Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A brief interview with Yin and Yang

The month of April marks milestone birthdays for both of my daughters; Zoe will turn 15 and Lauryn will be ten. I've often listened to their varying takes on life, but I've never posed the same set of questions to each of them. The time has come. I sat down with my girls over a dinner of taco salads and pineapple, pulled out a list of pre-determined questions and wrote as quickly as I could. Hopefully, the answers will remain true to their voices.

Lauryn, what advice would you give the parent of a ten-year-old?
Let your kid do whatever they want, except drugs, alcohol and get pregnant.
Zoe, what would you say to the parent of a 15-year old?
Let them drive short distances before they have a permit, and you should let them text as late as they want if it's important.

Lauryn, if you could change anything about your first ten years, what would you change?
I would change the bad words I've said to people, and I would've spent more time with my sister.
Zoe, how about you?
When I was four, I wouldn't have peed on the floor of my room and wiped it up with my dad's towel and put it back, thereby forcing my dad to dry himself with my urine.

Lauryn, ten years from now, what do you want to look back upon and say that you've accomplished?
Ummm...drive a car and make a lot of friends. And over ten years, I want to walk 30 miles.
Zoe, when you're 30, what do you want to say that you've done?
I want to have had a 20-point scoring average by my senior year, and have graduated from high school and college with at least a 3.7 GPA (brief pause in the conversation). Mmmmm...my hair is soft.

Lauryn, what will ten-year-olds have in ten years that you don't have now?
TVs as big as a wall and cell phones in their brains.
Zoe, what will 15-year-olds have in 15 years?
Trampoline floors, cars will be powered by air and teachers will be robots. 
(At this point, the girls' mother points out that she plans on still being a teacher in 15 years.)

Okay, last question: If you have ten- and 15-year-old children, respectively, what would their names be and what would they be like?
Lauryn: Her name would be Skyler and she would be very unique and creative and she would grow up to be a painter and sometimes I would need to give her cash.
Zoe: His name would be Blake and he would be very cute and always have short hair and he'd be a ladies' man with a lot of cool Nikes and he'll be really funny.

Thanks for your time, both of you.

Interviewer's note: I'm not sure I'd want a ladies' man for a grandson, like a little mini David Hasselhoff. Wait a minute... I'm  jealous of a non-existent person. Anyway, now that we've got everything mapped out, I guess my work as a parent is done.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Of shattered dreams and Area 51

Damn it. Another cool legend bites the dust, and this time, it's dragging a lot of believers into the abyss.

Most of us have heard or read about the legend of Area 51: An alien spacecraft crashes in the southern Nevada desert. People see and photograph the event. Dark government figures confiscate film, pay off witnesses and deny everything. Alien beings are whisked to secret locations, examined, probed and dissected. An entire movement is born out of the seeds of conspiracy and a new-found public obsession with UFOs.

After nearly 50 years, according to a front-page feature in The Seattle Times, a few of the shadowy characters have come out of the woodwork to discuss the true goings-on at Area 51. Apparently, this remote area was a testing site for state-of-the-art reconnaissance aircraft, or spy planes. Prior to satellites and other high tech surveillance devices, the United States employed high-altitude, ultra-fast jets to spy on the Soviet Union. One such aircraft, the SR-71, could fly at altitudes of 90,000 feet and achieve a speed of Mach 3.29, or 2,200 miles per hour, and its predecessor, the A-12, ended up being the "alien" craft which crash landed in the desert that fateful day in 1963.

Due to the extreme secrecy of the project, government operatives descended upon the crash site, cleaned up all the debris and confiscated the film from the camera of a vacationing family who happened upon the scene. No aliens. No space-age technology to be harvested from the discovery.

I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed by these revelations. I really wanted to believe that our government possessed proof that living beings visited our primitive planet in the 1950s and 60s. I yearned to buy into the whole conspiracy theory, just like I'd like to think that Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, Crop Circles, that rumor about Jamie Lee Curtis and the Bermuda Triangle are factual phenomena.

I'll tell you one thing—if I were ever elected President, and there's still time, I'd ask some tough questions about what our government has on aliens and the Kennedy assassination. I'd also ask for a hot fudge sundae every Thursday night, and for all the White House's carpets and upholstery to be replaced in any room that Bill Clinton spent a "significant" amount of time.

Time to get back to my National Enquirer.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

That time I appeared on Oprah

Here we go again.

If I were ever lucky enough to appear on Oprah, and I wouldn't be, I could imagine her introducing me with something like, "You all know him or somebody like him. He's gained and lost enough weight to fill up my Chicago mansion with gooey stomach and chin lard. Well, today, we have him at the Harpo studios. Tim Haywood is heeeeeeeere!"

I'd walk in slowly from stage right, lugging a Radio Flyer wagon brimming with the equivalent of my most recent flab loss. I would drop the handle, leaving the disgusting display in the middle of the stage, stroll over to Oprah, and experience the charms of her loving embrace. We'd sit down on her L-shaped couch and get down to business.

Oprah: "So, first of all, welcome to the show. I could have had Harrison Ford on today, but my friend Gail talked me into this, since you and I seem to have the same problem with gaining weight, losing weight, gaining, losing, etc."

Me: "Well, Oprah (I can't believe I'm saying, "Well, Oprah"), a lot of us ride the weight roller coaster. Most people ride something you might find at the Western Washington Fair, but mine is Vegas-sized, with a couple of loop-the-loops. By the way, is Dr. Oz going to be here? If he is, I don't want a lecture, and I really don't want to see him with his shirt off. And what's with those scrubs? Is he performing prostate exams during commercial breaks?"

Oprah: "Don't worry about him, honey. He'd be nothing more than an HMO hack working at a strip mall clinic if it weren't for me.

So anyway, why can't you seem to control your weight?"

Me: "I've got an obsessive/compulsive personality, Oprah. Once I start a diet, I get a little manic about it. I can shed pounds in quick order, which irritates my wife to no end. I weigh myself every day, sometimes twice, and ruminate over everything I put into my body.

"I usually take off twenty to twenty-five pounds, maintain for about six months, and then maybe indulge myself for a weekend. Sometimes I get back on the wagon, but usually I say to hell with it, and slowly return to my gluttonous ways. You know what I mean, Oprah? That extra beer, that extra helping of risotto. But the worst temptation is the workplace, where treats abound and around three o'clock is the witching hour for sweet temptation—birthday cakes, cookies, a stray gummy worm on the carpet..."

Oprah: "I feel your pain. And by the way, you're welcome for my mentioning UGGs on my 'favorite things' show and singlehandedly making it your company's best-selling shoe."

Me: "Oh, yeah, thanks for that."

Oprah: "When we come back, we're going to have everyone look under their chairs, and whatever they find, Tim will eat. We'll be right back."

The preceding dramatization was intended solely for the self-motivational purposes of the author, as a tactic to lose some weight and prevent the purchase of clothing with elastic waistbands. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where have you gone, Joe Camel?

This morning as I waited on the sidewalk for King County Metro Route 54, I spotted that familiar, well-groomed woman, again walking purposefully toward our bus stop. She abruptly stopped, as usual, roughly fifty feet from where I stood next to the brown shelter. We each spotted the bus on the horizon and removed our passes to prepare to board our ride, but she didn't move an inch closer to the bus' stopping point. It was as if she were straining against an invisible fence. Why?

She hadn't finished her cigarette.

It wasn't always this way. Smokers didn't always cower in the dark corners of the great outdoors, keeping more distance from the masses than Howie Mandel at a handshaking convention.
With today's state of nicotine affairs, I can always tell when someone at work is leaving the building for a butt break—they wear comfortable walking shoes, because in Washington State, smokers have to reside at least twenty feet from buildings (also known as "in the street") or constantly moving. I guess it can't hurt to keep the heart rate going while ingesting those twelve-thousand toxic chemicals, or however many there are.

Smoking used to occupy such a large swath of popular culture. Most people my age remember candy cigarettes or bubble gum cigars. Made sense to me, since most of our parents smoked, and these were simply tactile vehicles to prepare us for big boy and girl cancer sticks. Lighting up was allowed anywhere—in church, in the malls—I can even recall people firing up courtside at a 1969 Seattle SuperSonics basketball contest.

Most mornings in elementary school, I would stop off at the home of my friend, Terry, whose mom was really nice and always gave us a ride. I would enter the kitchen, greeting my friend as he stuffed his face with Eggos, and his mom, as she took massive pulls off her unfiltered Pall Malls. As we waited for Terri to finish his Jimmy Dean patty sausage, the conversation would turn to Richard Nixon or Olivia Newton John or the new Ford Pinto. We'd pile into the car, windows  sealed tightly, as Terry's mom lit another cigarette for the five-minute drive to school. Occasionally, the car got so smoky, she would open her window a good quarter of an inch for maximum ventilation.

Throughout my childhood, smoking was frowned upon, but not that much. Underage smokers at my high school convened on the sidewalk directly in front of the building. In an effort to curb such a public relations nightmare, a brand new, state-of-the-art smoking patio was built behind the school, safely tucked away from the public eye. Nothing but the best for tomorrow's leaders.

Any time our marching band traveled to an overnight destination, a smoking bus was always included in the convoy. As a direct result of this foresight some important bridges of understanding were forged between the smoking youth and their equally inhaling chaperones. Lighters were lent, cigarettes were shared and a general feeling of esprit de corps permeated the foggy vehicle.

I'm not going to elaborate on the ever-increasing exploitation of smokers throughout the ensuing three decades. The current cost of a monthly supply of smokes rivals what this guy on the left probably paid for his Camero. It's probably good that he's not around to see what's happened to this once noble pastime.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What women really want: Like I know

What do women look for in a man?

This question arises occasionally, and today it reared its head again as I watched an interview with Gene Simmons, leader of KISS, on The Joy Behar Show.

We all know that this guy is the poster boy for male rock-n-roll sluttiness. He's claimed to have biblically acquainted himself with over 4,600 women...and counting. I watched as Gene sat there, his dyed, jet black, spray-on hair and sunglasses portraying the appearance of a living police composite sketch. Perched next to him was his live-in girlfriend of 26 years, Shannon Tweed, nodding and smiling as Simmons elaborated on his scores of sexual exploits.

Naturally, I understand that a lot of females are attracted to wealthy, bad-boy rock stars—always have been and always will be. Am I envious? Sure.

However, even if this guy carnally sampled half of the women he claimed to have, he would officially qualify as the bacterial equivalent of a chewing gum-covered concrete wall the size of Orange County. With all the fame and riches stripped from his persona, he's at best nothing more than the Crown Prince of Chlamydia, Nasty McYuckerson. What is it about seemingly repulsive dudes that draws these women to them?

I decided to fire up the google mobile and found a site which lists the top ten traits women look for in men, at least according to one woman. Money, fame, power and rock stardom weren't on the list, which was refreshing, so I decided to assess how I might stack up:

1) Appreciation—I'd like to think I exhibit appreciative qualities, like when I lovingly say, "Thanks for finding the remote."

2) Organization—I'm more than willing to organize everything into a large, neat pile.

3) Observation—I'm quite adept at gauging a woman's moods and emotions, most notably her subtle irritation that occurs after I've demolished any kind of weight-bearing wall.

4) Drive—I definitely know what I want...and this time I want it with extra cheese.

5) Intelligence—I've utilized my intellectual tools to determine that deep within her soul, she yearns to discuss football. Say the word, my sweet.

6) Outlook—I realize that a positive outlook goes a long way, which is why, when I'm the driver, I'll never admit that we're lost.

7) Genuine Chivalry—I could have pitched the tent that dark, rainy night, but knew it would serve us much better as a blanket.

8) Spontaneity—Go ahead and get your coat. We're going for a beer.

9) Confidence—Of course I can eat all of that.

10) Self maintenance—If I can't take care of myself, how can I take care of her? That's why I bought us each a pair of sweat pants at Rite Aid.

Wow. Looks like Simmons has nothing on me after all.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A day with my kids: This is it.

My kids and I spent an enjoyable day together yesterday. It began with my older daughter and I coaching my younger daughter's indoor soccer team, the Blue Fire. During the second half of a hotly-contested match, Lauryn wound up and fired off a shot from half court, about two feet off the ground, directly toward the goal.

It scorched the back of the net. She had just scored her first goal of her soccer career, from about twenty yards out.

Since I'm the coach, I have to demonstrate a little composure out there. You know, can't play favorites, and I suppose that's why, after Lauryn's goal, I had to jump around and scream like I was on Family Feud every time someone on our team scored. Got to cover my tracks.

After the game, flush with fatherly pride, I took my daughters out to dinner. My wife had retreated to her classroom to catch up on some work, and I tend to spoil the kids, and myself, in these situations. The restaurant just happened to be conveniently located a stone's throw from a place which offers a dessert called "The Blizzard," so we celebrated America's many unhealthy food choices by swinging through the drive-through for a little helping of mud pie heaven.

The plan at this point was to return home, switch on the TV, and tune into some trashy reality show, like We Live in a Cake or Furry Millionaires on Four Legs or I Sleep on Pizza Boxes. Unfortunately, none of the evening's offerings met our high standards, so we decided to rent This Is It, Michael Jackson's swan song documentary of his last rehearsals before the shows that weren't to be.

I loved this movie. I know, like everyone else, about his strange personality, his checkered history, his odd behavior. But as a performer, as a musician, no one tops him. His charisma seeped right through the screen. Michael is probably the single musical artist about whom my daughters and I can agree. He hadn't really released any hit material for the past twenty years, yet my kids seemed to know so many of his songs; we all sang along, surprised that each knew the words.

He sang, danced and conveyed himself with such vigor, it was hard to fathom that these were his final days. Lauryn reminded me that he had a serious drug problem and that his doctor had been charged with "Manslaughtering."

I recommend this movie to anyone who craves nostalgia. I recommend spending a day with your kids to anyone period.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Coaching tweens: one man's struggle

I can't really get a read on these people.

They're referred to as "tweens," but they're actually a compilation of almost every year of their lives from zero to ten.

I've signed on, yet again, to coach kids' indoor soccer. This time, it's a gaggle of eight- and nine-year-old girls, including my daughter. We practice every Thursday night in an archaic, dusty elementary school gym, where the parent-spectators hug the sides and try not to get nailed with an errant line drive to the chest.

We are the Blue Fire. I guess that's a good team name, since it implies scorching hot play, so hot that it's...blue? My teenage daughter is the assistant coach, and it's a good thing, because she handles the warm-up exercises and plays good cop to my impatient, old school bad cop. Every practice, she assembles the kids into a circle for stretching, but before long, about half the players are just sitting, cross-legged, chatting. Here's an example:

Teenage assistant coach: "So...how was everyone's day at school?"

Player #1: "It was good. I got in trouble yesterday. It was my fault, but it wasn't my fault. You know what I mean?"

Teenage assistant coach: "Oh, yeah. I know what you mean."

Player #2: "I got in trouble, too."

Player #3: "I got in trouble, too."

I watched the girls as they sat and talked. It seems like girls this age are just a bit off in their appearance. They're all really cute and bubbly, but their hair always seems a little stringy and oily; their shoes aren't usually tied all the way.

A few of them wore their shin guards on the outsides of their socks, and it reminded me of a kid I knew in seventh grade. On the first day of gym class, each boy was issued a shirt, shorts and an athletic supporter (jock strap). This poor kid walked out of the locker room wearing his jock outside of his shorts. Luckily for these girls on my soccer team, they will never be stigmatized for wearing their shin guards over their socks they way that poor kid in gym was. His name was Chuck.

We always try different drills for the first half of practice, like dribbling, passing and shooting at the goal. Again, half the girls usually pay attention, while the other half try strange things with their soccer balls. As I demonstrated how to properly trap a soccer ball, one girl decided to stand on hers with both feet. Naturally, she fell, landing hard enough on her side to break the hip of your average eighty-year-old.

"You guys. Please don't stand on your ball," I said. "See what happens? It's really dangerous."

Another kid stood on her ball and wiped out hard. Then another one.

"Okay, let's start our scrimmage early."

I really do love this team, an I try to be patient with them. They attend school all day, where things are segmented and structured, so soccer practice is a great opportunity to blow off some steam. Plus, this is a YMCA, free-to-be-you-and-me activity, not the ultra-select, premier, all-star platinum soccer league.

But next time one of those kids stands on a ball, we'll see how well a nine-year-old can do push-ups.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some advice for Tiger, no charge

Yesterday, Tiger Woods signaled his return to the professional golf circuit as he announced his intention to compete in the Masters tournament in April. In the event that Mr. Woods hasn't considered how to deal with the media scrutiny in the coming months, I've outlined a few tips, a few nuggets of wisdom. Take them or leave them, Tiger:

1) Eat breakfast at your hotel and go straight to the golf links. Do not duck your head into the nearest Perkins restaurant for a smidge of somethin' somethin'.

2) You're now the new and improved Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. It no longer should matter whether or not your driver is longer than everyone else's.

3) When addressing the media, try to avoid the phrase, "I had a nice lie on the 15th green."

4) It's understandable why Nike has kept you as an endorser. After all, why should they care if you "just do it?" However, it seems surprising that Gatorade has dropped your services, when their slogan is, "Is it in you?"

5) Remember, if someone asks you about "playing Augusta," they are not referring to a Denny's cocktail waitress.

6) I know you've recently completed treatment for sex addiction, and things are still a little bit raw, emotionally. Just be confident that if you're lucky enough to win the Masters and don the green jacket, this will not affect you like the green M&Ms did.

7) You will be faced with countless distractions while pacing the fairways, so remember, as you line up that shot, just relax and think about baseball.

8) Think about giving a little shout-out to your good friend, Charles Barkley, whose counsel you sought out during your darkest moments. Who among us hasn't thought "What would Charles do?" as we prepared to wager our mortgages on pair of jacks.

9) If you do decide to start your life over with a new outlook, remember, when you're married and are  the father of two young children, life is not the sexual equivalent of the Olive Garden Bottomless Pasta Bowl.

10) Don't blow it this time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The song remains the same.

Warning: The following post contains puns, which many consider the lowest form of humor.

I've heard them referred to as "song tumors." They can begin as comforting notions, yet evolve into our worst nightmares, our minds rebelling against themselves in a macabre dance of self-torture.

"Don't Stop Believin'", by Journey, is one of my favorite songs. It reminds me of a simpler time, an era when we bought records with airbrushed, futuristic cover art, sang along to every song on the album and then recorded it onto a cassette to listen to in the car. It's also held up over time; it doesn't sound gimmicky or dated since its initial release in 1981.

Fast forward thirty years. My fourteen-year-old daughter heard the song in the new hit series, "Glee," and decided she had a new fave. When a teenager makes this decision, it's a commitment, an obligation to download the song, "youtube" the song and listen to the song back-to-back-to-back-to-back ad nauseam. Our house was infected with "Don't Stop Believin'" for five consecutive days, meaning it was entrenched within the crania of four people for almost a week.

I'm talking about waking up in the morning, my brain reviving itself from a temporary tune respite, and instantly hearing, "Just a small town girl..." Now fully engaged and booted up, my gray matter compelled me to rhythmically eat Cheerios to the song, to tap the formica counter to the song, to sing the song to my car's turn signal metronome.

It got to the point where my nine-year-old would hear my savant Journey beats and simply say, "Dad. Journey. Stop."

"Oh, okay. Sorry."

Naturally, this wasn't the first number to dig its tentacles into my head. We've all had this happen, almost on a daily basis. Who hasn't been infected with "Since You've Been Gone-orrhoea," or "I Write the Song-chitis?" Which one of us hasn't come down with "Wind Beneath My Wing-worm", "Leaving on a Jet Plan-tar warts," or "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Goiter?" Then, of course, you could be stricken with a benign "Cyst-er Christian" or an "Achy Breaky Heart Arrhythmia." Okay, I'm done.

You get the point. And it's so understandable how loud, repetitive music is so effective in manipulating interrogation subjects into spilling their guts. After painting my tool shed last summer for four hours to the tune of "Livin' on a Prayer," I would have confessed to a fetish for Spanx thigh-highs.

I'm not sure it was a good idea to write about this subject. Oh no, there he is again...that city boy from South Detroit.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Go ahead. Make the call.

It's just a phone call. It can't hurt.

Time and again, some of life's most profound events have originated with such a simple act—that of hoisting the receiver.

I met her in 1987 while visiting a mutual friend. The three of us hung out for a weekend; laughing, drinking Schmidt beer, talking, watching videos of Culture Club, Whitney Houston and Tears for Fears. This is back when MTV played videos constantly, so it always provided an inviting backdrop for casual conversation. I recall parting ways on Sunday, thinking, "She's really cool. Maybe I'll call her sometime...Oh, yeah, that's right. I have a girlfriend."

Over the next two weeks, I thought about her a lot, finally deciding, "I'll just call her. It's just a phone call. No big whoop, right?" One phone call, one nasty breakup with the girlfriend and twenty-three years later, that call to my future bride looms in my past as a beacon to a profound decision.

Naturally, a call doesn't always result in an unexpected windfall, but it can result in a $12,000 window purchase or a new cat or a two-topping, family size.

I had recently finished art school, after spending five years as an accountant. Things weren't looking promising, since I had nothing but a school portfolio and a mullet to market my talents as a graphic designer. I called every ad agency, every design firm, every instant printing shop in the phone book, and still nothing was materializing. And then, the phone call.

We'd actually known each other since high school. Back then, he was one of those people who excelled in everything he attempted, yet was always approachable, friendly and extremely cool. We gravitated toward each other due to our interest in art, but I wouldn't say we were best friends. I ran into him a couple of times after high school, once at the unemployment office, another time at our ten-year reunion. He'd entered the graphic design profession right after college, and encouraged me to call him, anytime.

I'm not sure why I waited to the point of desperation; maybe I was embarrassed to admit to him that I wasn't cutting it in a world he was quickly mastering. But, hey, it's just a phone call. It can't hurt.

He was so gracious and so accommodating, and he helped me get an interview with his company. I got the job, and I've now been there nineteen years and counting.

His last day at work was Friday. He's now accepted a position as an associate creative director for a major fashion retailer in Manhattan, and he's got the world by the tail. I've grown to love him like a brother, as have a lot of those whose lives he has influenced over the past twenty years. His name is Cole Tsujikawa, and he's living proof that a phone call can change a life.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Childhood celebrity: Wake up, parents!

I'm going to try to not be judgmental here.

Yet another child star, Corey Haim, has died, after a long struggle with drug abuse. Add his name to the massive list of troubled actors and actresses who have suffered from or succumbed to the curse of youthful Hollywood stardom. Let's start in the 1930s and move forward from there.

• Judy Garland — died at age 47 of an accidental drug overdose.
•  Robert Blake — in 2005, found liable for the wrongful death of his estranged wife.
•  Ricky Nelson — plagued by severe drug abuse until his death at age 45.
•  Anissa Jones (Buffy, from Family Affair) — died at age 18 from a lethal combination of cocaine, PCP, seconal and Quaaludes.
• Three members of the Eight is Enough family (Lani O'Grady, Willie Aames and Adam Rich) — all three shackled by addiction, including O'Grady's painkiller-related death in 2001.
•  The entire child cast of Different Strokes (Dana Plato, Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman) — again, all besieged with legal issues, Plato overdosing and dying in 1999.

The list goes on. For every child star who clears the massive hurdle into adult celebrity, there's a wasteland of those who crash into it. For every Ron Howard or Kurt Russell, there are ten Macaulay Culkins, River Phoenixes, Lindsay Lohans, Leif Garretts or MacKenzie Phillipses.

And something tells me there's a fairly ambitious parent or two behind each one. We hear these people say, "Oh, no, of course I'm not forcing her into it. She's wanted to act since the day she looked at her first glamour shot. You can ask her yourself...when she gets back from her botox appointment."

While a lucky, young woman may one day reach the summit and make it to the Miss America pageant, there are 500 other little girls whose parents insist on entering them in the local pageant. They compel these poor little kids to parade around the Airport Marriott conference room in full make-up, hoping their woman-child becomes the next Miss Meal Ticket.

It's hard enough to be a kid. How many of us would be willing to trade our current lives for the one we experienced as a thirteen-year-old? I'm guessing not many of us would.

So how about this: Imagine being a few years removed from your last television series, with no real prospects on the horizon. You're driving around one day, and decide to slip into a McDonald's for a quick bite of McSomething with Cheese. As you grab the white bag and walk out the door, a guy approximately your age blocks your path and asks, "Hey, Erkel, sign my Quarter Pounder box, will ya?"

And we wonder why these kids become such messed-up adults.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ten reasons why I love Sarah Palin

The top ten reasons I'm thankful that Sarah Palin has chosen to remain in the media spotlight:

1) It's nice that she can now spend more time in the lower 48, close enough that most of us can take in the enchanting aroma of her Love's Baby Soft.

2) Her folksy tone helps my cat's constipation.

3) I appreciate having more opportunities to listen to her speaking, since I still can't decide whether her husband's name is Todd or Tad.

4) Not being governor of Alaska frees up time for her to meet with the President of Africa, or to maybe take in a NASCAR race in Alabama or some other part of South America.

5) I've invested a ton of money in a one-syllable-word company, and she's driving the stock price sky high.

6) I almost laughed so hard that I choked on my mouth dam when my dentist barked out, "Drill, baby, drill." So cute and so fun.

7) It's great to see her try her hand at stand-up comedy on Fox News.

8) I simply cannot wait to hear what inanimate object the next male baby of her family is named after. It could be Truck or Tree or Tire or Tool...

9) It's invigorating to hear her expound on her no-nonsense, conservative positions, such as "Who needs New Mexico when the old one ain't broke."

10) At the rate she's going, her opponent in the 2012 presidential race could be the rotting carcass of something she shot from a helicopter, and she'd still lose in a landslide.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Oscars: a year-end T-ball pizza party for adults

I watched all of it. The entire show. In fact, I watched the pre-red carpet show, the red carpet show, and then the Academy Awards, so really, any snarky judgments I make throughout this post should be prefaced by the fact that I watched all of it.

My family and I established an annual tradition, beginning three years ago, of eating meatloaf while watching the Oscars. Why meatloaf? Why not? With my daughters, the power of association can be so strong, that I'm just glad we weren't snacking on Spaghetti-O's the first time we watched as a group, or we'd be slurping those down every year.

That red carpet spectacle is such a bizarre study in human idol worship. The crowd is literally caged-in as the stars stroll by in all of their grandeur. The show's hosts marveled at the way George Clooney broke from tradition by interacting with the unwashed masses outside the red carpet zone, and he was hailed as a hero for actually stooping to mingle with the commoners. As his date walked along a few feet behind him, my nine-year-old pointed out, "That's his girlfriend. They've been together a really long time. Like over a year."

We watched as each starlet posed for the camera. Many looked hopelessly claustrophobic in their mega-tight dresses, like when you're camping and you wake up in a cold panic because your sleeping bag has twisted itself three-and-a-half times around your torso. They posed and strutted, posed and strutted, and finally approached the interviewer. Here's an example of a typical exchange:
"Kate, you look striking."
"Thank you very much."
"So, everyone wants to know...who are you wearing?"
At that point, I really wish Kate would have said, "Don't you mean what am I wearing? Well, in case you are unable to tell, this is a dress. From Target."

Don't get me wrong; Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Sandra Bullock and Penelope Cruz weren't exactly hard on the eyes, but a few celebrated thespians looked less than stunning. My daughters were usually the first to point this out:

Zoe: "Look how yellow her teeth are."
Lauryn: "Look how yellow your teeth are."
Nothing like some good-natured barbs between my princesses.

Once the show began, it followed the usual format fairly closely. Each nominee for best male and female actor were lauded on stage individually by someone who had worked with or known them. For instance, Stanley Tucci spoke glowingly of Merrill Steep, since they'd worked on two films together. The person who showed up to hail the nominated star of "Precious," Gabouret Sidibe, was none other than Oprah Winfrey. Upon seeing her, I thought, "That's it. Gabby's got the Oscar sewn up if Oprah's in her corner." Oprah's so influential that if she included Lucky Strike Cigarettes on her list of favorite things, they would become America's number-one stocking stuffer. Gabouret didn't win, and I was surprised.

One other departure I noticed was the return of the phrase, "And the winner is..." as opposed to "And the Oscar goes to..." I suppose the members of the Academy had tired of treating the show like an end-of-season T-ball pizza party, where everyone's a winner and everyone gets an awesome trophy.

But as much as we criticize and make fun of this yearly fest of self-congratulation, who hasn't fantasized about the speech they'd deliver if they were up on that stage, clutching that golden eunuch that is Oscar:
"I'd like to thank the Academy, even though I have no idea who or what the Academy is. I'd also like to thank the folks at Photoshop for making my pores thirty percent smaller on those close-ups. And most of all, I'd like to thank Sally Field, because no matter what I say right now, it will always be considered more coherent than the speech she gave. Now where's my gift basket?"

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I could easily grow one. I just don't want to.

It all began so positively. I was standing in the elementary school boys' room with my friend Paul. We were in fifth grade, and had just attended a special class about puberty. All of the fifth grade boys had gathered in Mr. Price's class, and the girls had assembled in Mrs. Sonnenfeld's room, to be briefed about what to expect in the coming years; to understand that we weren't alone in experiencing this hormone tsunami.

Paul and I each pressed ourselves against our respective sinks, to enable us to gaze as closely as possible to the area above our upper lips.
"Oh, oh. I see something, " I yelled. My heart pounded. "Come here and look at this."
"You've got three, no four...no, six!" Paul confirmed.
"Six! I've got six mustache hairs. And I'm only eleven. I'm gonna have a Burt Reynolds mustache by next year. Yes!"

That day in 1974 was one of the most exhilarating of my young life. I discovered that I was destined to have facial hair options. I had always considered it extremely cool that my dad could grow mustaches, beards, sideburns and any combination of the three at any time. And now, so could I. All it would take to look like Mark Spitz or Ted Nugent or a motorcycle cop...was a mustache. The options were even more plentiful with a beard. I could resemble Mac Davis, any of the Beatles or a nineteenth century American president. The world was my hairy oyster (hmm...that's gross).

But let me get to the point—things didn't work out.

My first mustache foray occurred because my college girlfriend was infatuated with Magnum P.I., played by Tom Selleck. I decided to give it a shot. Maybe I'll never drive a red Ferrari or be strikingly handsome and fit, I reasoned, but Thomas Magnum and I can be brothers in the 'stache club. I was pretty excited to try it for the first time, but discovered that even after I hadn't shaven for two weeks, I could still identify and name each hair of my "almostache."

I waited another five years, and this time, embarked on a quest for the full Grizzly Adams beard. My wife and I traveled to Europe for a three-month stint; so, hey, what better time to grow a beard and get a perm? That's right, a perm. I had rationalized that, since we were budget traveling and I wouldn't be able to wash my hair every day, a bit of curl might hide the grease build-up.

All of our slides from our 1990 European odyssey show a normal-looking Terri, next to some smarmy dweeb with a grandma permanent and a patchy, swamp grass face mask. My beard looked like the aliens had carved crop circles out of my face to guide them to the oil reserves.

I shaved the beard off before we returned home. I also should have shaved my head.

I still get a wild hair to grow some wild hairs every once in a while.  I'll take a crack at a soul patch or a goatee, but nothing ever pans out. I suppose I'm forever doomed to maintain my membership in the "this is my only choice" society. If only I could shift some of my other body hair around to my face, sort of like a collagen-based Rubix Cube, I could look like one of the guys from ZZ Top.

I'd even settle for Geraldo Rivera.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tiger Woods and Dr. Seuss: such unlikely bedfellows

Today, I thought I'd just sit back and look around a bit. Here are few things I've noticed going on around us as we head into March:

-While the United States Congress works feverishly(?) to push through some historical healthcare legislation, a representative from North Carolina, Congressman Patrick McHenry, has decided to go rogue. He's campaigning to replace the likeness on the fifty-dollar bill from Ulysses S. Grant to, you guessed it, Ronald Reagan. Really? Isn't that like a little like floating in the middle of the ocean in a lifeboat, spotting a ship on the horizon, and deciding it's a good time to wax your eyebrows?

-Allergy season has returned with a vengeance. Lately, my mornings have consisted of waking up, prying open my sticky, cakey eyelids, sneezing twelve or thirteen times (in other words, having a sneezure), and popping a generic Claritin. This is the time of year when at least one friend says to me, "Is that an inhaler in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me (in a freakish, L-shaped way)?"

-Baseball season enters the radar. I love baseball, and now, with steroid testing in full swing, the formerly iron-muscled players seem just a bit smaller and softer. In fact, MLB, rather than being the abbreviation for Major League Baseball, could now stand for "Men with Large Boobs."

-Tiger Woods has finally been discharged (not sure that's an appropriate word to use) from a rehabilitation facility for sex addiction. I've often wondered, how do you treat something like that? Is it Pavlovian, where electrodes are involved? Well, all I can say is, if his wife decides to take this guy back, she's a bigger person than I would be. If I were her, I'd already be known as "Cougar Woods."

-March 2 marked the birthday of one of my idols—Dr. Seuss. How many children and parents alike are indebted to this man for his life lessons, his illustrations and his poetry. He taught us morals and principles, though never in a preachy way, and always with the utmost creativity and humor. In fact:

I have read him in the rain.
And I have read him on a train.
And in a car.
And on a boat.
And when my kid forgot her coat.
And at the park, oh my, oh my.
And when my daughter had pink eye.
We've read his books so much, you see.
I feel I owe a user fee.

Happy March, all you Whos in Whoville.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm pretty sure cheeseburgers used to taste better

Another one bites the dust. Another icon evaporates into the ether of childhoods past. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic here, but yesterday brought the news that a northwest icon, the original Red Robin restaurant in Seattle, has been condemned to the wrecking ball.

The Red Robin chain still operates in approximately 270 locations, so it's definitely not like an asteroid wiped out this dinosaur, but another quirky, creaky, cramped old building is going away for good.

The parking was bad and the site wasn't exactly an easy one to navigate without swinging a couple of U-turns. The last time my family and I visited the original RR, I slammed my daughter's fingers in the van's sliding door, so my ongoing memory will be of shutting the door, hearing a blood-curdling scream and jerking my head back over my left shoulder to discover four fingers swollen like Jimmy Dean sausages, poking at me from an unnatural angle. Let's just say she's not as nostalgic about the demise of this place.

Other deceased, iconic restaurants of my past have preceded Red Robin:
There was Shakey's Pizza.

And Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour.

Each of these locales was a fantastic kid's birthday destination; each was furnished with turn-of-the-century, parlour d├ęcor. Shakey's featured an entire party package, plus it had a clear glass wall next to the kitchen, where you could witness your pizza being assembled (It was also where I lost my video game virginity to a game called "Pong."). Farrell's provided a free sundae on your birthday, delivered by three or four waiters, one wailing on a bass drum. They also had a huge ice cream offering known as a "Pig Trough." If you finished the entire thing, it was free.

Another nearly vanished icon is the classic American drive-in. You simply drove your automobile into a stall adjacent to the restaurant, rolled down your window, pushed an intercom button and ordered from the menu, which was attached to the intercom unit. Before long, a waitress would walk, or roller-skate, up to your car, delivering your food on a special tray which attached to your window. Boom. Instant car picnic. In my hometown of Auburn, Washington, XXX Root Beer ruled the drive-in roost:

Nowadays, it's not a "drive-in," it's a "drive-thru." Folks don't even take the time to eat in a parked car; now, we have to eat while driving. Not  a good idea, especially with burgers or burritos. Every sit-down restaurant serves up "pig troughs" for every meal. A visit to Claim Jumper or Cheesecake Factory guarantees a date with about five thousand calories. Where pizza actually used to be served in small, medium and large sizes, it's now offered up in large, extra large and UFO quantities.

Even the large chains which have weathered the cultural storm have re-branded themselves for a new America. We no longer have time to say "International House of Pancakes" or "Kentucky Fried Chicken." Nope, now it's simply "IHOP" and "KFC." I'm sure some of the other fast food giants would have shortened their names as well, but thought otherwise because:
-shortening "McDonald's to "MD's" is just too ironic.
-shortening "Pizza Hut" to "P-Hut" sounds like a tropical urinal.
-shortening "Taco Bell" to "TB"—accurate, but bad.

Life is far too short and much too important to spend much time lamenting stuff that isn't around anymore. It just seems like the new stuff isn't as good.