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.