Monday, August 30, 2010

My ego is bigger than yours

Once again, the male ego turns on its master.

Today, seven-time Cy Young Award winner and would-be Hall of Fame pitcher, Roger Clemens, will be arraigned in Federal Court. He allegedly lied to Congress regarding his abuse of steroids and performance enhancing drugs two years ago while testifying about drug use in Major League Baseball.

During his stay in Washington, Clemens, also known as "The Rocket," believed that his powerful mystique and public relations skill would suffice to clear him of any wrongdoing. He used the opportunity to meet several members of Congress prior to testifying, signing baseballs and posing for photographs.

Self opinion has never been a deficiency of Clemens', as his massive ego nearly matches the expansive black hole between his ears. His four sons, Kory, Koby, Kacy and Kody, were all christened with names beginning with "K", signifying a strikeout in baseball terminology. One of his more recent license plates read, "CY-MVP." Oh, and here's a picture of The Rocket and Mrs. The Rocket:

They seem nicely grounded.

I realize I'm going to extremes to illustrate the potential of the male ego. I'm sure Clemens believes that he truly has made the world a better place because he could throw a small white ball 95 miles per hour. And maybe Glenn Beck is convinced that he's helping America by inciting hatred and fear among us unfortunate, victimized white folks, on the anniversary and site of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" address.

But I'd really like to talk about the average guys. We've all said and done some really ridiculous things in service to our egos. Men, I'm going to list some quotes—actual phrases I've uttered over the years (for the most part)— and if you can honestly say you've never said or thought anything similar, then you have truly transcended egotism.

(Speaking to the spouse while trying on some old jeans) "Honey, I think you dried my pants too long. I can't get them on, so they must've shrunk. Where's that bungee cord? And I think we need a new mirror. This one's all warped."

(A thought while standing next to another guy at a public restroom urinal) "Ha, I knew it. I can totally pee longer than this dude."

(Speaking to the spouse at 10:47 PM, dabbing my sweaty brow with a small towel) "I told you I could build a cat perch. I know it cost $450 and took three weeks. What's your point? This thing will still be around when after giant moths take over the world."

(To the teenage daughter) "No, I'm absolutely not afraid of playing you in one-on-one. I just don't want to. Even the Supreme Court can refuse to hear a case, and I'm invoking my Parental Supreme Court Option."

(To the family, in the back yard) "Of course it's not burned. It's called Cajun Blackened Chicken."

(To the younger, ten-year-old daughter) "Watch how fast Dad can serve a tennis ball. Ooh, sorry. Are you okay? Don't tell Mom."

(To the same child, as a four-year-old) "Listen, honey, go get yourself a juice box and some Teddy Grahams while Dad finishes the Lego structure. Don't put that one there. Only the blue ones go there."

(To the entire family, at the bowling alley) "You kids realize that I would've gotten a higher score than you if I had used the bumpers, right?"

Oh, sure, that just scratches the surface, and I could add a lot more to this list...if I felt like it. Right now, though, I need to show the kids my old trophies.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cynthia's New Boyfriend

The table vibrated, Cynthia's ceiling flickering from the phone's orange glow.

She rolled onto her side, the digital read-out half a reach away. Good thing it was set to vibrate; her nerves were so frazzled that even a soothing ringtone would have thrown her into cardiac arrest. Is it him? For God's sake it's been three days. 

Nope. Heather. "Hi, Heather."

"Hey, Cyn, Just wondering how you're doing."

"Umm...I'm okay." She clinched the corner of the pillow. "Oh, Heather, I'm trying—I really am, but I can't stop thinking about him. He hasn't called since Sunday. I just keep feeling more and more obsessed." She rolled onto her back. "This is so crazy."

"Come on, Cyn, keep things in perspective. You know he's into you."

"I don't know. I know he's really been busy with work lately. That's what he says, anyway. Then he just shows up in the middle of the night, like he lives here."

"It's just so funny," said Heather. "I could've sworn he was gay when I first met him. He's in such amazing shape and wears those tight clothes. Those belts, the boots...and that young dude he's always hanging with. I'm just sayin'."

Cynthia sighed. "Heather, trust me... if only you knew. He is hardly gay. And he only hangs out with Rob because they're co-workers and Rob's the new guy."

"I know, and I totally trust your instincts, Cyn. I just have a feeling that there's a lot you don't know about him."

"Well, there's a lot that he doesn't know about me either. Like that joker I just broke up with. If he ever catches wind of that, we're as good as over."

Cynthia's call waiting buzzed. Her heart raced as she gazed at the number. It was him. "Hey, I've gotta go. He's on the other line. Thanks for listening, Love. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Okay, just take a deep breath. Bye, Honey."

Cynthia cleared her throat and blew out a quivering breath. Gently, she pressed "Send."

"Batman. How nice to finally hear from you..."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The morning I caught him in the act.

My bike was stolen yesterday.

For the time being, no more crisp morning rides along Puget Sound as the rising sun slowly illuminates the Olympic Mountains. No more endorphin rushes after grinding up those steep West Seattle hills. And, at least temporarily, no more strutting around the house in my spandex for at least four hours after the ride, looking and feeling firm-ish.

It happened so anticlimactically. The spot my bike occupied was empty; my helmet lay on the ground. Our minds work in certain patterns when confronted with sudden loss—denial (I must have forgotten that I stored it safely in the bushes yesterday), anger (If I ever find that bastard, I'll water board him) and finally, fantasy (I'm going to spin a yarn about catching him in the act.). For all of you who've been robbed, broken into, burglarized or violated, this fantasy dramatization from a parallel universe is for you:

Tim awoke an hour earlier that morning, eager to get a jump start on his busy week. He had the ulterior motive of arriving at work to use the restroom before the new guy, whom his co-workers had already dubbed, "The Crop Duster," could christen it for the day.

Sensing an odd energy as he slowly opened the gate and walked into his backyard, Tim instantly spotted the door to the bike shed standing wide open. His mind hadn't yet grasped the implications of the image when a male figure burst out of the shed on Tim's bike, his legs wildly pumping the pedals with their adrenal advantage.

The figure burst out from the shadow of the pear tree as Tim's primitive monkey brain finally engaged to match the intruder's state of arousal. As the startled rider attempted to blow past him, Tim reflexively reached out and grabbed.  He was unsure of what his hand clutched, but Tim latched onto the sinewy flesh with the conviction of a newborn calf to the teat.

A subtle release of tension against Tim's grip followed an awkward tearing sound, and the thief instantly jerked backward, flying from the bicycle and sprawling on the concrete below Tim.

The ear was nearly severed.

Tim bent down. His hand still held the loose flesh, and his knee rested on the assailant's sternum. "If you move as much as an eyelid, I'll show you your ear," Tim commanded, in his best Dirty Harry whisper. "No simpler than popping a loose front tooth from a five-year-old's mouth.

"And no talking. I'm going to assume that you're experiencing a bit of shock, just as I did upon discovering your filthy self aboard my sweet, 24-speed coronary preventer. So any amount of exertion will only increase your blood pressure, accelerating the blood loss out of your ear hole."

Tim's wife had heard the commotion, dashed to the scene and call 9-1-1. A police cruiser and aid car arrived within minutes, while Tim's knee solidified its relationship with the criminal's chest. An emergency medical technician hurried to the sprawling man and took possession of the nearly detached ear . As she bent down, her foot slid slightly on the bloody asphalt and pulled the ear completely off. Fortunately for the felon, the paramedics succeeded in affixing a protective mesh screen over the ear chasm, thereby preventing additional wasps from entering through the open wound. The perpetrator was then stabilized, strapped down and transported to the trauma center.

"Well, what can I say? Nice work." Sergeant Lynn Johnsonville of the Seattle Police department surveyed the scene and glanced back at Tim. "We've been looking for this guy for months. Seems like every cop in the Southwest Precinct wanted a piece of this guy, and as it turns out, you got one."

The two nearly doubled over in laughter as the local news van pulled into the driveway.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

We're awaiting results on your dignity

Maintaining one's dignity can be synonymous with keeping one's "cool." I've already established that, overall, I've been super cool my entire life. One setting, however, has proven to be the Waterloo of my human dignity and humility—the dental/medical office.

We learn from an early age that we must face discomfort with a calm demeanor, especially if ice cream awaits us pending a successful behavioral outcome. I faced my first true medical adversity when, as a six-year-old, I was informed that my molar was abscessed, and that an oral surgeon would need to put me under and dig away at the festering alien beneath my precious, little gum line. Naturally, I was quite apprehensive, until informed that I would be receiving nitrous oxide, otherwise known as "laughing gas."

"You won't feel a thing," spun my mom. "It's laughing gas. You'll feel pleasant, fall asleep and wake up all better." I'd recently watched an episode of Batman, where the Caped Crusader pulled some laughing gas spray from his utility belt and incapacitated the villain in fits of laughter. Enter power of suggestion, stage left.

Abscess-emancipation day finally arrived, and little Timmy was prepared. I hopped into the dentist chair, cool as a cuke, and prepared to lightly chortle from the effects of the impending anesthesia. As the doctor lowered the breathing apparatus onto my mouth and nose, I began giggling. After six or seven inhalations, I was writhing in uncontrollable spasms of laughter. Soon, everyone in the room—my mom, the doctor and his assistant—also began laughing, harder and harder.

Imagine being six years old. You've never experienced any type of euphoria-inducing chemical and here you are, high as a blimp and watching your mother, in a baritone James Earl Jones voice, slowly yet hysterically guffawing as she disappears down a warm, colorful tunnel.

I later awoke, threw up several times and realized that when in the able hands of medical professionals, we control nothing, including our dignity.

I believe each patient should exercise his or her medical Miranda rights, or the right to remain silent in order to avoid discrediting themselves. I most assuredly should have invoked this right prior to my vasectomy. After several minutes of flirtatious and witty banter with an attractive nurse, she asked me to drop my trousers to begin the wonderful procedure.

She surveyed my pre-operative shaving job, looked at me and said, "Mr. Haywood, have you ever shaved before?"

"Umm, not there."


Her sunny demeanor instantly U-turned. The next three minutes were not fun, as somehow, I had added some unwanted labor to her day by performing shabby work down there. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't do male Brazilians, especially on myself.

But that's not the end of the vasectomy dignity assassination. Four months later, I returned with my "post-operative requirement" sealed in a plastic jar, inside a brown, paper bag. I felt dirty, but I had to ascertain that my days of siring offspring were behind me. That same nurse took my sample from me and asked me to sit in the waiting room while she tested it. Five minutes later, she popped her head through the door, raised a rubber gloved hand and gave me the thumbs up. The room was crowded, and I'm sure everyone was quite relieved to know that I was now sterile.

I could continue with other examples of medical humility, but I won't. I'm fully aware that most women suffer even worse indignities on a yearly basis, so believe me when I say that I don't feel sorry for myself.

Just please remind me, next time I go to the doctor for a prostate check, just to keep my mouth shut and not to shake his hand afterward.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From Boardwalk to Kamchatka: my favorite board games

My wife, girls and I recently returned from our last big summer trip. When traveling with America's youth, I've discovered an important tenet: God forbid any moments of silent contemplation. To the children, nothing matches the sheer horror of the "b" word—boredom.

With this in mind, we consistently pack far too many forms of entertainment, especially DVDs and board games. Napoleon Dynamite has logged more miles in our car than Bristol Palin on her "Do as I say, not as I did, several times, actually" born again celibacy tour. And like most forty-something adults, I harbor a certain fondness for the old stalwart board games, those rainy-day, Milton Bradley, cardboard and plastic time burners.

In fact, I've compiled (surprise!) another top ten list, this time of my favorite board games:

10) Mouse Trap—Has anyone actually played this Rube Goldberg-esque game? I always just set the thing up and watched it go.

9) Candy Land—Just kidding. I hate this evil game. When my kids were little and asked me to play Candy Land, I had to say, "Okay, but first Daddy needs to brew up a big pot of coffee and drink the whole thing." I've literally nodded off while playing this mind-numbing, all-natural Ambien substitute.

8) Twister—I suppose technically, this isn't a board game, especially after the personal lubricant is introduced.

7) Risk—This is a bona fide, one hundred percent dude game. I will only play Risk while wearing my autographed, red officer's turtle neck  from the 1988 Star Trek Convention at the Sea Tac Red Lion. Sulu and Chekov signed it, and I would've gotten Scotty's signature, but he was super drunk and kept spitting on people, so I walked away from his table.

6) Operation—Good game, but too stressful and not anatomically correct. We all know that isn't an actual bone down there.

5) Battleship (Please note the female family members washing dishes in the kitchen.)—Also fun, but rife with cheating opportunities. If you get up to "use the bathroom," you can become an SR-71 jet, performing high-level reconnaissance above enemy waters.

4) Pictionary—This is quite entertaining while enjoying a few adult beverages with other couples, but be careful if you're paired with your significant other. You will still be held accountable, even though she only drew a circle and repeatedly pointed at it.

3) Trivial Pursuit—One of my favorites, probably because the most common answer is "zero."

2) Monopoly—Even though there are no recorded instances of this game being played to its completion, it's wonderful for teaching kids how to make change and become slum lords. It provides your child the additional benefit of occasionally seeing his or her sibling behind bars.

1) Scrabble—Another predominately adult game, since seasons can often change while waiting for someone to play their letters. How often have you been tempted to point out to your opponent, "Look, that 'q' in your hand won't work on the end of 'onyx' now or an hour from now, so either trade in your letters or pay me a dollar for each minute of my life of which you've robbed me."

I've left quite a few off the list, like Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, Stratego, Trouble, Cranium, Uno and Balderdash. Just make sure, when packing for your next vacation, to "accidentally" forget Candy Land.

Friday, August 20, 2010


"Oh, my God, oh, my God. I did it. Finally. I fucking did it!" He could tell by the looks of those around him that he had actually verbalized this, rather than merely thought it.

Jimmy couldn't catch his breath. He gazed over his left shoulder, then his right, then his left again and clumsily boarded the city bus. He had no idea where the coach was headed, nor did he care; he needed some time and space to process what he'd done.

He'd definitely blindsided her. But had he really? For the past six months, they'd fought on at least a daily basis, sometimes for an entire day at a time. The obligatory "I love yous" which concluded every monotonous phone call now sounded as hollow as their ensuing dial tones.

Her neediness had driven him to distraction. How many startling calls had been visited upon him in the middle of the night for reassurance about some sociology midterm? How many times had she dragged him along to Neiman's to spend a perfect Saturday afternoon searching, with her daddy's credit card, for the perfect pashmina? How often had she told Jimmy his stomach was getting a little too big, that he should look more like that guy over there with that confident strut.

"Stop walking on your toes. Stop wearing those t-shirts. Do you think I could be a model? Go back inside and change into a nice polo shirt with that matching salmon sweater draped around your shoulders. I'll help you, honey."

"No more," whispered James Liam Michaels, tracing his finger along a rip in the tan, upholstered bus seat. "You did it. You are the man."

Even little things had driven him to the brink during the final weeks—the flecks of lipstick on her sizable front teeth, that extra splash of "Babe" on her wrists and neck. The worst, however, were her unspoken requirements to incessantly hold hands in public or her need to sit on his lap at football games. One must portray unbridled bliss in all situations where people are watching.

"Did I just say you're the man? You're a spineless idiot...until today, anyway." Jimmy mouthed the words to his reflection in the dirty window.

Originally, Jimmy had pursued her for her seeming perkiness, cute demeanor and attractive butt and legs. His lack of maturity quashed any desire to further peel back the onion of her pathological personality. Mistake made, lesson learned.

He'd awoken this morning with a singular desire, but not the same one as usual. Today would be forever known as November 12—Breakup Day. Jimmy showered, dressed and left his apartment feeling buoyant, not just happy, but Christmas-morning good. On the sidewalk in front of her campus apartment, he'd run into his old fraternity friend, Seth, and interpreted that as a positive omen.

"What's up, Jim?" Seth had no idea.

"I'll tell you what's up, Seth, my man. Today, your boy, Jimmy, is throwing his hat back into the ring. He's punching his dance ticket again. That's right. In a few short moments, I'm breaking up with her."

"Holy shit! Okay, I can see you're on a mission. Call me afterwards. Good luck man." Seth half-hugged, half-slapped Jimmy's back.

"No luck necessary. Dude, as of today, I am master of my own domain."

Jimmy had climbed the stairs to the third floor flat she shared with her roommate, Cheri. He'd always gotten along well with Cheri; he'd even wondered what it would be like to date her. "Hi, Jimmy," Cheri had waved him into the apartment for the ten-thousandth, and maybe last, time. "She should be back from class in about five minutes."

"Cool, thanks." He'd sat in that familiar spot on the right cushion of the love seat, next to the jade plant. Jimmy's endocrine system had begun betraying his attempts at calmness. The ensuing five minutes had felt to him like the hangman was driving around outside, looking for a good parking spot.

Finally, she'd appeared in the doorway, wearing a tan cowl neck sweater, tweed skirt and brown boots, perfect for fall, he was sure. "Hi, Baby," she'd said in her battle-tested sweet voice.

"Hi." As Jimmy stood, his knees had fought back and wanted to sit back down. He'd forced himself into an awkward, upright stance. He'd said nothing.

"What's wrong?"

"I...I want to break up."


"I'm not kidding. I'm sorry. I want to break up." The words had come out high-pitched and weak.

"No!" She'd lunged at him and grabbed both his biceps, her nails piercing the skin. "No! You're lying!"

"How could I be lying?"

"You're lying!"

Jimmy didn't know what to do. No one did, so they'd simply held their positions, including Cheri, who stood next to the refrigerator.

"Look, I'm going to go. Please don't call me for a while." He'd pried her fingers loose and backed away. He'd watched himself, as if from above the room, crying and veering toward the door. He'd bolted out without closing the door, leapt down each flight of stairs and up the sidewalk, zig-zagging as if being tailed. After he'd convinced himself that he wasn't being followed, he had slowed down and walked to a streetside bus shelter and boarded the first bus that approached.

Jimmy had been riding around for an hour now, and had managed to sort a few things out. He'd still need to speak with her about an exchange of apartment keys, as well as confiscate his favorite hooded sweatshirt. Hopefully, the "Babe" would eventually wash out of it.

He decided he was ready to go home—to sit down, maybe have a beer and process this event. As he hiked up to his home north of campus, his overwhelming emotion was that of relief, with speckles of guilt and grief. After his adrenaline-dominated condition slowly subsided, he realized he hadn't relieved himself in hours. He reached the front door and fumbled with his keys, his bladder causing a newfound clumsiness. He tripped through the door and jogged to the bathroom, flipping on the switch to his left.

She hung from the curtain rod. For a noose she had fashioned a paisley tie she had given him last Christmas. Jimmy had always hated that tie, and never could tie it. Apparently, she could. He ran to the kitchen for the scissors and cut her down, her limp body awkwardly tumbling into the tub.

He rolled her onto her back and saw the note. It had been crudely and quickly scrawled with lipstick on a sheet of college ruled paper and safety pinned to her cowl neck. "Hmm, a safety pin? Ironic," thought Jimmy. The note wasn't hard to read. Bold, block letters spelled out, quite succinctly, "THANKS."

"She always did get the last word," he thought.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just a few summer devotions

Today is such a glorious summer day in Seattle, I'm a little overcome. I try not to get too sappy or artsy in my posts, but I just couldn't help it this morning, with summer's epic splendor encompassing my very being.

Since I'm so inspired, I couldn't let my poetic urge go to waste, so please, enjoy some summer verse. I'm really quite proud of it.

A summer haiku:

Sweet lime Popsicle.
Sitting on the baking porch.
Wood stick too far; gag.

A summer limerick:

There once was a Popsicle lime,
which always made summer sublime.
While wolfing it down,
while going to town,
I gagged on the stick every time.

A summer couplet:

It's my favorite summer treat, I believe.
But that wooden stick made me heave on my sleeve.

A summer Dr. Suess-inspired poem:

Gill the Grenegrorb loved everything green,
From broccoli to lima beans to green jelly beans.
But his favorite of all was the Popsicle—true!
Except for that wooden stick,
Made him hurl it up—ewww!

I'm sorry. I really must go out and roll around on my dried up lawn now.

I love you.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I'm worried that I'm worrying about worrying

Worry, anguish, uneasiness, torment, fret, anxiety. Pick your poison, but no matter which term you choose, they all express feelings we share, some of us constantly.

I'm a worrier— always have been. My earliest distressing episode occurred at age four. Upon learning that I would be a ring bearer in my cousin's wedding, I grew quite concerned about wearing a bear costume. "What kind of ears am I going to have?" I wondered out loud. Everyone in the room laughed heartily, which layered an element of confusion on top of my apprehension. I was quickly told that no costume was necessary, but I still wasn't informed as to why I would be branded a bear at someone's wedding.

The list of worries accumulated as I grew into adolescence. What if I got drafted and sent to Vietnam? What if my mom and dad drop my sister and me off at my grandparents and leave us there forever and I'm doomed to a life of country music and Sears Toughskins? What if I forget how to swallow? What if my chubby, dimpled knuckles are forever inverted and never rise up to become regular knuckles?

Our worries evolve as we become adults and parents. That doesn't mean they're legitimate, just different. For example:

Oh, no. I wore brown shoes with a black watch. I'll be ostracized and exiled by my peers permanently.

I hope the Mercedes dealer remembered that I can't read Celsius, so my heated floor mats better have a Fahrenheit gauge.

My $350 authentic Roman Gabriel throwback football jersey was supposed to arrive yesterday. It's not here yet. This has to be the worst thing that's ever happened to me, so I'll stay home from work and call FedEx every 45 minutes.

I can now boast of some legitimate concerns, not those bred out of the irrational, obsessive compulsiveness of my childhood, but actual food for fret. For instance:

She said her friend's mom was bringing her home at 10:30. It's now 11:00, and she isn't answering her phone.

Her fever's been 102 degrees for three days now.

That cute mole on my neck that used to resemble a speck of milk chocolate now looks more like a double scoop of triple fudge chunk—with a beard.

The waitress says she recommends the pork chop—rare.

When I ask her new boyfriend where he got his "Proud to be Level Three" neck tattoo, he said his cellmate gave it to him in exchange for four-and-a-half packs of Camels and a thirty-second French kiss.

Those are just a few of them, because as a parent, you can really freak yourself out with "what ifs." I think that's why, while waiting up for my teenager to come home, I don't tune into the Teen Serial Killer Network. I think it's Channel 387.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two dudes in the lunch line.

"Dude, what is this?" Chad's face contorted as the food splattered onto his plate.

"Dude, apparently it's Salisbury turkey, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday," replied Justin, betraying a similar look of disgust. The two slowly shuffled down the cafeteria's serving line.

"Dude, I don't want to be a hater, but this looks more like Salisbury doggie food. It totally salts my game, bro." Chad hoisted his tray as the server reached across with a plastic bowl of raspberry gelatin with slivered carrots.

Justin waved off the server's offering when his turn came. "No, thanks, homes. I don't mix my fruit with my veggies." He and Chad abruptly snickered with perfect synchronization.

Chad, the more outgoing of the two, swiveled his head around to survey the partially-occupied tables which littered the expansive lunchroom. "Dude, don't look now, but that chick at three o'clock is totally mackin' on your form."

"Mos' def', dude," replied Justin, "but don't be such a newb. You know I wouldn't jump in the sack with anyone but my boo."

"My bad, dude." As they reached the conclusion of the food line, Chad examined his tray's contents. "Dude, I do believe we're looking at the gold medal winner for Worst Green Meadows Retirement Home Cafeteria Meal of 2053."

"I believe I concur, G."

From a distant corner of the hot, carpeted room came the excited shout of a young girl. "There he is, Mommy!" She locked eyes with the elderly man and rapidly slalomed around the tables, slamming into her grandfather's midsection and latching on tightly. "Happy Thanksgiving, Grandpa Justin!"

"There's my superfly grandbaby! Justin tried to straighten out his creaky body following the minor collision. "Careful of the hip, girlfriend. You've got some hella mad hugging skills."

"Grandpa, when are you going to stop sounding like it's still 2010? I don't understand your old man talk."

"Sorry, honey. When I get together with this guy, we tend to pull out the old street slang. Yo, Chad, baby girl and I are gonna bounce. I'll hit you later for a hook-up."

Chad nodded. "Word."

The little girl grabbed her grandfather's lunch tray and they slowly ambled to an empty table.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Go Fathers!

Vacations are not necessarily a slippery slope, but they're definitely a well-lubed, slanted surface.

My wife, two daughters and I returned this evening from beautiful San Diego, Cali, after six days of sun-soaked lounging, eating, arguing, driving, getting lost, swimming, blaming, sleeping in and looking at animals.

The looking-at-animal experiences were a little strange. Between the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and the Wild Animal Safari, we witnessed:

people behaving like animals,

animals behaving like people (right after this whale did an awesome Nestea plunge, he swam up on the concrete and waved to us),

and animals behaving like animals (I'm not going to show the photo of the zebras humping, or I might end up on a few other websites and be busted on a future Dateline NBC. I'll just show you what the zebras would have seen from their perspective):

We hit a lot of beaches, which sealed the deal for my fifteen-year-old daughter.
"Dad, I'm so gonna live here."
"Okay, what would you do for a living down here?"
"I don't know, but it's sunny and hot boys are everywhere. I think my abs have gotten more toned from boogie boarding. Check it out. I'm hungry. What's for dinner?"
"I don't know."
"Dad, couldn't you just picture me standing on a beach here."
"Actually, I don't have to, because that's what you're doing right now."
"Do we have any chips and salsa?"

We stayed at the Omni Hotel in downtown San Diego. It overlooks Petco Park, which is actually a baseball field, not a dog run. I was very happy about this, as you can see, even though the team, the San Diego Padres, wasn't in town while we were.

I've always found the name "Padres" interesting for a sports team; I understand "Tigers" and "Yankees" and even "Nationals," but isn't it odd that their moniker is Spanish for "Fathers"? Go, Fathers!

Our rental car was a Nissan Cube. You may ask, as did I, "Why would any vehicle be shaped like a cube?" I don't have an answer to this or other questions like, "Why are my nipples 94 percent useless?"

They just are, friend.

We had a fantastic time in southern California. Sure, there were a few random scuffles regarding who had worse sand-and-saltwater-induced-inner-thigh chafing, or why wasn't I able to effectively apply sunscreen without a bright pink map of Indonesia appearing on my stomach after a day at the beach.

Overall, however, we recharged our batteries,

and enjoyed each other's company.
And let me tell you, surfing must be really hard on the body, because I smelled a lot of that medicinal California marijuana down there. Poor surfers.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The five most expensive celebrity weddings: no pigs in a blanket

Finally, Chelsea Clinton is married. At last, I can bathe and go to the grocery store.

We're all quite accustomed to high-profile, celebrity weddings—you've got your Madonna and Sean and Madonna and Guy, your Brad and Jennifer, your Elton John and David Furnish. Looks like only one out of four of these panned out, and it happened to be the two dudes.

Rumors ran rampant that the final tab of Chelsea's wedding to Marc Mezvinsky would tip the scale at $3.5 million. It actually landed somewhere around a "more reasonable" $1 million. I really don't take issue with a million-dollar Clinton wedding, simply due to the amount of security required for the former leader of the universe and his powerful cronies. Plus, Bill may have required additional manpower to hide the Kardashians, who were waiting for him in the coatroom.

Yesterday's nuptials piqued my curiosity about the most expensive celebrity weddings of all time. As always, we ask, and the interweb provides. Here are the top five, according to

5) Elizabeth Taylor to Larry Fortinsky (estimated cost: $2 million)
Larry was a construction worker when he won the Liz lottery. They divorced five years later, probably when her fantasy to hang out with the lead singer from Whitesnake finally lost its luster.

4) Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (estimated cost: $2 million)
Apparently, the ceremony was performed by Xenu, head of the Galactic Federation. The wedding would have cost five-hundred grand less, but Cruise had to be purged of a stubborn thetan who objected to the union at the last minute, and Xenu's services don't come cheaply.

3) Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar (estimated cost: $2.5 million)
Their ceremony lasted eight days. Eight days. Cher and Greg Allman weren't even married that long.

2) Paul McCartney and Heather Mills (estimated cost: $3 million)
In this photo, it looks like Paul is kissing her while wearing a latex glove, but I'm sure those hands have seen their share of wear and tear, and they're probably highly-insured.

Paul decided rather than being married, that he preferred being here, there and everywhere, and really, he doesn't need love. All you need is hair dye.

Sorry, John was my favorite.

1) Liza Minnelli and David Gest (estimated cost: $3.5 million)


Sure, it can be a lot of fun to attend an expensive wedding—great food, super drinks. But I'll take a keg of Hamm's at the VFW Hall anytime. Set up a few card tables with some meatballs, potato salad and pigs in a blanket. Bring out the bride for a dollar dance. Crank up the standard wedding dance tunes, like "Twist and Shout", "What I Like About You," "Old Time Rock-n-Roll" and "Highway to Hell" (well, maybe not).

And a big stack of those red, plastic cups.