Friday, July 30, 2010

Belly up to the bar for a sensory cocktail

Most of us, at least theoretically, would consider ourselves human beings.

And as such, on average, we possess five sensory capabilities—sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Notice I said, "on average." If my wife were asked which senses I still have a handle on, she would probably reply, "He doesn't hear the voices of family members and he cannot see marinara-encrusted stove tops. But I suppose at his age, sixty percent is decent."

She might also explain that she maintains an above-average sensory arsenal. My wife can triangulate her lie detector GPS at either of our kids with such surgical precision, they actually confess prior to fibbing.

When we speak of the conventional senses—the "fab five" if you will—I'm going to hone them further down into the two which conjure up my most visceral memory and emotion: sound and smell.

For example, even the faintest whiff of grape Bubble Yum instantly transforms me into an angst-filled fourteen-year-old, sitting with friends at Friday night high school football game. When combined with the sound of "How Deep is Your Love," by the Bee Gees, an emotional cocktail is brewed, stirring up the biting agony of rejected love. We'd only been dating for six days, but she stamped on my heart while chomping on that artificially-flavored dental rot.

Okay, I had to take a short break. I'm okay. She didn't deserve me, anyway.

My mind is filled with these emotive combinations:

The smell of fried chicken and "A Boy Named Sue" by Johnny Cash equates to a chubby five-year-old's favorite Sunday dinner at Grandma's.

The blare of a school bus horn, combined with the odors of diesel exhaust and frozen asphalt snaps me back to February 27, 1982, the day my life nearly ended.

A baby who has awoken from a nap coos and babbles as she lies in her crib, chatting with herself or someone only she can see. As I enter her room and approach her, I'm overcome with that irresistible baby smell. It's not any singular aroma of soap or powder or lotion, but another intoxicating memory which is so wonderful, I yearn to again immerse myself in that tiny loaf of goodness.

Some might say that our senses are merely tools we share with all other forms of life, part of our evolutionary armament. To the contrary, I believe they affirm our humanity, which can use a little primer from time to time.

Whether beautiful or horrific, I revel in these sensory snapshots of life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Republican think tank: Oxymoron?

This painting by Andy Thomas is entitled, "Grand Ol' Gang."

I can't remember how I stumbled upon it, and I'm not sure what to make of a collection of Republican presidents yukking it up in a poker game, but I couldn't pry my eyes away.

If this group of great and not-so-great leaders actually were to assemble in one room, what might they say to each other? Well, it's your lucky day, because a certain fly on the wall just happened to be eavesdropping on their dialogue.

Abraham Lincoln: Well, well, well. I'm seeing more dead presidents in these chairs than I brought in my wallet. I'll tell you guys, it's good to finally have a little fun. Preserving the union can become mighty tedious.

Ronald Reagan: Preserve the union? Why would you want to do that? I busted up as many unions as I could!

George W. Bush: Heh, heh! Good one, Ronnie! Hey fellas, I brought some seegars.

Dwight Eisenhower: Go ahead and set them down right here. You seem kind of old for a cigar boy. Oh, well, here's a nice gratuity for you.

George W. Bush: Come on there, Ike. I was a president just like y'all...number 43. Although, a lot of folks called me "number two." Not sure why.

Richard Nixon: Since all of us have shared our nation's highest office, I've got a question which has been bugging me. Get it? Bugging me? Anyway, am I the only person in this room who's run roughshod over the constitution?

George W. Bush: Hell, nah, Dicky. We all done it, except maybe Abeous Corpus over there. The best way to get around it is to never read the constitutional.

Richard Nixon: Hey, George...yeah, you...the older one. Tell your @#$%ing monkey boy son not to @#$%ing call me Dicky or his @ss is gonna end up on my @#$%ing enemies list. Clear?

George H. W. Bush: Gotcha, Dick. Wouldn't be prudent.

Theodore Roosevelt: Before we start playing, does anyone want to wrassle?

Gerald Ford: I would, Teddy, but I can't stay long. Matter of fact, I'm not used to hanging around anywhere too long.

Ronald Reagan: Fellas, I didn't bring much money with me. (smacks himself in the forehead) What was I thinking? I can just spend my children's money!

Dwight Eisenhower: Well, gentlemen, what do you say we hike our slacks up, and I mean way up, and get started.

George H.W. Bush: Sounds good, Ike. Hey, Georgey. Vamoose to the other room and play crazy eights with Quayle, will ya!

George W. Bush: Sure thing, Poppy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

One day, one dream.

This year was number twenty-four for me, but it's been going on far longer.

I attended my first "cabin party" at age twenty-four, accompanying my unsuspecting future wife and mother of our children. Back in 1987, I was simply Terri's new boyfriend, coming out to meet her friends from college. In those days, our gathering encompassed a lean, well-scrubbed collection of recent college graduates, and some still attending school, eager to get its kegger on.

Couples and friends pitched tents in the expansive field leading out to Hood's Point, a majestic peninsula along Puget Sound's Hood Canal, in the shadow of the Olympic Range.

If heaven = unbridled beauty and unbridled beauty = pie, then the cabin party setting is one whopping slice of heaven pie. The bald eagle, the seal, the starfish and the crab share in the gala—but enough about people's nicknames.

The day passes like a dream, where any direction leads you to a softball game, a beachside chat, a horseshoe pit...a friend. I equate it to human Pong, only no one has actually held paddles since the mid-nineties. As afternoon turns to evening and evening melts into dusk, the light morphs into an amber gold and the air is still and perfect.

What was once a twenty-four-hour hootenanny has evolved into a rich, well-seasoned, celebration of mid-summer. We all began as young, childless couples, our futures spread out before us. Now most of us witness that future through the eyes of our nearly grown children.

We've learned to cherish these times. This is Steph. We lost her three years ago to cancer, but her presence at the cabin is everywhere—I see her sitting in that sun washed camp chair or wearing that stray flip flop by the campfire. She is a hardy soul and whenever her name comes up, which is often, the words flow warmly and with humor. She was the only human on the face of the earth who could sway and groove to my lame guitar-chord strumming like I was a founding member of Phish. I miss her a lot.

Here's to friends.

Here's to family.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Facing our fears: a survivor's tale

Ablutophobia- Fear of washing or bathing.
Mageirocophobia- Fear of cooking.
Proctophobia- Fear of rectums.
Nomatophobia- Fear of names.
Ochophobia- Fear of vehicles.
Peladophobia- Fear of bald people.
Teutophobia- Fear of German or German things.

Have any of these? Come on, do you? Who doesn't have just a touch of Teutophobia? If you'd like to check yourself against a really thorough phobia list, just follow this link to, oddly enough, the Phobia List.     

The subject of irrational fears surfaced the other day while driving with my ten-year-old daughter. During a casual conversation, she abruptly yelped, "Dad, spider!"

"Where?" I blurted out, as my autonomic nervous system launched into fight or flight mode.

"Right there. It's huge, Dad." I looked down and indeed, it was a spider, but one barely the size of an M&M (and not the peanut kind). That's when I realized that phobias do not discriminate based on size. They simply terrify those who suffer from them.

Acknowledging and facing our fears, whether irrational or not, is healthy. My younger daughter will readily cop to her arachnophobia. She suffers, however, from a couple other maladies, which she refuses to face, like her fears of slightly damp towels (moistaplushaphobia) and re-supplying the cat's water (aquafeliphobia).

My older daughter, the teenager, will be the first to admit her paralyzing fear of raccoons (raccoonaphobia, nothing fancy) and high waves (cymophobia). What she won't fess up to is her fear of being seen in public with her parents (embarraparephobia).

My wife, bless her heart, fears nothing, except possibly unencumbered idleness (stareatthewallophobia), a disorder from which I certainly don't suffer. She gets a little freaked out by crows, too.

Lastly, I'll admit to an irrational fear and loathing of rats (musophobia). I freakin' hate those creatures, with, as my teenager would say, "a fiery pash." I've experienced a singular, defining moment with a massive rodent, and I'd be happy to tell you about it, but some of you may be eating.

Actually, I lead my family by a wide margin in untreated diseases, such as fixthegateitis, obnoxia nervosa and are you gonna eat that syndrome

And last weekend, I think someone may have slipped me a see-what's-causing-the-leak-in-the roofy.

Sorry, I milked it a little too much.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I feel like you are an idiot

It is ever present, lurking in the weeds. It surfaces when we least expect it, and often where we least anticipate it. It throws a wrench into the seemingly finely oiled machinery of our lives. conflict.

We see a man on a crowded bus, occupying his adjacent seat with a stack of Reader's Digests and half a pack of Juicy Fruit, refusing to clear it away for the elderly woman standing in the aisle. Then, we notice the teenager sitting behind us shove his empty McDonald's bag under his seat.

The slow burn begins. We fantasize about what we'd like to say to these cretins. We weigh the benefits and costs of confrontation. Ultimately, no reprimand is made, and life continues with the residue of the incident coating our thoughts.

When we finally decide to act on our emotions, to meet a conflict head-on, it's usually not with a stranger, but with a child, a spouse a co-worker or a service provider.

I'm sure many of us have learned that "I feel" statements work far more effectively than "You..." statements. Here are some examples to illustrate conflict resolution tactics, first with the accusatory "You" reprimand, followed by the conciliatory "I feel" method:

(To our child, incorrectly) "You're torching me with such an inferno of fiery anger that my spleen feels like that tree the Keebler elves live in, and they're stabbing me with little fudgy swords."
(To our child, correctly) "I felt strange when you spent your birthday money from Grandma on Marlboro Lights."

(To our spouse, incorrectly) "You're really, really mean to yell at me for eating all the bacon."
(To our spouse, correctly) "I felt confused when the FedEx guy rode away on my bike."

(To our co-worker, incorrectly) "You suck at your job and you need to stop wearing Old Spice."
(To our co-worker, correctly) "I felt angry when you told everyone about my male support hosiery. They help my varicose veins and I feel pretty in them."

(To the food service worker, incorrectly) "I ordered the angel hair pasta. You brought me pasta with a hair angel in it."
(To the food service worker, correctly) "I felt ill when you put my five dollar footlong in your armpit as you handed me my drink."

Hopefully, the preceding examples clearly illustrate how simple it is to resolve conflict in a constructive, rather than destructive, manner. Try it tomorrow. On the bus. With the crazy, smelly guy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's morning in Seattle

Today, I'd like to briefly discuss a class of people, a group of which I am a member. I'll refer to us as the "people of the morning."

During the summer, I enjoy a vigorous bike ride every morning at six. It's a great time to take in the sights and smells of summer, without having to worry too much about getting clipped in the temple by a large truck's side view mirror.

It's also a good opportunity to observe the others who own the morning:

The old guys—actually this can be broken down even further.

We've got the elderly men who stick close to their homes' peripheries. They walk around, raising flags and washing driveways. In fact, one guy actually hoses down his driveway every single morning. Come on dirty can a driveway get in one day? I suppose I could return around lunchtime to see if he spreads out Kraft Singles, baloney and Wonderbread on the pavement.

The other type of older dude goes for really, really long walks. Very often, I ride up behind and past one fellow on the local park trail, and without fail, I startle him enough to cause a him to spastically flinch and hop. Hopefully, he's lived a full life, because one of these days, he's going to flat line on me.

The dog walkers—It's difficult to classify these people into one homogeneous group, because Seattle has more dogs than children, and slightly less than farmers' markets. One common characteristic among them is their strict obedience to clean-up laws. They can produce that plastic bag out of nowhere. Fecal David Copperfields, these people.

The runners—Why do they still wear the same shorts we wore in the seventies? Yes, you people have great legs, but please don't think you're merely showing upper are actually flashing lower crotch.

The creepers—Last but not least, there's that random guy, slinking around for no apparent reason. These sightings usually occur at the aforementioned local park. I'm thinking these guys are congressmen, since the senators have already claimed airport restrooms as their turf.

I suppose I should categorize myself as well, since I'm right out there riding among everyone, early each morning, clad in spandex and neon.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

National Lampoon's Camping Vacation

Love me some family tent camping. What's not to love?

A lot of American cultural rituals have evolved over the generations, but I don't think much has changed at all when it comes to backing in, pitching the tent, setting up the camp stove, yelling at the kids for not helping and sitting your southern end in a lawn chair, a frosty adult beverage wedged into the cup holder.

This weekend, the family and I mini-vanned over to a Washington state park situated along the Green River in Eastern King County. Actually, it's just outside of Enumclaw, and the nearest Starbucks is only about ten minutes away.

We co-camped with some old friends who have two daughters the same ages as ours, so everyone was paired up. The two fifteen-year-olds took turns uttering thoughtful phrases like, "Why does there have to be work?" and "Do you think everyone here knows I haven't taken a shower?"

They spent most of their time reading Us and Star magazines, which we parents feel is the perfect summer resource to keep those educational brain juices flowing in their thirsty, young crania. Now we all are fully briefed on the drugs Linday Lohan has been plying herself with, in addition to the size of the cell she's about to inhabit.

I realized I shouldn't have made any references to the Green River Killer around the campfire the first night after I overheard my friend explaining to his daughter what a prostitute is. Nothing beats a good scary camp story, but no parent should have to branch off into the evils of the sex trade while munching on s'mores.

A family of four sleeping in one tent is also a dicey proposition. We rarely slumber together in one room, let alone one room with only a thin layer of nylon separating my loved ones and me from an ax-wielding, deranged ranger, or clown or something else with easy access to our vulnerable selves. It was no accident that I slept furthest from the biggest tent zipper.

Actually, the real difficulty with this arrangement is sleeping next to my teenager, who employs the shark method—if you stop moving, you die. Her elbows are swift and lethal; her knees strike with blunt precision. In the morning, she remembers nothing of the pain she inflicted upon the man who inflated the air mattress, of which she occupied eighty to ninety three percent of its surface area.

But enough of the negatives. I love the taste of food while camping. It seems more well-earned and delicious, even if it's chips out of a bag. Bacon is in another stratosphere, as are burgers, spaghetti and the old stalwart:

The skewered weenie.

So pack up the kids, the dog and the OFF, it's time to head to the great outdoors. Just don't forget your National Enquirer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Midnight Cowboy

I'm working late. Like really late. Right now.

I'm in the employ of an online division of a sizable fashion retailer, who happens to be having its largest sale of the year beginning at midnight tonight. At ten o'clock, we will yank down our standard website, and slap up a specially branded sale site, which is expected to go live at 12AM.

Believe it or not, millions of customers anxiously await this witching hour, and many of our most popular items will sell out within minutes of the sale's inception. My job tonight is to be on hand to swap out new imagery on freshly designed pages to replace the ghosts of sold-out handbags, shoes, apparel and accessories.

Is what I do rocket science? Nope.

Do I like coming in at four in the afternoon and leaving at three in the morning? Not really.

Do I enjoy the pizza, soda, chips, cookies, red vines, cupcakes and lattes that the company provides? Yes. I do.

Do I care that they also provide fruit and veggie platters? No, I do not.

Am I going to stop asking and answering my own questions? Yes.

It's odd to be in the office when you're usually not. The cleaning people shuffle through, silently dusting and emptying. Voices carry across the cubicles, but they sound more muted, while laughter assumes a maniacal quality due to the fatigue behind it. Conversations are deeper and more meaningful, until about ten.

It feels a bit like a slumber party, where everyone's had too much sugar, except I don't remember slumber parties where my feet retained water.

So if you happen to be sitting around the house at midnight, feeling bored and under clothed, please visit our awesome website. I won't mention our name, but it does rhyme with "fordstrom got mom."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One simple step toward changing your life forever (or not)

Nothing is more useful than a good list.

We can wake up on any given Saturday morning, stressing about a week's worth of chores that have accumulated like the oil strata on a teenager's scalp. It's time to take a deep breath, have four or five cups of strong coffee and simply put it all down on paper. See? Our blood pressure has already receded enough to leave that throbbing vein in our forehead a distant, harsh memory. Here's what we need to do today:

1) Mow the lawn.

2) Look closer to see if it's a potentially cancerous melanoma or merely a liver spot.

3) Check the attic to make sure no one is living there, since that's what one of the kids thought last night. If so, confiscate his branding iron and hockey mask.

4) Fold laundry.

5) Watch at least three infomercials, just to make sure I'm not missing out on something life-changing and awesome.

6) Avoid issue with children about why it's okay for me to eat pie for breakfast, but not for them.

7) Clean dryer lint trap, to wrap up chore list in a highly satisfying manner.

Checkity-check-check-check and the list is history. Once everything is crossed off, it goes into the garbage—not the recycle—the garbage, with all the other irrelevant nastiness. The weekend is now mine.

My younger daughter, our ten-year-old, seems to have inherited the family's penchant for list-making. Although hers is more of a life-goal schedule, it shows ambition, and I can only imagine the accomplishment she'll feel when this substantial docket, which I found taped to her door, is satisfied:

We may have to work on some sequencing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reflections of a shallow pond turns one!

He's a big boy now.

Tomorrow, my baby turns one. Like any other one-year-old's birthday, it's time to hear those phrases like "Why is his head so big? Is that normal?" and "He's got to get severely dehydrated from all of that drooling. Is it normal stick his foot in his mouth so much?"

Reflections of a shallow pond began innocently enough, on July 13, 2009, after my younger daughter called me at work, imploring me to talk to my wife about the embarrassing outfit in which she was about to leave the house. 162 posts later, this journal has become a form of therapy, a forum where I can examine the inner and outer workings of life, culture and fatherhood.

I don't want to beat anyone too severely with the Cane of Boredom, so here are just a few statistics. Since I attach labels to every post, the overwhelming tag leader is kids (92), with family (26) and dad (9) trailing in the distance. The most read posts are this one, this one, this one and this one.

I think the coolest aspect to writing this ongoing manifesto is the feedback from friends, family and total strangers. It's added a dimension to my middle-aged existence which was completely off my radar. Modern social networking is a powerful instrument.

Almost every time I post something, I think, "Okay, that's it. I've covered everything." And then, invariably, I'll be standing in the shower, lathering my filthy chest, and another topic will pop into my brain, like a unicorn zit on class picture day.

So thanks to everyone for taking the time to read and comment. And maybe by the time this baby turns two, he won't want to stick his face in the Safeway Sponge Bob cake while bouncing in his high chair.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hey, Seattle! Hot enough for ya?

I've been dodging this subject long enough. In Seattle, it's the go-to conversation year-round, and when it's extreme, it's the only topic—the elevator, the bus, the men's room (Wait, not the men's room. Anonymity is sacred there.).

I'm speaking of the weather.

Currently, the Emerald City is experiencing ninety-degree temperatures, which are actually quite mild when compared with almost every other sector of our nation.

The real problem here isn't the weather; it's all of the complaining. Last month, constant whinings ensued about our "June-uary," continuing on into "Jul-vember." And of course, the day temperatures shot skyward, the media latched onto the public outcry for relief from the oppressive heat.

It never takes long for the people to rise up against the controller of all: the weather man. In Seattle, even the other talking heads at the news desk barely hide their contempt.

"So, Steve, what are you throwing at us today?" They glare at the meteorologist with a plastic grin, thinly veiling a fiery contempt. "My dog barely could get out of my purse and into her pool. How can you do this to her?"

The weather guy chuckles insincerely and launches into his choreographed spiel. "Well, I'll tell you, it's hot. Really hot. How hot is it? How long will it last? I'll tell you in seven minutes, plus you'll get a peak at the KOMO Crotch Meter®, which will tell you the real time temperature of the hottest place on your body, and when you should be concerned. Back to you, Dakota."

In the northwest, our homes aren't equipped for intense heat, which does make sleeping a bit challenging. But I have a method. Just to illustrate, I've sketched up a little rendering of my sleeping style, which seems to work quite well:

I call it the "snow angel method," and it works best with no blankets or sheets.

So come on, Seattle. Enjoy this weather. Summer lasts here about as long as it takes to say, "Hot enough for ya?"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fatherhood: One massive miscalculation

The following are the top ten reasons why it's much more difficult being a parent than I had previously anticipated:

10) Back in the mid-nineties, I wasn't aware how often my ponytail would be grabbed and pulled.

9) Sure, you can always breathe through your mouth when changing a diaper, but you soon realize that what would otherwise have traveled through your nose, is now traveling through your mouth.

8) It's difficult not to look at the studly prince in every Disney movie, and not say to your innocent little girl, "Honey, he's so perfect that he's either gay or a jerk. Come on, look at those flawless eyebrows."

7) Going to any park play area can become a well-choreographed dance with other parents around the play equipment. I've occasionally awkwardly touched other fathers as we've supported our dangling four-year-olds.

6) The term, "That's not fair," is a slope almost as slippery as the word, "Why?"

5) Performing Homeland Security background checks on babysitters can be costly. Thank God that the Patriot Act allows unprecedented information access.

4) I hadn't previously expected to toil over the choice between Ariel and Cinderella underwear for five-year-old girls at Target. Not a task a dad should perform alone.

3) I never knew that nearly every night, I'd doze off with at least three stuffed animals wedged under my lower back, directly below a massive Miley Cyrus poster, her freakishly white demon grin piercing my subconscious thoughts.

2) I hadn't anticipated burning with such intense white hot rage at the sight of a 30-year-old dude checking out my fifteen-year-old daughter. I'm just glad it didn't happen at a gun show.

1) My older daughter (the ponytail puller) graduates from high school in three years. I'm not ready.

I'll never be ready.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Competitive eating—a labor of love

Why is it so fascinating? Why do we even care? I'll tell you why—because we're Americans, and this stuff is as American as it gets.

Even though the star is Japanese.

Competitive eating has evolved into an actual sport, one worthy of coverage on ESPN. Its figurehead is a slight (130 pounds), muscular man named Takeru Kobayashi, who has prevailed six times in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, held annually on July 4. His personal best is 53.5 hot dogs, with buns, shoved down his gullet in ten minutes.

At this year's event, Mr. K was denied entry and arrested when he attempted to storm the stage. Apparently, he wasn't willing to sign an exclusivity contract with Major League Eating, the governing body of the "sport," as he wanted to peddle his skills at non-MLE-sanctioned events.

Kobayashi utilizes what he refers to as "the Solomon Method," where the frankfurter is split in two and swallowed at once, followed by the bun, which is dipped into water, Sprite or 7-Up and crammed into his mouth. He then employs the "Kobayashi shake," his trademark body wiggle, forcing the food to settle more compactly in his stomach.

As I mentioned, this spectacle is tailor-made for the people of the stars and stripes. America loves to eat lots, quickly. My younger daughter and I ate lunch yesterday at the local mall food court. We gazed upon our fellow diners, as most of those seated around us scarfed their fare with laser focus. One guy chomped at a burger, his face mere inches from his plate. One bite, another bite, and a third, smaller bite cut the burger in half before his head bobbed up to reveal his stuffed chipmunk cheeks, churning in circular spasms.

When we Americans eat pizza, we fold it lengthwise for maximum density prior to consumption. Our chicken is served in mouth-sized nugget form. We've got egg rolls and pizza rolls, taquitos and tater tots, And come on, who can't easily pop at least one entire Oreo into his or her mouth?

I'm as guilty as the next guy. Those cup-shaped Tostitos were probably the best thing to happen in my food life, next to the Thirsty-Two Ouncer at 7-11 and the all-you-can-eat-French-Fry paradigm shift at Red Robin. I wept tears of rapture when the five-dollar footlong puts its card down to dance.

I'll conclude this post with an image. It's yet another depiction of my older daughter, but this one is different. I've shown her in many a forum, but this portrayal shows the world that my steadfast fatherly food stewardship has paid dividends in her upbringing. This is my baby, directly following her victory in her high school Slurpee drinking contest.

I'm so proud.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A salute to us U.S. Americans

Tomorrow, we Americans will celebrate our bi-centennial plus thirty-four.

Before I continue, I thought I'd take this time to showcase the bright future of our country, through the eyes of Miss South Carolina:

Most of us, with the exception of those without maps, are aware that the United States gained its independence from Great Britain. However, did you know that the following countries also celebrate their independence from the dentally challenged empire as well:

Afghanistan-1919, Bahamas-1973, Barbados-1966, Belize-1981, Gambia-1965, Ghana-1957, Grenada-1974, Irish Republic-1916, Jamaica-1962, Kuwait-1961, Malaysia-1957, Myanmar-1948, Nigeria-1960, Sierra Leone-1960, Tanzania-1961, Zimbabwe-1960—and that's not the the complete list.

Those Brits were busy, eh? At least they didn't stay so long in most of the countries that their cuisine took hold. Otherwise, a meal at a Jamaican beach shack might consist of a rum and coke with a tasty side of haggis.

I suppose the British did leave a few things behind in the American lost and found—the ounces and cups and yards and feet, the brand spanking New Yorks and Jerseys and of course, Englands. The English also seem to have introduced the Americans to the "pre-function," the traditional ritual of self-lubrication prior to major sporting events.

We Americans did, however, splinter off in some key areas. I don't know many people who put milk in their tea or who pull a steaming chunk of kidney out of a pie. And David Beckham wouldn't fare too well on one of our football teams, especially if his botox hadn't completely settled.

So raise your glass, America. We might not have the most geographically-aware beauty queens, and our kids might own a few too many Uzis, but it's sure nice to be able to write what I want, to say what I want and to firmly force my size nine-and-a-half foot directly into my pie hole when I want...which is frequently.

Happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jaws vs. Eclipse: That's a lot of teeth

It's been a momentous past week in the world of American cinema, for two big reasons.

First, as every female between fourteen and sixteen knows, the third installment of the piercing Twilight series, Eclipse, debuted Tuesday night. Maybe I'm just jealous of Jacob's ten-pack, or maybe Edward's immortality chaps my hide, but I just don't grasp the allure of these movies.

And don't kid yourself; they aren't just movies—they're a massive-multi-million-mixed-media-and-merchandise-mega-marketing....franchise (Sorry, I couldn't come up with another "m" word.).

As we older folks know, the Hollywood blockbuster isn't anything new, which brings me to the next reason that it's a big week in film industry lore: Thirty-five years ago this month, Jaws chawed its way into our collective zeitgeist.

From June of 1975 onward, sprinting into the ocean's welcome foaminess has lost just a skosh of its luster. If you really want to freak out your swimming partner, just act like one of your legs is being tugged on while treading water about forty yards out.

This film took America by storm. Who can forget the T-shirts:

The board game:

Or the highly disturbing action figure diorama:

But the true symbol that Jaws had hit the celluloid stratosphere was its Mad Magazine cover spoof:

Just to get a little context, Jaws earned the distinction as the number one top-grossing movie of 1975. Here are the remaining four of the top five earners from that year:

5) Shampoo—I never saw this one, but I sure wanted to, being a thirteen-year-old dude and all. I'm fairly certain that any movie in which Warren Beatty participated during this era had at least one naked woman.

4) Dog Day Afternoon—This is the story of a guy who robs a bank to pay for his partner's sex change operation. I'm surprised that such an unoriginal movie did so well. Lordy.

3) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest—My all-time favorite movie. Seriously, this film was deeper than the menu at Cheesecake Factory.

2) The Rocky Horror Picture Show—Wow, three classics in one year. I'd almost forgotten why I started wearing garters.

So for all of you werewolf worshipers and vampire votarients, we'll see if your heartthrobs stand the test of time. And remember...don't go in the water with that open sore on your foot.