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 fiancĂ©e 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.