Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A conversation between strangers

They'd been sitting side by side for the entire first half, occasionally glancing over at each other as any two strangers would when fate brought them to such close proximity.

The boy's father descended the creaky bleachers to hit the restroom before the second half began. It was a closely fought girls' basketball battle between two teams who didn't normally meet: Auburn and Chief Sealth high schools.

This time, their eyes met. "Hi," said the man.


"Are you watching your sister play today?"

"No, I go to lots of high school games. My dad's a teacher here, so we get in free. I'm a big basketball fan," offered the boy. "My mom even made me a real Auburn basketball uniform that I wear around the house. I don't wear it around my friends because they make fun of me."

"That's too bad. And I'm a big basketball fan, too. Well, mostly because my daughter plays for Chief Sealth. She's number 20."

"Really? She looks familiar," said the boy. "Why do you have earrings? Only girls wear earrings. And how old are you, anyway?"

"I'm 47. How old are you?"

"I'm ten and five-sixths. I'll be eleven in August."

"My birthday's in August, too."

The boy straightened his glasses, which had begun to slip down his nose. "August birthdays are totally decent. What do you do for a job that lets you wear earrings?"

"I'm a graphic designer."

"What's that?"

"It's a type of artist who tries to visually capture someone's attention. I work on a computer."

"A computer? Like one of those things at NASA? I love the astronauts. Do you draw stuff?"


"I love to draw. I draw all day, when I'm not watching J.P. Patches. That show's really neato. He's so funny."

"Do you watch old episodes on DVD?" inquired the man.

"What's that?"

"Never mind." The man now wondered if this kid was for real. The boy was wearing Converse All-Stars, like a lot of children these days, but he also wore a football jersey with number 51 and the name "Butkus" on the back.

"So are you wearing one of your dad's old jerseys?"

"No. This is mine. Dick Butkus is my favorite player. Duh," said the boy more quietly. "I hope my dad at least comes back with an apple. I'm starving. I eat too much junk food, like Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs and Twinkies. And donuts and Cheese Nips and Chicken in a Biskit. And Froot Loops and Cap'n Crunch."

"I hear you," said the man.

"Of course you hear me. Geez."

The boy's dad returned with a crispy, red apple. "Here you are, son. I was surprised to see that these apples are twenty cents now."

The boy crunched down hard on the apple and turned toward the man. He was gone.

The boy knew he'd see him again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

300 miles for some street ball? Uh, sure.

Road trip—Woohooo! Road trip to Spokane, Washington for Hoopfest—Woohoo! Road trip to Spokane, Washington for Hoopfest with three fifteen-year-old girls—Woo-hey, wait a minute. That's not the kind of road trip I remember.

Well, I reckon that's just part of being a dad. You sign up for stuff, that stuff eventually rolls around, and before you know it, you're driving down I-90 for a five-and-a-half-hour trip to do the stuff.

Such was the case this weekend, as my daughter and three of her old basketball rec league cronies set sail for the largest three-on-three basketball tournament on the planet, 300 miles away in the Lilac City of Spokane. 6,700 teams, 3,000 volunteers, 200,000 players and fans, and 428 courts spanning forty downtown city blocks comprised this colossal event. Another dad, Chris, accompanied me as a fellow chaperone. This is my good friend, Chris:

Hang on a second, why don't I also introduce our awesome team? Okay. Here's Maddy:

And Halle:

And Emily:

And of course, the member of the team who is indebted to her mother and me for the very air that she breathes, Zoe:

At first the girls were a little apprehensive about their competition, especially since most teams were made up of tall, high school and club basketball players. Our kids wore their concern on their sleeves:

But eventually, as the young tend to do, they shook off the butterflies and started enjoying the atmosphere:

Normally, I would post a photo of the last remaining member of our entourage—me—but since I accepted the local beauty college's promotional offer for a free haircut, I'll just use an older image:

The kids played aggressively and fought hard in the sweltering eastern Washington sun. The competition was rough. Oh, and by the way, here's another picture of my baby, since this is my blog:

Dads don't usually get to spend entire weekends with their teenage daughters, so I consider the entire weekend a double-overtime win with a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Nothing but net.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hey, I'm talkin' to you, tough guy!

Hey, guys, I'm talking to you. Yeah, you. So you think you're a tough guy? Really?

Maybe you should read this column, posted by CNN.com's Health Writer, Elizabeth Landau. A new study found that people can evaluate upper body strength based on the sound of men's voices. The results support the idea that the human voice, especially the male voice, contains cues of physical strength.

Of course it does. You don't need to conduct a complex study to know that this guy is formidable:

It's true, some guys are obviously tough by the sounds of their voices. When James Earl Jones belts out his trademark, "This is C-N-N," he might as well be saying, "I could easily kick your A-S-S."

Or how about Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs and Deadliest Catch? He's got that voice that women love and men admire. A gay co-worker of mine recently informed me of his attraction to Rowe, so I asked him, "Do you prefer him before he's showered or after?"

"Preferably during," he replied.

Some guys try to sound tough, and wear a little somethin' somethin' to add to the effect:

The guy in the goggles behind him seems a lot tougher. Wedgies don't portray strength. They portray discomfort.

Another interesting finding from this study is that lower vocal pitch is not necessarily associated with greater perceived strength. Although I must say, the Bee Gees wouldn't be my first choice to back me up in a bar fight.

So fellas, maybe we should grasp this opportunity to assess our own strength, to listen to our voices in the most objective way we're able. Please repeat after me, using your everyday vocal tone:
"Your handbag doesn't match your shoes."

Just as I suspected: I can probably bench 250.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mom, are you reading my yearbook again?

Last day of school! (Insert high-pitched, adolescent whooping and hollering.)

Even though some of us haven't attended any type of academia for well nigh thirty years, who among us can't still feel those exhilarating pangs of emancipation from all those years ago?

And for those of us who harbor students in our homes, it all comes flooding back with a greater vengeance. Both of my kids have been lounging around the house for the past few days, reading their yearbooks, gazing at pictures and notes from friends, already waxing nostalgic before the year has even concluded.

Since my older daughter is just finishing up her freshman year, and since I had previously unearthed my ninth-grade annual for a post about basketball uniforms, I decided to compare and contrast the types of comments our respective classmates jotted in our freshman yearbooks.

I don't want to embarrass her by quoting actual passages, but suffice it to say that the gist of what teenagers write has not changed much over this thirty-two-year chasm. Here's a little sampling of what I found in my Olympic Junior High, 1977-78 yearbook (all spelling and grammatical errors have been retained for historical purposes):

"I really don't know you to good but I think you are nice."
Hmmm...I guess that's like the pleasant elderly lady you see reading her book on the bus—I don't know her, but she's nice.

"You are a real funny person but a little dirty but a nice person."
Oops, that's actually from my report card.

"I hope you have a great summer, but not so great that you forget everything we've been through."
I don't remember that summer very well, but hopefully I took some time to reflect on those awful times where we had finally made it to the front of the lunch line, only to discover that they were out of mashed potato buds, and we had to eat our hamburger gravy over rice. Profound days.

"Have a good summer and don't get too high."
This is probably the best advice I received, as all that summer, I contained myself to only one tube of airplane glue.

"If I were to rate you on a scale for jocks, youd barely not make it."
No idea.

"Have the best summer ever, and if you don't, here's a great recipe:
1 dash of giggles
2 cups of fun
3 pounds of happiness
and a summer full of sun!"
Oh, wow, I can't believe it...I attended ninth grade with Barney!

Thankfully, my daughter's yearbook didn't contain any drug references, and I'm sure my mom was a little shocked when she snuck mine out of my room and read it.

So to all you kids who have nothing but time on your hands for the next two-and-a-half-months, have a great, safe summer, and please refrain from the two words which drive parents insane: "I'm bored."

'81 rules.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hey, Dad, how come there isn't a Kids' Day?

It seems like, every time Mother's or Father's Day rolls around, one of the kids remarks, "Why isn't there a Kids' Day?"

Our standard response, which I'm sure matches most parents', is "Every day is Kids' Day." We moms and dads own superior skills vis-à-vis  pulling out the guilty stick and waving it with the skill of Luke's light saber when we feel the need.

The fact is, Father's Day is a fantastic opportunity for us to feel grateful for these pesky, little creatures who spend most of their time up in our grills. I learn so much from them, on a daily basis, and I often spend far too much time immersed in daily routines to really listen to what they're saying.

"Dad, I feel sorry for racehorses. What if they don't like running in mud? They have no choice." I heard this yesterday when my brood and I went to the local track with friends." Are the jockeys nice to them?"

Naturally, I couldn't answer either question, which made me wonder what the truth was. We've already decided to not attend any more circuses as the result of conversations like this.

"Dad, you should hug mom. She looks like she needs a hug." Another piece of solid advice given from my compassionate younger daughter one Tuesday evening.

"You're absolutely right. I'll do that."

So, fellow dads, today, on this 100th Father's Day (which I just looked up), let's celebrate our kids, too. Without them, chances are we'd be those slightly self-absorbed, immature males we were before they came along to set things right.

Happy Kids' Day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lakers-Celtics: True fashion pioneers

Who ever said that fashion doesn't exist in the athletic arena?

Every year around this time, we get the opportunity to view a little runway show in the form of the National Basketball Association playoffs.

Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers won their sixteenth NBA title over the Boston Celtics, who already own seventeen championships. Since these two juggernauts possess over half of the trophies over the league's 64-year history, it's become apparent that the Lakers and Celtics are the true face of the NBA.

With this in mind, I've accumulated a docket of the best looking players from the two best teams. Because, as we all know, it's better to look good than to feel good.

Danny Ainge (in green)—not only did his dirty play make him more attractive, but he also popularized the new, super-absorbent jerseys, which have the ability to soak up an exorbitant amounts of tears.

Jerry West—He looked so good, he became the logo.

Kevin McHale—a great player, who also looked great in the suit. He's one of those fortunate types who was born with a couple of extra ribs and one additional knee.

Wilt Chamberlain—One of the first players to accessorize with knee pads, head and wrist bands, Wilt was known for his outstanding play even after the game. He once claimed to have taken on at least 20,000 fans in personal games of one-on-one during the "fifth quarter." He showed us all why they're not called "trunks" or "bottoms"...they're shorts.

Larry Bird—another highly attractive man, who would have been even more foxy if his shorts hadn't been so tight, they made his face sag.

Kurt Rambis (in yellow)—Mr. Rambis was a true pioneer when it came to endorsements. During 1984 alone, he raked in over $130, representing both LensCrafters and Scotch Tape.

Bob Cousy—"Hey kids. Fix Dad a bourbon and we'll hop in the Edsel and go see President Eisenhower at the Elks Club."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—All kidding aside, this guy was awesome. In this image, he's shooting his trademark "sky hook" over a helpless defender from the now-defunct Seattle SuperSonics, my former hometown club. I always hated the Lakers, but loved Kareem.

Brian Scalabrine—Looks a little out-of-place in Celtic green, sort of like he won the Massachusetts "Be A Celtic For A Day" lottery. I see a lot of guys like him in Home Depot, looking for the best deal on Weed-n-Feed.

Pat Riley—A lot of us know him as a Hall of Fame coach, but he also had a different look during his days as a player for the Lakers. Four words: I got you babe.

Okay, so I wasn't a Laker or a Celtic. In fact, I didn't even play in high school. I just wanted to finally share the disappointment I felt when I viewed this picture in the yearbook, knowing that they cropped just barely above my sweet new tube socks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The day I stopped talking out of my butt

I've got a problem.

Well, let me rephrase that—I used to have a problem, but it's much better now.

Here's the problem: I talk out of my butt.

Over the years, I've had a tendency to "guess" the answers to questions, rather than researching them or simply stating, "I don't know."  I used to get away with it with my daughters, mostly because they were too young to challenge me, but now, all three of the women in my house tend to call a bluff when they see it.

I think it's a little bit of a guy thing and a little bit of a dad thing. We want to be experts, especially with our children. In the past, one of my kids might have asked me, "Dad, what's that thing they measure my foot with when we buy shoes?" Since I work in the fashion industry, I'd be compelled to know the answer even though I didn't know the answer.

"Oh, that's a Metallic Instep Calibration Bob," I would reply, "because it's made of metal and it measures your foot and...um...it was invented by a guy named Bob."

As many of us know, it's called a Brannock Device.

Another past inquiry may have been, "Dad, why don't chickens fly?" Again, rather than looking it up, I'd just say, "Because God wanted to eliminate one step in the process of getting them into our burritos."

I put the brakes on the Talking Out of My Butt Era on January 1, 2007, when I resolved to end this nasty habit for the new year and renew the resolution each following year into perpetuity. It's gone fairly well. In fact, just to compare and contrast, here are some questions and answers, both before and after resolution day:

Question: "Dad, what's that piece of skin at the back of your throat that dangles down?"

Answer, prior to January 1, 2007: "Well, honey, you answered your own question. Depending on your gender, that's either a Jane- or a Jimdangler. It's for brushing off food so it goes down cleanly."

Answer, after January 1, 2007: "Well, honey, that's called a uvula. The uvula plays a key role in the articulation of the sound of the human voice to form the sounds of speech."

Question: "Dad, why do you drink so much coffee?"

Answer, prior to January 1, 2007: "Because, honey, I came down with scurvy as a deck hand on a long cruise, and the Vitamin C in the java keeps me healthy."

Answer, after January 1, 2007: "Because, honey, if I don't, I'll get a throbbing headache which will cause me to drive over lots of road turtles and yell at loud birds."

Question: "Dad, what's Viagra?"

Answer, prior to January 1, 2007: "You know, I'm not sure."

Answer, after January 1, 2007: "Ask your mom."

Question: "Dad, why does your hair keep getting grayer?"

Answer, prior to January 1, 2007: "Because, honey, I made a deal with Satan that for each new gray hair on my head, you will receive one additional day of earthly, self-absorbed bliss."

Answer, after January 1, 2007: "Because, honey, as people age, the pigment cells in their hair follicles gradually die."

So there you have it. I'm now a straight shooter when it comes to answering the tough questions. And yes, Santa is real.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The best TV dads since the beginning of time

I know, I know—another list. And this one is highly subjective, so please feel free to add to, subtract from, or destroy this list entirely.

Since we're approaching the Father's Day exit from this interstate freeway called life, I've decided to compile my top ten television dads. After closely examining each of these characters, I've discovered traits which I consciously or subconsciously acquired from these guys, for better or worse. Here goes.

10) George Bluth—The patriarch of the highly dysfunctional family of Arrested Development, the man is dishonest and self-centered, yet endearing nonetheless. Hmm, didn't I just say I've managed to acquire his traits? Got to rethink that one.

9) Herman Munster—Why is it that most TV dads are bumbling yet lovable? Herman definitely fits both categories. He means well, but always manages to screw up somehow. That one definitely hits home.
I've got a theory that John Kerry's striking resemblance to him may have cost Kerry the 2004 election.

8) Frank Constanza—Serenity now!

7) Ozzy Osbourne—He taught me that mumbling can get you through some tough spots. Embrace your hidden mumbler.

6) Howard Cunningham—He steadily held a firm grip on his composure, even during the later years of Happy Days, when Chachi sported a mullet during what was supposed to be the early 1960s.

5) Cliff Huxtable—I've always aspired to parent like Cliff. He could impose punishments on his kids in such a humorous way that they'd be wiping tears from their eyes as they began cleaning the oven.

4) Fred Flintstone—I'm hoping some day we'll see an adult version of this cartoon, where Fred and Betty Rubble get a little prehistoric in the parking lot of the Water Buffalo Lodge.

3) Mike Brady—If he were a baseball player, he'd have batted 1.000. Mike was the anti-Herman Munster, since he didn't screw up...ever. I'm not sure what the point of this photo is, but there's some definite long, waxy chemistry between those two.

2) Ward Cleaver—Also nearly flawless, Ward rarely got ruffled. He never appeared hungover or in need of a shave, and whenever June was concerned about the Beaver, he was up to the task.

1) Homer Simpson—As much as we dads may hate to admit it, we've all got some Homer in us. Who hasn't, after gazing at the ad for that mouth-watering new sandwich by KFC, muttered, "Mmmm...Double Down."

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Yabba Dabba Doo!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When it comes to our kids, how much freedom is too much?

To the great relief of many of us, 16-year-old Abby Sunderland has been located and rescued.

She had been attempting to sail solo around the world in her craft, Wild Eyes, when, during a storm in the southern Indian Ocean, a rogue wave knocked out her mast and satellite telephone connection. An emergency beacon signaled her approximate whereabouts, but it nonetheless required a valiant effort by an Australian jet pilot to locate her disabled vessel.

Naturally, the fallout from Abby's brush with tragedy has included a lot of judgments about whether or not her parents are negligent, much less insane, for allowing their young daughter, a lifelong mariner, to take on such a dangerous and daunting mission.

Every parent struggles with the amount of freedom to give a child. We may not be wrestling with their circumventing the globe, but the challenges are still constant.

And it begins when they're so young. Do I unharness my infant from her car seat, which requires a lot of torque on the old man's back, and take her back in the house with me as I retrieve her diaper bag, or do I leave her sitting in the car for an unsupervised twenty seconds? Do I let my eight-year-old set up a lemonade stand, where I look out front every five minutes, but not constantly? Do I let my thirteen-year-old ride public transportation with a friend?

I've decided not to answer these questions, since every parent owns a unique set of tolerance levels in his or her decision-making tool box. It's so easy to judge other parents when something terrible happens to a child, but there's such a fine line between overprotectiveness, which can leave children ill-equipped for adult life, and too much freedom, which leaves them at risk.

Children can also be treated differently based upon order of birth. As Bill Cosby once said, "When the first-born child drops his pacifier, the parent disinfects it in boiling water. When the second-born drops his, the parent rinses it off and returns it. When the third-born drops his binky, the parent just kicks it back to him."

So many decisions, and no owner's manual.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

They obviously watch too much TV

Our kids have decided, for the third consecutive summer, not to watch television while school is out. My wife and I fully support their decision, since most of what's offered on the cretin cube is nothing but pixy stix for the gray matter. Sports and movies are exempt from the moratorium.

We suggested another television-free summer to our offspring after overhearing one of their conversations a couple of weeks ago, recording it, and playing it back for them. Here is the transcript, with footnotes:

Older daughter: I think maybe we've been watching too much TV. Not that there's anything wrong with that. (1)

Younger daughter: Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, (2) Zoe? 

Older daughter:  Whoa (3),  just relax, Lauryn. We can start up again in the fall.

Younger daughter: Well isn't that special? (4) Actually, I guess it worked out pretty well when we were on a break. (5)

Older daughter: Yep. And when I talked to Mom about it, that's what she said. (6)

Younger daughter: It's so tempting, though. What if I get caught watching Hoarders or Sixteen and Pregnant?

Older daughter: I guess you'll have some 'splainin' to do. (7)

Younger daughter: I've already got it figured out. I'll just say something like, "I'm just checking to make sure the remote still works." Yeah, that's the ticket. (8)

Older daughter: And if Mom asks me what I know about it, I know nothing. (9)

Younger daughter: I don't think you'll have to worry about it. Mom's an ignorant slut. (10)

Older daughter: Excuse me! (11) If she ever heard you say that, that would be it. No soup for you! (12) By the way, why are you clutching your Barbie so tightly?

Younger daughter: Because they killed Kenny. (13)

Older daughter: Okay, stifle it. (14) I hear someone coming.

Younger daughter: That was close. They almost heard us. Missed it by that much. (15)

I think we're making the right decision.

Television show glossary:
(1) Seinfeld
(2) Different Strokes
(3) Happy Days
(4) Saturday Night Live
(5) Friends
(6) The Office
(7) I Love Lucy
(8) Saturday Night Live
(9) Hogan's Heroes
(10) Saturday Night Live
(11) Saturday Night Live
(12) Seinfeld
(13) South Park
(14) All in the Family
(15) Get Smart

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Buyer beware. Unless you really want it.

I overheard my fifteen-year-old daughter complaining the other day.

She was upset at paying $1.29 for a single song, purchased through that unnamed digital music juggernaut which rhymes with "my prunes." My solution to her dilemma, which she didn't heed, was to simply not buy the song, recorded by a teenage boy who looks like he held a blow dryer the size of a jet engine against the back of his head for a full fortnight.

This whole extreme price mark-up situation left me wondering: which consumer products contain the largest profit margins? Thanks to the miracle that is the world wide interweb, I had my answer within seconds. A site named toptenz.net compiles top ten lists through various, diverse sources.

The ten largest price mark-ups among consumer goods (profit margins) are as follows:

10) Cosmetics—Alarming, I know, but I found a compromise. I only use eyeliner now, and sparingly at that, applying a dark brown eye pencil to press a series of small dots between my lashes, along the lash line. It's a way I can accentuate my earthy prettiness, while keeping frugal.

9) Bottled water—Come on, people, water is water is water. Sure, it's got a cool bottle, but a rump roast in a tuxedo is still just a rump roast.

8) Greeting cards—But really, isn't it worth the price when you find a good one?

7) Mattresses and furniture—This is why now, more than ever, it's time to say yes to the beanbag chair.

6) Restaurant wine and soda—Two words: Beer, please.

5) Brand name clothing—How true this is. Many of us are familiar with a line of designer denim named 7 For All Mankind. with an average price point of around $160 for a pair of jeans. A more accurate name, without much reworking, would be For .007% of All Mankind.

4) Jewelry/diamonds—We all know that anniversaries are marked by paper or silver or gold, but is there one for lead? Because lead jewelry is really reasonably priced. I plan on splurging for that one.

3) Glasses frames—I suppose this is true, but do these frames look expensive?

2) Movie theater food— This used to be an issue, until I perfected a method for putting an entire Red Baron combo pizza in my tube sock.

1) Prescription medication—Obviously, that whole "see your doctor if it lasts more than four hours" thing is just a calculated tactic for guys to get more bang for their buck.

Now that we know these rip-off categories, don't you feel more prepared against future exploitation? Well, gotta go. Haven't had my Starbucks yet.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Real men do makeup

A frequent subject of my posts is schools—teachers, kids, the gym, the cafeteria, that smell in the hallway that only a well-worn school possesses and can't be duplicated.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take in all that fantastic ambience yet again, serving a shift in the cafeteria as a face painter at the annual Arbor Heights Elementary School carnival.

I love this job. It's part of a huge production put on by the PTA, complete with bouncy houses, dunk tanks, cupcake walks, hot dogs and games where everyone's a winner. My station was situated at a strategically advantageous location, right next to the cotton candy. Kids can smell that stuff from further away than cadaver-sniffing bloodhounds, so I had an instant customer base.

Most of the kids were shy at first; it can be a little daunting gazing over at some middle-aged dude with earrings and eight colors of paint, ready and eager to tag your face. With this in mind, I tried to be as un-intimidating as possible. Here's an example:

Me: "Hi, do you want your face painted?"
Six-year-old girl: (no response)
Me: "I can paint a cat or a butterfly or a rainbow or a flower or something else."
Six-year-old girl: (no verbal response—tentative head nod—quickly walks over and sits down)
After she sits in the customer chair, she requests the final item on the list I rattle off, which usually happens with the smaller kids. This is why I try to make the last example a sunshine or peace sign, as opposed to, say, a replica of God giving Adam life on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

I always feel a little sorry for the first couple of kids, because I inevitably experience a slight learning curve. Face painting is a lot like bowling—your first game is terrible, your second and third are pretty decent and then back to terrible in the fourth and final game.

Adding to the challenge a bit, my first customer was a little autistic boy, who was a fantastic guy; he just moved around a lot. I felt like I was painting a cat's face on someone while surfing. His face ended up being the most heavily painted, just because I kept trying to compensate for errant paint streaks and balance out each side of the moving target. Finally, he ended up looking like a cat, and his dad told me he was really surprised that the boy sat still for as long as he had. It was really nice to see the young man look into a mirror and smile.

Before long, the line was about five or six kids deep. Usually, trends would develop, like eight consecutive butterflies or four sunny faces, but some kids wouldn't be swayed by fads:
"Can I have a dolphin?" It looked more like a penguin.
"Can you paint some red lips on my cheek?" I painted lips on the cheek of a thirty-five-year-old woman.
"I want to be in Blue Man Group." This didn't really happen, but it would have been fun.

I was spelled when someone arrived to take the second face painting shift, but it would have been really fun to keep going. The kids were so patient and funny.

And just for a little show-and-tell, here's some of my work on a group of four friends:
I think they were fifth graders.

Friday, June 4, 2010

To my dad on his birthday

The following are fictional discussions, based upon actual events.

Conversation between a five-year-old boy and his dad, while riding in a white, 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon:
"Dad, why do you always let me shave with you, and put shaving cream all over my cheeks and let me use your extra razor without a blade, and then splash after shave on my face?"
"Well, I just don't want you to grow up to be one of those hippies. Actually, that's just something dads do with their sons."

Conversation between an eleven-year-old boy and his dad, while riding in a royal blue, 1974 Chevrolet Vega station wagon:
"Dad, why are you reading books to learn about soccer, just so you can coach my team?"
"Son, that's just the first step. I'm also practicing a Scottish accent, so I can have some credibility out there. Actually, that's just something dads do with their sons."

Conversation between a fifteen-year-old boy and his dad, while riding in a red, 1976 Ford Granada sedan:
"Dad, why did you sit through that entire track meet, only to watch me trip and fall over two of the five hurdles?"
"Well, it was worth it to see how great your form was on the three that you cleared. And that's just something dads do for their sons."

Conversation between a 21-year-old boy and his dad, while riding back to college in a metallic blue, 1983 Volkswagen  pick-up:
"Dad, why are you sacrificing so much putting me through college?"
"It's not a big deal. I've always wanted a paper route. Actually, it's just something dads do for their sons."

Conversation between a 47-year-old boy and his dad, while riding in the son's sapphire blue, 2003 Kia minivan:
"Dad, why do I love playing with my kids, teaching them how to vacuum, buying them popsicles when they're sick and creating the best ponytails humanly possible?"
"It's just something dads do for their daughters."

Dad, you've taught me so much, these examples don't even scratch the surface. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Purchase a ticket to yesterday's game? Count me in

Our culture just keeps on one-upping itself.

Last Saturday, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched Major League Baseball's twentieth perfect game versus the Florida Marlins. Obviously, this was a rare accomplishment, and those who witnessed it were almost as fortunate as lottery winners.

Just over 25,000 attended the game, played at the Marlins' home field, Sun Life Stadium, in Miami, resulting in approximately 15,000 unsold tickets. Typical of most profit-maximizing Major League franchises, the management of the Marlins seized on a rare opportunity and offered the remaining tickets to the already-played game for sale to the general public...at face value.

Three words: only in America. Where else can sheer desire for profit compel an organization to sell tickets to an event which already happened, to people who didn't see it? Our society really knows how to squeeze every last drop of value out of an opportunity, thereby devaluing the entire commodity in the long run.

Remember when bobble heads were kind of novel and cool? We collected them as kids, and they all looked the same. No more. Bobble heads have become an industry, compelling people to line up at the ballpark three hours early just to grab the promotional chachka for future re-sale on EBay. This season, the Seattle Mariners are holding three separate Ken Griffey, Jr. bobble head nights—three—just for him. I'm hoping at least one will show the head rotating sideways only, otherwise known as the "Strike Three Bobble head."

Corporations aren't the only culprits in promulgating over-the-top valuation. Just look at activities in which our children are involved, like T-Ball. At the end of the season, they get trophies the size of small lawn mowers. I was lucky to get a tick tack and a pat on the fanny.

When our kids attend a birthday party, they return home with more stuff than they receive on their own birthdays, often resembling Oscar night gift baskets. Our son or daughter bursts through the door, shouting, "Dad, I bowled a 250 today." I have to be excited, because what jerk of a dad would respond, "So what. You had those lame kid bumpers." Not me.

If our society acclimates itself to this type of overvaluation, by the time our kids are adults, the Olympics will award, rather than gold, silver and bronze—gold, super gold, and super awesome sparkly gold medals. The Vice President will become the President, and the President will be the President With Benefits.

Children will no longer be asked to pick up their nasty, used Kleenex tissues off the couch cushions. Nope, they'll be gently reminded to gather up their "protein-enriched nasal hygiene strips."

Then again, maybe not. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to install my "my kid is an honor student" mud flaps.