Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's Not Like Pulling Teeth.

I spent an hour-and-a-half at the dentist the other day. 

I’ll tell you, nothing says Monday morning like a drill-tipped jolt to a rogue nerve because the Novocaine only got you to the point of numbish. 

A rare brand of perspiration occurs when I’m reclined in that dental chair. Sweat accumulates in small, concentrated areas—between my interlaced fingers, under my hamstrings. Normally, it isn’t until I rise from the chair, that I discover how perilously close I’ve come to terminally saturating the denim that’s spent ninety minutes percolating between the plastic chair cover and my atrophied thigh shanks.

It’s funny how, nowadays, dental offices strive for a spa-ish look. You know what I mean—the richly stained woodwork, the wispy, fake butterflies perched in the ceiling lights? In my opinion, though, no amount of high def tropical snorkeling video set to Kenny G can alter the reality: Spending time in that sticky recliner is closer to Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber, than it is to Gene of Juarez.

There have been improvements—heavens to Mergatroid, yes. When they called your name back in the Sixties and Seventies, you rose from the couch and nervously tossed the bacterially-seasoned Highlights magazine onto the coffee table. A pleasant lady led you into a brightly lit room, its sterile green walls reflecting an aberrant green tint onto everything contained therein. 

As you were settled in and bibbed, the glistening instrument tray mocked you from your nine o’clock. To your right was a porcelain spit sink, into which you’d soon be drooling pink ropes of saliva, your left cheek rubbery and ravaged from its bloody dance with the silver pliers.

After an adequate amount of time to soak in the events that lay dead ahead, you were greeted by the dentist. He entered the room in his crisp, snap-down tunic, ungloved and unmasked. He cheerfully whistled a Herb Alpert tune while washing his hands beside the “this is what your mouth could look like if you stop brushing and flossing for the next ten years” awareness poster. 

Then, without further fanfare, he would turn, lower himself onto his rolling stool, and boldly declare his sinister intentions:

“Alrighty, open.”

Okay, enough with my first-world sob stories. What I really want to tell you about is the man behind the drill, the guy who was my first dentist—and my neighbor.

In the summer of 1968, my family bought a home in a new development. Our place turned out to be two houses down from from where our family dentist lived with his wife and two daughters. 

When I met his older daughter, who happened to be my age and in the same kindergarten class, I immediately deemed it unnecessary to pursue further friendships. My six-year-old sensibility surmised that since she was smart, nice, really cute and only two houses away, what point was there in venturing beyond her tidy, brown rambler to establish a rapport with any of the lads in the hood? 

I'll say none.

I can remember being over there quite a bit, playing in her back yard, quietly contemplating if I'd propose to her at Christmas or Valentines Day. When he was around, her dad would play his accordion while we sat in her house drawing with her Spirograph, or toss the football with me outside. From what I remember, the guy knew how to heave the pigskin. At home, he never talked shop, never admonished me for my chemical-weapons-grade breath.

Years later, I learned that the family’s firstborn child—a son—had died at age five, just a year before we moved into the neighborhood. I’m sure I felt sad, but not until I became a father myself could I remotely fathom what that must have been like for those parents. It’s hard enough to imagine losing a son, but then a year later taking the time to hang out with the chubby neighbor boy who always seems to be hanging out with your daughter and scarfing all your Fig Newtons? 

Not sure I’d be capable of that.

The doctor passed away several years ago. I regret that I never expressed to him my gratitude for the lesson he taught a six-year-old kid about kindness and perseverance all those years ago.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Your Pre-Primary Presidential Prognostication Primer.

Wow, that snuck up on me. Sorry for being a little slow on the uptake this time around.

Maybe you didn’t realize this, either, but were you aware that less than a year from today—next February 1—the Iowa Caucuses kick off the 2016 presidential campaign season?

What’s that you say, friend? You care as much about the Florida primary as Chevy Chase cares about what happened to his neck? Understandable.

But for better or worse, this is the way our storied republic whittles down its lengthy list of oligarchs, leaving two battle-worn billionaires to throw down in November. It’ll be another bloody cage-match to see which smarmy suit wins the privilege to age ungracefully at 1600 Penn for the next four years.

Since my only motivations for this analysis are a well-informed electorate—and some easy jokes—I’ve decided to break down the race based on today’s front-running candidates. And while gambling on elections is illegal in Nevada casinos, it isn't in Europe, where several British sports books have posted the 2016 presidential odds. 

A popular wagering site called Ladbrokes, currently lists Ms. Clinton as the overall favorite at 6 to 4. We’ll go ahead and save the party of donkey for another time, because currently, Hillary Clinton’s closest challengers are Elizabeth Warren at 25 to 1 and Backrubbin' Joe Biden at 33 to 1 odds.

In my opinion, the biggest obstacle Hillary faces is herself—and that freaking voice of hers. With each decibel raised above a normal conversational tone, its earsplitting pitch makes another part of my exterior retreat hastily into the rough-hewn recesses of my body. 

So let’s talk about the Republicans, since this one is wide open. I had no idea how huge this field was, but according to, no less than sixteen G.O.P. hopefuls are already carving circles in the corn crops of Iowa in hopeful anticipation of a good showing next winter. Barring any major gaffes (which should never be barred with these folks), here are next year’s likely front runners:

Senator Ted Cruz, Texas

Current odds: 33 to 1

Why he may be our next president: America likes cool names and Cruz is a cool name, as opposed to Cruise, which implies Napoleonic douchery.

Why he won’t be our next president: In April of 2012, Cruz threatened to throw his body in front of a train to stop Obamacare. Should that ever happen, chances are he won’t be president. Plus he looks too much like Joe McCarthy, with many of the same attitudes about “us” and “them.”

Inspirational quote: “If you hate Jewish people, you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ.”

What he was also thinking: “But those Muslims? Different story.”

Prediction: Out before Super Tuesday. 

Governor Bobby Jindal, Louisiana

Current Odds: 12 to 1

Why he may be our next president: Governor Jindal continues to support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. 

We know America is champing at the bit to get that done. 

Why he won’t be our next president: If you’re going to run for our nation’s highest office with a name like “Bobby,” you better be as good as the original Bobby. 

Don't think so. 

Inspirational quote: “Members of Congress must live according to the same laws as everyone else.”

What he was also thinking: “That’s why I’m a governor.”

Prediction: Jindal’s momentum will carry him through the Arizona Primary on March 22. 
Unfortunately, he’ll be profiled, pulled over and jailed on his way out of a Cheesecake Factory in Yuma and completely drain his war chest proving he really isn’t Latino.

Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky

Current odds: 8 to 1

Why he may be our next president: Again, the guy’s got a great name, one that reminds us of Almond Joys, Butterfingers and maps.

Why he won’t be our next president: Paul is a self-avowed Libertarian who opposes a woman’s right to choose. That’s like opening a restaurant with awesome food but no plates.

Inspirational quote: “I’m not someone who’s sort of still trying to figure out what I believe in.”

What he was also thinking: “You know, sort of.”

Prediction: Senator Paul’s campaign will implode prior to a televised debate in Indiana. Not knowing his microphone is live, he’ll refer to the former Arkansas governor as “Mike Fuckasheep.” Chris Christie will be seen silently snickering, leading to a surge in his poll numbers.

Governor Jeb Bush, Florida

Current odds: 11 to 2

Why he may be our next president: Because he deserves it, goddammit. How many late nights did he lie in bed, woken up by his eff-up older brother drunkenly screaming at Poppy while Mom tried to sooth his angst with back rubs, her pearls cool against the small of his neck?

Why he won’t be our next president: He’s an idiot, like all the rest of these people.

Inspirational quote: “Our children can achieve great things when we set high expectations for them.”

What he was also thinking: “Not too sure about your kids, though.”

Prediction: Governor Bush will lose the general election to Hillary Clinton on November 8. He'll get the silver medal, besting the largest field of challengers in recent memory, from Trump to Walker to Santorum to Perry to maybe even good old Grizzly Mom. 

Good God, what a shit show.

I hope this primer has helped. The goal of course was to save you a bit of homework, while providing some timely gambling advice.

Game on.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Oh yeah, and one last thing: I hate the Patriots.

I need your help today. 

Okay, and probably tomorrow, too. 

Actually, yeah, I’m going to have to ask for your assistance until—let’s see—next September. 

Seriously, after that game Sunday night, I managed to nail down a nice little table for one at the Blue Funk CafĂ©, and I don’t see the check coming any time soon.

I know, it’s ridiculous. On the scale of bona fide trauma, watching your team lose the Super Bowl should fall somewhere between the sudden extinction of wine coolers and no wi-fi in the Snappy Lube waiting room. Sure, it hurts. And yes, it’s very, very disappointing.

But for the love of Pete, this relatively trivial American athletic contest has turned me into a capital “J" jackass. Ask my family.

That’s us in happier times. It was taken last Thanksgiving Day, just prior to watching our Hawks peck the nuggets out of the Forty-Niners.

But since Sunday, I’ve elevated grumpiness and mood swings to royal status. Starting immediately after the game, neither my spouse nor either of my wee nestlings has wanted any part of Tim, Duke of Doucheberry. 

And the thing is, I’m over fifty. I should be a little better at this by now. As with my fellow Northwest pentagenarians, Super Bowl XLIX wasn’t the first time my heart’s been gouged out like a plastic spoon to a frozen puck of Ben & Jerry’s. The image from 1994 of Dikembe Mutombo, lying prostrate against the green Seattle Coliseum paint, still makes my undercarriage itch. It took a lot of positive self-talk and the whole O. J. thing to really hoist me out of that malaise.

The result of Super Bowl XL in Detroit provided another piercing hangover, the game handed to the Steelers with costly turnovers and felonious officiating. Thankfully, if it weren’t for “Sexyback,” released later that year, I never would have summoned the strength to dance my way out of the dark. Thanks, JT.

Time will heal, Hawk fans. Slowly, methodically, we’ll all become a little more philosophical, a bit less emotional. The days will get longer. Maybe we’ll begin bathing again or perhaps even return to work for half a day. We’ll stop mourning one loss and begin celebrating an era of Pete Carroll football still in its infancy. 

But that time has not arrived, not even close.

Every morning, we wake to the realization that our wound is still weepy, the Band-Aid soaked through again. That moment we pry open our crusty eyes to reveal the murk of a new day, it’s second down from the Patriot one. Before we can even put toothpaste to brush, the movie’s looped three times, we’ve rattled off six F-bombs and shredded the Fourth Commandment like a roadhouse full of off-duty scout masters.

Listen to sports radio while I shave? No thank you, I’ll enjoy the BBC on NPR for now.

What’s that? Spring training and March Madness are just around the corner? What’s your point? Basketball and baseball just remind me of football.

As you’ve probably seen, prior to every game, the Hawks huddle in small groups, sway back and forth and get each other jacked up with various chants. Here’s my favorite one from the Legion of Boom:

“We’re all we’ve got…

“…we’re all we need.”

Okay, that, and a second down do-over back in Glendale.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX: New England vs. That Team From Somewhere Out West.

Wait, what? 

Let me get this straight: You’re saying that, down two touchdowns with three minutes to go, the Seattle Seahawks still managed to defeat the storied Packers of Titletown by six points? 

You mean to tell me, after 57 minutes of offensive ineptitude, our boys in blue managed to dig their talons into their ruffled tail feathers and extract a big, jagged “W” from the depths of their musky undercarriages? 


Seriously, I haven’t seen a comeback like that since Bill Cosby erased a 27-accusation deficit to exonerate himself, using nothing but Fat Albert and a complex Illuminati flowchart.

So, yeah, for the second consecutive year, our Hawks are swooping into the sporting world’s brightest spotlight, facing the New England Patriots in Superbowl XLIX. 

Last year, I got a little emotional about the whole thing. A lifelong Seattlite, I wallowed in Seattle’s dismal record as a major league city, whining about the dearth of championships during my half century here at the continental USA’s eleven o’clock. And this time, if I really wanted to, I could double down on the pity. After all, when compared with Boston’s storied past, this image comes to mind:

Well, screw that, because you know what? Who gives a baggy Bill Belichcik boob about the past? So what if the city of Boston has hoisted the chalice 34 times compared to Seattle’s five (including a Stanley Cup won five years after the Titanic went down). 

What matters is this game, and like any other game, it’s all about matchups. So let’s use our heads this time people, because our hearts will inevitably hitch a ride anyway. 

Here’s my take on the most intriguing micro-clashes when the two teams take the field a week from Sunday:

Tom Brady vs. Russell Wilson:

This isn’t Brady’s first rodeo. Married to a supermodel, changing his haircut more frequently than Belichick changes his underwear, the Foxborro Fox is comfortable in the limelight. Russ has his share of endorsements, but he’ll have to spend a little less time at Children’s Hospital and a little more at the Playboy Mansion to catch up with Brady.

Advantage: New England.

Vince Wilfork vs. Michael Bennett:

While both of these interior defenders display freakish athletic prowess, I’m not sure Wilfork could ride a bike in full pads without the aid of ski poles and his new friend, Jenny Craig.

Advantage: Seattle.

LaGarrette Blount vs. Marshawn Lynch:

Interestingly, Blount began the season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unhappy over his playing time last November against Tennessee, he left the game early and was promptly released and signed a week later by the Patriots. Marshawn Lynch would rather invite ESPN to brunch than quit on his team.

Advantage: Seattle.

Bill Belichick vs. Pete Carroll:

I guess it depends on what you’re comparing. If we’re talking about who looks more like a smudgy hobbit and smells like a gamy casserole made of burned toast and chickpeas, well then—

Advantage: New England

Overall Team Branding:

Seattle’s isn’t complicated. They’re the Seahawks, a pissed off bird of prey who looks like he hasn’t eaten since this morning. The Patriot looks more like a guy who showed up at the Halloween party with the other white dude who lives on the Raider helmet. 

Plus, a patriot is more of a compliment than a mascot. They may as well be the New England Really Good Landscapers.

Advantage: Seattle.

Finally, here’s the thing. Most New Englanders don’t even know where Seattle is. If you ask, they’d say something like, “I have an aant in Paaatland. Isn’t that neeyah theyah?” 

At least we in the Northwest were able to point to Massachusetts on a map, even prior to the the ascension of its finest patriot—Mitt Romney.

Overall advantage: Seattle. Go Hawks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Last Look in the Rearview.

I gazed down at the Christmas tree’s lifeless body, its gangly husk jutting into the street. What had for three weeks been the aromatic, bedazzled showpiece of a season, now lay askew on the parking strip, shivering and naked. 

Whatever. Let’s face it—it felt pretty freaking good banishing that needle-spewing fire hazard for another eleven months. Baby new year is here, still too young to screech her colicky wails. So, like Mama Duggar waiting for a fresh batch of stitches to heal, let’s let the little chump snooze in our lap while we look back on the year Two Thousand Fourteen, Anno Domini.

A lot of heavy stuff happened—the Ebola outbreak, drowning polar bears, ISIS, the divorce of The Captain from Tennille—so let’s not tackle the issues we can’t poke a little fun at. Because, while a lot of the year’s events appear negative on the surface, I’m confident we can sew a shiny new silver lining into 2014’s sweat-stained seersucker before tossing it into the old foot locker.

In entertainment news, we witnessed the passing of some true giants: Mickey Rooney, Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, to name a few. Such full careers these folks had. At least we can embrace the few wizened icons who continue to walk the earth—the Clint Eastwoods, the Morgan Freemans, the Betty Whites—but yeah, we’re gonna go ahead and just fist bump the ones with colorful sweaters who offer acting lessons by the Keurig. 

In 2014 technology developments, Facebook offered “lookback videos” to its subscribers. I’ll admit, I felt sort of guilty forgetting so many milestones my friends had marked throughout the year. Thank God for another opportunity to remember that gorgeous paleo froyo my friend Dave photographed at Menchie’s back in March. These captivating slide shows also reminded me that for every charming meme with an unfortunate typo, there’s another with two.

In sports, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling faced banishment from the National Basketball Association for his recorded racist remarks. Ever the humanitarian, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer scooped up the franchise for two billion dollars, ensuring that generations of rabid fans can arrive in the second quarter, buy a twelve dollar Bud Light, and be on the freeway by the end of the third.

Also making sporting news in 2014, Jim Harbaugh abandoned the NFL’s best rivalry by resigning from the San Francisco 49ers to assume the reins at his alma mater, the University of Michigan. I’m not going to lie; I’ll miss Coach Harbaugh, with his Sharpie necklaces and eight-dollar khakis. A true scholar of the game, he utilized every tool at his disposal to thwart his adversaries throughout four years of masterful manipulation. See how the drool smears down his chin? That means fullback dive. 

And finally on the local scene, legal recreational marijuana became available in Washington during 2014, marking an historical blow to the ill-advised, Reagan-spawned war on drugs. Finally, our legal system has freed itself from the shackles of inequitable drug sentencing, racism and prison overcrowding.

Wait, what? Hungry. Mmm, pizza. And cake maybe. 

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Ballad of Trip Fallwell.

Catching the bus at Third and Pike has always been interesting. I mean, pretty much any place where untreated mental illness meets drugs and alcohol is going to provide some gloomy theater to a guy waiting for his ride to the suburbs every weeknight. But the past couple of nights have been a bit—interestinger. 

Two straight nights, someone has fallen to the ground directly in front of me. 

Wednesday, when a woman toppled into the street while stepping off the curb, two other bystanders and I converged on her. Reaching her last, I immediately became odd man out as each of the tripper’s arms had already been claimed in this odd game of musical limbs. Unsure what to do and already invested in the scene, I sheepishly patted her on the shoulder and retreated to the shadows.

Then on Thursday, while staring glazy-eyed into the murky twilight, I heard the icky sound of cloth-wrapped meat spanking concrete. If I had to onomatopoeviate the sound, it was something like, “thwarckshhhlip.” It was a woman again, and this time I made it to her first. “Need a hand?” I asked. She looked shaken and embarrassed as I helped her off the sidewalk, hobbling away and rubbing her shoulder.

So yeah, two falls in two days, which made me realize that people, even able-bodied adults, wipe out a lot. I know I do, and since I’m kind of a freak of nature athletically, the rest of you must have serious challenges staying vertical. 

Kidding, of course. How often have I hit the pavement? Put it this way: I’ve left more skin on the streets than a blind skateboarder with dandruff. And it doesn’t bode well for my golden years. Sprinkled in with all the head smackings and toe jammings are several more alarming occurrences each year where my feet have rescinded their citizenship.

So, in keeping with the holiday spirit, I’ve worked up a little ditty to summarize my travails. It’s sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas, and we’ll just start at the end and work backwards.

During five decades of clumsy,
I’ve wiped out constantly,

Twelve feet from a treehouse,
Eleven people saw me,
Ten times at Target,
Nine stairs down in jammies,
Eight achy ankles, 
Seven feet off a truck ramp,
Six puzzling grass stains,

Fiiiiiive pulled hamstriiiiings.

Four times last month,
Three people gasped,
Two friends laughed hard,

And that time last month when I skinned both my knees.

While we’re on the subject, here’s to a speedy recovery for my papa. He tweaked a couple ribs, so he’s gonna wear sweats on the sideline this weekend and hopefully be ready for the Cardinals game.

Please, have a safe holiday season.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Teaching Our Children the Merits of Inactivism.

Hi! Good to see you again. 

Back in November, I posted the following to the Reflections of a Shallow Pond Facebook page:

To my faithful readers, each of whom I love unconditionally,

You may or may not have noticed that I've been posting to the blog a little less lately. Due to my chronic OCD, I've been devoting most of my blog prep time to writing a kids' book.

It's going well, and I think a few thousand more words should round out the first draft, at which time I'll start posting again. It'll be a happy day to emerge from the other side of this meaty juggernaut.

Feel free to peruse the archives if you're looking for a treasure trove of outdated punchlines.

Thanks for reading.

Pretty much instantaneously, I started regretting that bloated little press release. 

If I had wanted to be honest with myself and everyone else, I would have said, “Due to my chronic OCD, I’m unable to focus on anything but working on the first draft of my middle grade novel. Also, I can’t think of anything to write about anyway, and there’s quite a bit of football that needs watching.”

Ahh, I feel better already. Oh,one last thing—did I say something about a “meaty juggernaut”? Yeah, I don’t think so. Trinity by Leon Uris is a meaty juggernaut. Chris Christie is a meaty juggernaut. 

Right now, I’d describe the book as more of a “cheesy Duggar plot.” In real-life terms, it’s currently about the length a routine colon cleanse—you’d be closing the cover around the time you’re closing the lid. Ideally, however, I'd like it to span the course of an intense but survivable bird flu.

Anyway, moving on. Wow, November wasn’t exactly a harmonious month, was it? The Ferguson decision, coupled with an increasingly violent attitude toward Black Friday, coagulated into the perfect Nor’ Easter of social unrest this past month. 

For the first time here in Seattle, protesters stormed two downtown Malls, freaking out pretty much everyone but the guy in the Brookstone store who’d been waiting a half hour to try the new Infiniti IT 8500 Massage Chair and by god, wasn’t lettin’ a mob of tree huggers stand between him and his flamin' sciatica. 

Have you ever participated in a demonstration? Ever stood up to the man—told him you’re fed up with his bullshit—and that you’re not going anywhere until justice, and hopefully pizza, is delivered? 

I have, twice. I first dipped my toes into the muddy sand of civil disobedience in high school. Was I rebelling against the tyrannical re-institution of selective service registration? Can’t say I was. Did I march against Ronald Reagan’s covert war against Nicaragua’s Sandanistas? Um…nah.

The arena many of my classmates and I chose as our initiation into rabble rousing was just that—a basketball arena. I’ve long since forgotten what the referee did to incite such activism, but whatever it was, a few of us spontaneously decided to sit on the court after the game to challenge the loss forced upon us by a gang of zebra-striped oppressors. Unflinchingly resolved that the ref violated our basic human right to a senior year playoff win, we rattled the rafters of the Hazen High School gym with chants of,“Hell no! We won’t go!”

Classy, eh? If co-opting Vietnam anti-war slogans toward our equally righteous ends was the order of the day, then so be it. 

Seriously, though, what did we think—that the referees would sheepishly return to the court and say, “We’ve never seen a group of people sit on the floor so powerfully. Let’s go ahead and bring the teams out and add a couple more minutes to the game clock. Well played, Trojan student body.”

The principal and a couple of off-duty cops told us leave. We did, but incensed at the injustice we’d witnessed, my friends and I wouldn't forget this until well into the Dairy Queen drive-through line.

I’d like to think that my second act of public rebellion was a catalyst toward inspiring my older daughter’s future actions. On February 15, 2003, protesters in cities across America took to the streets to object to the Bush Administration’s impending invasion of Iraq. 

Nearly eight years old, my kid seemed a good age at which to impart a lesson on First Amendment rights by participating in the parade from Seattle Center to the International District.

I knew that, how ever far we walked away from the car, we’d have to hike back the same distance, and I didn’t want her forever associating social demonstration with boredom, hunger and fatigue. We managed to walk half the route before peeling off course and finding a place with chicken tenders and getting to the car in time to beat the agitator traffic. 

But how, on that crisp winter day, could I have known that a simple lesson would propel my sweet cherub toward a life of activism twelve years hence? Here’s what happened yesterday, as told by my nineteen-year-old daughter, a sophomore at Western Washington University:

I was walking on campus with a couple of friends. We were on our way to get a hot chocolate at Starbucks. We saw something happening in Red Square (the brick-floored hub of campus), like lots of people were gathering, so we decided to check it out. We walked over and saw two girls standing on the fountain, talking into bullhorns. A drum started beating, and for every beat, one of them said the name of a famous victim of police brutality.

A few minutes later, we found ourselves right in the middle of a huge crowd. The drum started beating faster…and people started lying on the wet bricks. I said to my friend, "Wow, that sucks for them. It must be freezing down there.” 

More and more people dropped to the ground, and before we knew it, we were the only ones standing. “We can’t leave now,” I said. So all three of us just laid down. At least I had my backpack on so my back didn’t get wet, but pretty soon, my butt was so cold it was numb. We laid there for almost ten minutes. Then the drum started beating again and everyone stood up. My friend had on a white sweatshirt, so, it wasn’t doing too good after that. 

But we still went to Starbucks.

Who’s a proud papa? This guy.