the number-one priority of “keeping warm”. Most often, this is accomplished by playing catch, having sunflower-seed-spitting contests, and finding other ways to amuse themselves and possibly the spectators within their immediate vicinity. If the bullpen is really staying on their toes, their antics will attract the notice of the camera crew and some part of their hilarious hijinks and merry mayhem will appear on Sports Center that night. Failing that, a couple of the guys might be needed to come into the game to help a failing pitcher.

Your remaining thirteen or fourteen players are scattered among the fielding positions, and most often those eight spots go to a fixed list of guys leaving five or six team members – known as Utility Players – to ride the pine at a MINIMUM of $380,000/year. In other words, they get paid AT LEAST $2,345.67/game to sit in premium seats (no having to fight over armrests) and watch a ballgame. (I would be willing to bet that if they wanted garlic fries they wouldn’t have to wait in line behind the guy who’s trying to decide if he’s hungry for a bratwurst or a Polish sausage.)

This is not reality, folks. I started my post-college working life at an insurance company as an adjuster. In all the time I was at that company, I never walked by a conference room filled with Utility Adjusters – all fully paid and suited up – just waiting for a co-worker to be brought down by a crippling case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and step in to complete the claims process. If I chose to spit sunflower seeds all over the floor of my work area, that was surprisingly frowned upon. And where were the camera crews when we found a way to lock Jim Stenowski in the women’s bathroom for two hours?

Also, how many workplaces do you know that have a guy in a fuzzy suit walking around rubbing the heads of bald men and dancing the funky chicken – I mean besides the weird dude in accounting who drinks too much at the Christmas party. (On a side note: How does one go about getting a mascot job? What types of things do you put on your resume? “I’m not averse to wearing oversized Papier-mâché caricatures on my head; nor do I object to the feel of felt-like material next to my skin.”)

Lastly, outside of “Paris Hilton Night” at a cross-dressers’ bar, where else do you see grown men wearing spiked heels and black eyeliner? That’s entertainment.

Friday, June 08, 2007

All the World's a Stage

As a young man, I grew up as an Oakland A’s fan. The basis for my fandom was borne mostly out of geography and the fact my dad liked them. In the early 80s, the A’s brought Billy Martin on as the manager, and Pops was none too happy about that. I tried to ferret out the reason(s) for his strong dislike – “hate” is too strong a word as my dad reserved that for other more-important items like broccoli and chicken. However, all I could get out of him was Billy Martin argued too much with the umpire. I knew that my dad had done his fair share of umping for Little League through the years, and that was sure to inform his opinion of verbally belligerent coaches/managers, but dad’s view of Billy Martin seemed to have deeper roots than that.

To this day, I can’t figure it out. I did an Internet search the other day on Billy Martin, and I could find no such evidence of a criminal record, of Mr. Martin perhaps marching in an anti-war protest in the 60s (dad’s not much for the hippies), or of Billy killing innocent rabbits. I even went so far as to type in both Billy Martin’s and my dad’s names together, and the only thing I could come up with was a study for adult acne. (I didn’t read the study, but it’s funny that I never have noticed a single pimple on my dad’s face – or Billy’s for that matter.)

Admittedly, I do find it odd that a manager will argue with an umpire. I’ve yet to see an ump reverse his decision because the manager made a cogent, impassioned plea based on reason and pure logic – nor have I seen one reverse the call because the manager’s voice is louder than a Boeing 737 and his face is three deep shades of purple. Most die-hard baseball fans will argue that there’s a well-thought-out craftiness behind the manager’s meltdown. Some say it’s intended to fire up the players. Others argue that it’s the manager’s way of putting doubt in the ump’s mind so the next close call will go his way. Those are feeble attempts to justify the behavior of a grown man who’s being paid millions of dollars to sit around in tight pants and cleats. I think I’ve figured it out.

Is it simply a coincidence that a lot of the Big League managers are built like the fat lady at the opera? Come on, put a Viking helmet and a blonde wig with long braids on Lou Piniella, and you know the aria from “Flight of the Valkyries” is going to start playing in your head. Either that or you’re going to hear Elmer Fudd singing “Kill da Wabbit, Kill da Wabbit.” These middle-aged men in tights are performing for us, the fans! (It’s not as if they’re suited up and ready to fill in at shortstop at a moment’s notice. And although it seems odd that they wear cleats, they go better with the whole outfit – Wingtips or Penny Loafers would just look silly.)

As younger athletes, these managers were able to scale the wall in the outfield to rob a home run or dash across the infield to turn lightning-fast double plays. Although their bodies have since precluded them from these activities, the desire to perform never dies. Kicking dirt and tossing one of the bases into the outfield may seem like protest against the umpire’s call, but it’s really performance art. Why do you think “Dancing With the Stars” attracts athletes? The ranks of managers are full. It’s too bad, though, that the dancing takes place in a studio rather than on a ball field. I would love to see one of the judges take some dirt in the face or get a base thrown at them for a bad score. Now that’s entertainment!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Burning Questions

Little-known fact about the Geneva Convention: It expressly forbids the use of children as soldiers in war. That doesn’t seem to be surprising given the fact Whitney Houston’s 1985 hit “Greatest Love of All” explains that “children are our future/teach them well and let them lead the way” – the conventioneers are big Whitney fans, although there’s a faction who believes Bobby Brown was treated unfairly in the divorce. At any rate, some of you who have children may have already guessed at the reasoning behind such a prohibition: employing a miniature militia would give you an unfair advantage, and we all know that war is so much better when everyone plays by the rules.

Imagine little Johnny captured by the enemy and taken to a remote area for questioning. Before they even get the blindfold off of his eyes, Johnny’s already on the offensive – not with any weapon involving flint or steel but his tireless 9-year-old curiosity, his Weapon of Mass Distraction.

“What kind of fabric is this blindfold made of? It feels scratchy. My mom says that I shouldn’t put anything sharp near my eyes. Have you ever been poked in the eye? My cousin Philip threw a Hot Wheel at me once – well it was an accident, he was pretending he was Evil Knievel jumping the Grand Canyon – and it hit me right here above my eye. I’m glad he didn’t hit me in the eye because it could have blinded me. Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? What kind of car were we riding in? Does it get good gas mileage? I hope it’s not making the hole in the ozone layer any bigger. Do you think the hole’s always been there and scientists are just noticing now?”

Although your average youngster could probably deliver the preceding soliloquy in about twenty seconds and in one breath, it would be just enough time for the enemies to lay their guns down and tie themselves up – but not before finding something to jam in their ears. It would seem to be a great idea to give a kid a microphone and broadcast his musings over a loud speaker on the field of battle – the other side would most certainly surrender without firing a shot. However – and this is what the conventioneers foresaw – if both sides were to use this ploy, war would never end!

Although I don’t remember it this way, I must have been hellishly inquisitive as a child, and my parents have found the ultimate revenge. I’m the fourth of four children. My sister, who is the oldest, used to work with lawyers all day and now she works with commercial real estate brokers – she’s bound to have thick skin after all that. My oldest brother is successfully self-employed, so he’s clearly demonstrated his ability to see tough times through. My other brother had the tenacity to make it through West Point and Harvard, and he and his wife are expecting their eighth child ON PURPOSE, so it goes without saying that he’s got grit. Me? I write a humor column and wear pants as infrequently as possible because they make me feel hot – and not in a sexy way. And yet my mom and dad have decided to make me responsible for pulling the plug if they’re ever on life support. Not the sister who works in a cutthroat environment day in and day out, nor the brother who went to West Point and learned to kill. No, apparently I’m the one who has ice water flowing through his veins.

All I know is that if it ever comes to that, I’m going to be asking a lot of questions

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Turning on the Speed

There are countless books on how to raise children, and yet you always find that the advice and guidance given in the book you’re reading don’t quite apply to your son or daughter. We could blame this on a conspiracy of booksellers and paper companies to sell more product – you know, keep you coming back to buy another book that you hope applies to your child – but I believe the Harry Potter series has taken care of that. Here’s one thing, though, that you won’t read in any fancy-shmancy child-rearing book that no one can deny and is universally applicable: the moment you strip a kid down to his birthday suit, he’s faster than the Flash and he’s got moves to rival any NFL running back – and in some cases, there’s a neighbor or friend ready to capture it on video for you to use as blackmail when your child reaches teenager.

When someone chooses to disrobe in public, they’re called a “streaker”. They’re not called an “idler”, a “layabout”, a “stroller”, or a “meanderer”. “Streaker” has a connotation of someone darting about with a higher-than-usual degree of speed. (Although, it might also have something to do with the fact society frowns on such public displays, and there’s an officer of the law chasing the fast-moving flasher.)

In that same vein, it’s now so abundantly clear why the original Olympians decided to participate in the buff. No, it wasn’t that the togas were necessarily slowing them down, they were just getting back to their inner child and turning up the speed. Obviously, though, the invention of lotion came immediately after the first race to help with the chafing.

Now, this begs the question: Would the adult film industry be a good place for the U.S. Olympics committee to recruit athletes? Of course not! They’re not exactly using their naked powers for the innocent pursuit of trying to avoid bath time. Not that I’ve seen much of this industry’s product, but I think it’s safe to say that the 100-yard dash and the hurdles are not a big story feature.

As an adult, why do you feel so rushed in the morning when you get in the shower? Sure, you can blame it on the fact your alarm didn’t go off or you have an early morning board meeting you just remembered. The truth is, though, that your inner child can’t wait to get out of the confined space of the shower and/or bathroom and just bolt down the street in nothing but what the Good Lord gave you at birth. (Just remember to wash the conditioner out of your hair or you’ll never get a comb through it.)

In the interest of keeping my lunch down and avoiding the need to burn out my eyes with acid, I’m not advocating that we all become nudists – and I’m especially talking about a couple of my neighbors. However, I believe we would live much less stressful lives if we would take a moment every once in a while and just take a couple of quick laps around the living room in the buff. If you’re really looking to get back to basics, try throwing your arms out like they’re holding onto handlebars and making motorcycle sounds with your mouth. Come on. You know you want to do it! Nevertheless, make sure that you have a fresh bottle of lotion handy. It’ll make sitting in that board meeting much more comfortable.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wal-Mart was Founded by a Man

Now that Mother’s Day has come and past, I wanted to take a moment and share with you something that I have come to realize over many years of both being married and being a father: Women are insane! This is not some watered-down Don-Imus-like chauvinistic rant. It’s truly a statement of fact supported by observations with which no one will be able to argue. Follow me here.

Observation #1: Women marry men. In days of yore, men were the protectors of the village, and women would marry as a means of defense. (Oddly enough, though, the village usually required protection from marauding bands of other men.) So, with that said, it’s obvious that women were making sound decisions back then based on practical need. However, fast forward to today – a day in which we’re not wont to see a lot of marauding – and women are still marrying men. One could argue that many women marry certain men because of their potential to be successful and rich (i.e. marrying doctors, young heirs to great fortunes, multi-millionaire octogenarians who have one foot in the grave, etc.). However, you have a lot of women who are marrying guys who are schoolteachers, park rangers, and – gasp! – humor columnists. Even after multiple generations of mothers and daughters discussing the disgusting habits of the men in their lives, women will still say, “But my husband will be different.” And they’ll say this on the heels of dropping by their guy’s apartment that could double as a petri dish.

Observation #2: Women bear children. With eons of anecdotal evidence pointing to the likelihood that their feet will swell to the size of watermelons and they will constantly experience heartburn on par with a competitive Hot Dog eater with only a glass of water, they still get pregnant. And then there’s no guarantee how these children will come out. For example, on Secretary’s Day – a Hallmark-created holiday to celebrate a person who makes our professional lives more efficient – we lighten the workload in the middle of the week for the person being honored and give them gifts that are considerably more expensive than a crayon rendition of a card. However, on Mother’s Day – a holiday created to celebrate the woman who gave us life –children come up with some rather unique (read: cheap) gifts made of Play-Doh. Also, we do it on a weekend when Mom should be able to sleep in rather than be assaulted by breakfast in bed comprised on runny eggs and pancakes with mysterious ingredients. And yet, women go on bringing children into the world.

This is not a condemnation of the female half of our species, nor is it meant to demonstrate that men are winning the sanity race – we aren’t by any stretch of the imagination. We marry women expecting them to look beyond our caveman behavior and are shocked when they don’t. We take the kids to the local Wal-Mart the day before Mother’s Day at 9:30 p.m. and tell them, “Just get something you think your Mom will like, and make sure it’s not more than five bucks. Meet me in Sporting Goods in fifteen minutes. I’m going to check out fishing rods.” Yeah, we’re just as nuts!

The truly insane thing in this world is that my Mom married my Dad, and that my wife married me. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. I say it’s insane to want it any other way. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! And Happy Mother’s Day from Jack and Sam to their Mom, my wife!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pillow Talk

Just recently, my youngest son lost the second of his two upper front teeth. That evening, he placed the tooth beneath his pillow in anticipation of the Tooth Fairy’s visit. That same evening, however, the Tooth Fairy was too busy trying to find a replacement part on Ebay for a friend’s rear-projection 50” television screen that the child in question shattered with a flying baseball bat. Nevertheless, our son’s faith never wavered in the Tooth Fairy’s ability to deliver cold, hard cash. So, he placed the tooth back under his pillow to await the exchange of this lifeless enamel-covered body part that is useless to practically everyone but that spooky guy who lives down by the river and wears a necklace strung with children’s teeth. I believe his name is Alec Baldwin.

With no success on the Ebay project, I was able to turn my full attention to the dental duty at hand and retrieve the detached tooth and start for the front door to take it out to the trash. As I was doing this, I asked my wife for a reminder of how much I was supposed to give our son for his tooth. She quickly rattled off a strange sliding-scale “price list” that took tooth size, duration in the mouth, month in which it was lost, and I could have sworn she included some astrological symbols. This all seemed to make perfect sense to her. It was late, so I just asked her for a specific price: two bucks.

Nearing the trash, I pondered two questions.

(1) Who grabbed the Tooth Fairy by the collar and roughed him up to wring more cash out of the transaction? I got a quarter when I was a kid. Sure, inflation may be the culprit here, but my money is on Little Red Riding Hood. Ever since she beat up the Big Bad Wolf (although we all know it was really the beau-hunk woodsman), she’s been found starting a lot of barroom brawls with midgets and taking kids’ lunch money away from them. It’s not like a guy named the Tooth Fairy is going to be a huge challenge. Nevertheless, that woman needs help! But I digress.
(2) Why would my wife assign different “values” to the different teeth in our children’s heads? It’s not as though they had to plant and grow these things like bushels of corn in an arid desert or on a rocky plain. They fall out on their own accord, and sometimes their exit is helped by a bad landing off the monkey bars or by trying to parachute off the roof with an umbrella.

As I placed two dollar bills under my son’s pillow I was reminded of something a friend of mine does each time one of his children loses a tooth: he or his wife places a silver dollar under the pillow. With five children, I asked if he went to the bank to get a bucket of these coins for times like these. No, he uses the same coin each time. Genius!

Not having my friend’s foresight, but not as many mouths to account for, my wife and I have bankrolled a fair amount of tooth loss in the name of the Tooth Fairy. But now that I reflect on this and realize that we have thrown away all of our sons’ teeth, we’ve missed out on a wonderful opportunity to make some money off of all this. There has to be more than just the crazy guy down by the river looking for teeth. We could have sold these things on Ebay. Even if I couldn’t get a lot of money for them, maybe someone would be willing to trade a 50” television screen.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Aquaman's Hair Never Moves

In only three instances in my adult life have I had long hair. Let’s be clear, though: I’ve never had a mullet or a pony tail – I don’t drive a car with a quarter panel that is gray and plastered with Bondo while the rest of the body is bright yellow, nor is my name Antonio or Fabio. Just long hair. This might strike you as odd as I’m a guy who has never owned a Harley Davidson, played in a rock band, flirted with writing non-rhyming poetry, or lived in the Haight in San Francisco.

There are the obvious stereotypes of “long hairs” in society, of course, and there are those who live up to them. My wife and I lived in an apartment below two of them early in our marriage. They drove a 1989 Chevy pick-up truck that they decided to re-paint one day in the apartment parking lot. No need for a booth to keep out dust and trap the vapors, they just used a couple of cans of black spray paint and called it good. Also, they lived on the third floor, and every two or three days, as we sat in our living room we would see a large bag being hoisted down by a rope to someone standing in the parking lot: it was full of empty beer bottles. Less walking to the Dumpster, and more drinking of the beer.

We never did catch their names; we just referred to them as Beavis & Butthead because you never saw them in anything but a Metallica or AC/DC shirt (if they were wearing shirts at all), and one was blonde and the other had brown hair. One of them (we never cared to know which) liked to open the window and scream like Tarzan when his girlfriend was spending the night. We always wondered how a game of Parcheesi would elicit such an action.

For some reason, though, men with short hair seem to get a free pass in the first-impressions department. There’s a concerted and subversive effort to maintain this image as evidenced by the fact all of our major male superheroes have short, well-coifed hair. Oddly enough, though, the obviously questionable wardrobe choices of skin-tight spandex, Speedos, and codpieces should cause you to wonder about their true intentions. Also, this short-hair phenomenon certainly goes against reason, as a proportionately larger number of the maniacs, dictators, and serial killers of our age have all been dudes with short hair. Just go to your favorite Internet search engine and type in evil men of the 20th century, and you’ll find photos of really bad guys with short hair . . . and some with really bad haircuts.

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? Sure, we’ve all had and joked about “bad hair days”, but these boogeymen had/have bad hair lives. Some of these guys just snap because they’re responsible for running an entire nation and deep down they know that their subjects are sniggering behind their backs about that goofy cowlick they can’t tame. Others, quite possibly, take a divergent path because they found out that their pet rabbit was used for shampoo testing, and Fluffy’s fur looks more vibrant and full-bodied than their own head of hair despite all efforts.

Before it’s too late, men, either let your hair grow or find a way to wear a hat at all times (shaving the head is only an option if you’re over 6’2” and your chest could double as a brick wall.) Why do you think Batman wears a mask and keeps his head covered? Court-ordered anger management.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Slurpee Defense

I am certainly not the smartest guy in the room. On occasion, I am the smart aleck in the room, but that’s a whole other topic. At any rate, in my time here on this planet I have come to learn a number of things that help me to know that the world is in balance, if only precariously. These little things are the constants in life that we can count on like gravity keeps us from floating up in the air and water is wet. Without them, we feel a certain uneasiness. Let me share them with you:

1. Asparagus will make your pee stink. Try as you might to dilute it with large quantities of alcohol or a cherry slurpee, that little green vegetable’s odiferous power will not be masked. You might as well just stop trying and move on.
2. If a man has a mustache – no other facial hair – it’s a 98.72% likelihood that he’s a cop or a firefighter . . . or it’s Tom Selleck reprising his role in Magnum P.I. Little known fact: Adolf Hitler went to his college career advisor to ask about how he could become a police officer and found that the waiting list was three years long, but there were immediate openings in the dictator department.
3. When you walk into a men’s public restroom, four out of the five seats in the stalls will be peed on – the one that’s not was last used by a married man but is most likely left in the “up” position. And three of the other four were most likely used by married men, too, who have been wed less than five years.
4. You will never become a millionaire, lose seventy-five pounds, or grow your hair back as a result of something you heard about through junk mail.
5. Regardless of your college major and the subsequent career field you pursue, the things you learn in your Political Science 202 class will only come in handy when watching or competing on Jeopardy.

I defy you to prove these universal constants wrong. Sure, you’ll come back and say things like, “I rather enjoy the effect asparagus has on my bodily fluids” and “Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers had a handlebar mustache, and he was never in law enforcement or public safety.” First off, on the asparagus issue, eeeewwww! (Please don’t invite me over to your home for Sunday dinner.) As for Mr. Fingers and others of his mustachioed ilk, they comprise the other 1.28% - I have statistics to back me up. What have you got?

As is true with all scientific truths, there will be exceptions that don’t so much as disprove but amuse or confuse. For example, you may be watching one of the upcoming presidential debates and one of the candidates will make sense. Or, you’ll be standing outside and the sun will be shining without a cloud in the sky, and you’ll suddenly feel rain drops falling. I can’t explain that one – nor can I explain how a candidate would make sense.

My recommendation is that you take comfort in these simple truths that I have outlined. Lay your head on your pillow at night and dream sweetly of a world that makes sense in its own weird way. And if in those dreams you suddenly find yourself on Jeopardy competing against Tom Selleck and Adolf Hitler, rest assured they won’t know Plato’s Theory of Forms either.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breeding Contempt

We spend our early years fighting to stay awake for fear we’re going to miss something and the rest of our lives looking for ways to get us to bed earlier to avoid as much as possible. So, the inability to sleep for an adult goes against all sense and reason. Sure, there are those moments in time when we have important deadlines to meet, serious agendas to ponder, and the ongoing plot twists/cliffhangers of Desperate Housewives or Lost that will occasionally keep us awake at night. However, just lying there in bed with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling is frustrating.

I had a recent bout of insomnia and went to see my doctor. He asked me the usual questions: Do you drink a lot of caffeine before bed? Are you worried about something? Are you going to bed at the same time every night? Will you be paying in cash today? Ultimately, he gave me a prescription for a sleep aid and told me it was something to help turn my mind off – apparently sleep aids aren’t designed to put you to sleep but enable you to put yourself in a mental state on par with most politicians. I thought the lack of concentration I was experiencing from sleepless nights had already gotten me to that point.

Nevertheless, while in my weakened state, which my sons could sense like coyotes sniffing out a wounded rabbit, they came to me begging for a dog. Although I was able to withstand their pleadings, my lovely wife caved. She didn’t necessarily get to the point of ultimately saying they could have a dog, but she told them that we would start exploring our options. The irony of this – as if you don’t already see it – is such a statement is the human equivalent of rolling over!

We went to the local pet store in the mall – first mistake, I know – to check out the different breeds and their personalities. And that’s the problem: we’re talking breeds, as in PURE breeds. They wanted $2500 for a Chihuahua and $3600 for a Corgi! For that kind of pound-for-pound price point, I’m hoping to get something that I can ride and run errands. In fact, a single Chihuahua cost more than what my wife and I paid for our first cars COMBINED! And we didn’t have to worry about our cars chewing on the furniture or needing to be potty trained (although my wife’s first car had a master cylinder that leaked like an excited puppy’s bladder).

What happened to the days when dogs were allowed to roam the countryside without a leash and seek out romantic interludes of their own choosing? In the ensuing months you would see a little boy or girl in front of the grocery store with a box that said “Puppees 4 sale”, and they would cost twenty bucks apiece. For some reason, though, society has deemed “free love” for dogs as inhumane – looks like the 60’s were just a big, fat waste of time for our canine friends. Aren’t we going backward as a society by handpicking dogs’ mates and making them selectively breed? Oh yeah, that sure has worked out well for British royalty!

Quite honestly, I don’t believe I have the strength to fight society on this one. I’m afraid I might take a sleep aid and wake up shaved and neutered. At least I’d still have a political career ahead of me!