Tuesday, April 7, 2015

She's Fifteen. Wait, What?

She’s fifteen today. 

Holy sweet mother of Burt Reynolds, I feel old. My little girl—all those years such a wee, giggly tot—has shot up like a gull durn beanstalk in Zoo Doo. And, might I say, a hard-working, smart, awesome beanstalk at that.

How about you; do you remember turning fifteen? How about just being fifteen? I’m asking because…I kind of don’t. Sure, I’ve got some fairly sturdy memories of the larger milestones of that era—thirteen, sixteen—but my recollections of Year XV are overcast at best. 

Based on the day’s teenage mindset, I can deduce what I may have asked for. Perhaps a pair of these:

I doubt I received HASH jeans though, since it cost around thirty 1977 dollars for the privilege of hiding your shoes and flaunting your loin rimple. Chances are I picked up a cheaper imitation at the Clothes Fair down by the railroad tracks. 

I probably requested slightly smaller ticket items, like this:

Or maybe this:

Or perhaps a subscription to this:

I can tell you with near certainty that for dinner, I went here:

After which, my family and I returned home, sat back on the couch and flipped on this:

Yep, from what I’ve observed, teenage birthdays are quite a bit different now. By the time my daughter arrives at school this morning, a large swath of freshmen will already be digitally clued in. Upon her entrance, she’ll be engulfed in a million gentle hugs—each with one hand lightly patting the birthday girl’s back and the other clinging to its smartphone like a mountain goat to a mossy boulder.

In 1977, most of my friends didn’t even know I’d had a birthday until they noticed my annual Milk Dud-sized forehead zit from eating chocolate cake for breakfast all week.

I’m not bitter. Digital attention is shallow. Wait, forget I said that. 

I suppose when the rubber hits the road, teenagers haven’t changed all that much. Allow me to illustrate.

Here’s a recent photo of my daughter:

Here I am, also at age 15:

And of course, James:

See what I mean? A youngster’s a youngster’s a dork. 

Fifteen can be a tough age, a time of awakening and with it, one of elevated uncertainty and angst. Thankfully, our kid seems to be navigating the waters well; in fact, she’s doing great. 

And just between us, or as the kids say, "TBH," I love the girl so much, sometimes I feel like I could just cave in. But knowing how she’s loathed being the subject of my long-winded posts over the years, I’ve decided to bestow upon her the greatest gift a father can grant on this, my baby’s fifteenth birthday:

I’ll stop talking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blame it on the Brain.

It was during the summer of 1984 that I'd last lost my wallet.  I left it in a Tacoma Mall men’s room. 

I know how that sounds. Why would I place my wallet at risk in a public restroom if money weren’t changing hands? Suffice it to say my early twenties were a time of low self-esteem and financial prosperity.

No, actually, I was with that girlfriend at the time. Remember her—the one who insisted I buy a blow dryer and tie a sweater around my neck? While I don’t remember the exact circumstances, it’s possible that she handed me her portable dryer; the one she kept in her purse. She very well may have insisted that I visit the boys’ room to re-apply some product and incinerate my hair to a crispy sheen like hers, and only then could we re-emerge hand-in-hand from between Orange Julius and Squire Shop and freaking own that Tacoma Mall.

So yeah, that was the last time I parted ways with my wallet, back when Reagan was president and her husband incessantly confused Mikhail Gorbachev with his dead Uncle Rusty. 

It was a nice thirty-one-year streak of walletfulness, even longer than Jerry Seinfeld’s impressive no-vomit stint that lasted from June 29, 1980 until February 3, 1994. And that’s why I’ve decided that, even though I am ultimately responsible for maintaining a relationship between my credit cards and my clammy torso, this mishap is hardly my fault.

A lot of other folks could be responsible for this, and I think you may agree once you've read this.

1) Sure, I was a fool for placing it in the front pocket of my new zip hoodie, but my wife was responsible for purchasing a defective product. After 26 years as a preferred Value Village shopper, I would have thought she'd know inadequate pocket depth when she saw it. Apparently not, so I could pin this on her.

2) Even at the risk of losing his livelihood, the cab driver may have found it just too tempting not to pinch my goatskin accessory and all its spoils, including a ten-cent per gallon Safeway fuel discount. With his new identity and a swipe of the red card, he could surprise his family with a free movie rental and two Selsun Blues for the price of one. If Safeway had whale patrons like Vegas does, I’d be a freaking Orca, so this guy scored.

3) I could blame Obama. After all, the guy’s been picking all of our pockets for the last six years, am I right or am I right?

4) My brother took it. This is the most statistically probable answer. Although he seems trustworthy, after all those years in prison, the guy’s got some clever hiding places up his…sleeve. He’s an opportunist, and that wallet had some nicely rounded corners.

At this point, all I know is that the thing just vaporized. After getting up in the morning and not seeing the humbow-sized black Fossil in its usual spot, I obsessively scoured the house for well over an hour. Thank God it wasn’t in the silverware drawer or washing machine when I checked, as that would’ve escalated my issue into the health care realm (please see Ronald Reagan above). 

Losing a wallet is the epitome of a First World problem, though, right? Everything is replaceable, so this too will prove to be but a teensy skin tag on life's dandruff-smothered scalp. And just to inspire you, doggone it if I didn’t turn misfortune on its ear by getting free, two-day shipping on a new fanny pack. 

A light one, for summer.

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 election.com, 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.