Friday, December 30, 2011

How Rock Stars' Bad Behavior Makes Us Into Rock Stars.

We've been sitting at the railroad crossing for nearly a year now, fiddling with the car radio. Finally, the candy cane colored arms hoist themselves, and the caboose materializes out of the haze, signaling an end to the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eleven.

I'm not going to sum up an entire year in one post. Two many tangents exist to avoid droning ad nauseum regarding all of the year's significant events, so I've decided to focus on the most important happenings—

Celebrity scandals.

I'm doing this for me, and I'm doing this for you, because I guarantee you'll feel better about yourself after reviewing some of the activities which made headlines during 2011, as tabulated by the most trusted name in journalism this side of NPR:

10) Reality star Kim Kardashian announces the end of her seventy-two-day marriage to Kris "I make the scarecrow look like Steven Hawking" Humphries, after a star-studded multimillion-dollar television wedding.

Be happy for these kids, folks. And let them keep all the wedding gifts as tokens of our gratitude for not having children.

9) A highly motivated hacker releases nude photos obtained from Scarlett Johansson's cell phone.

Definitely an invasion of privacy, but a scandal? For Pete's sake, I'd trade in my forty-nine-year-old male body for her younger, female version tomorrow, accepting all ridicule and gender confusion for the opportunity to explore its wonders on evenings and weekends.

8) In another matrimonial shocker,  Playboy Playmate Crystal Harris called off her nuptials to ancient mogul Hugh Hefner just five days prior to their planned event, but keeping her engagement ring and placing it up for auction.

If I were Hef, I'd turn right around and post to EBay that bedazzled hemorrhoid donut she knitted me for my one-hundred-and-eighth birthday.

7) Demi Moore splits with her husband of six years, Ashton Kutcher, after learning that he engaged in unprotected sex with another woman...on the couple's anniversary, to boot!

Of all the lowdown, scumbag moves. According to Moore, Kutcher could have saved the marriage simply by using the custom-printed condoms she bought him which magically transform upon arousal from "I'm a bass" to "I'm a cheating dumbass."

6) Maria Shriver dumps hubby Arnold Shwarzenegger after discovering that his un-American activities have resulted in a prolonged dalliance and subsequent son with their long-time housekeeper.

Come on, Mr. Olympia. I realize you've spent countless thousands of hours in the gym honing that physique, but you should have devoted a little more time to the clean and jerk, if you know what I mean.

5) Charlie Sheen flips out and slaughters his sitcom cash cow, "Two and a Half Men," inventing a few new terms along the way.

I've taken some time to translate. "Winning" means "smoking a fist-sized rock. "Warlock" is a guy who smokes fist-sized rocks. "Tiger blood" is blood containing the contents of a fist-sized rock.

4) Miley Cyrus is photographed sucking a large bong toke.

Miley, your father is Billy Ray Cyrus. Brain cells should be as precious to you as a quaff of Pellegrino in the freaking Sahara.

3) Teeny bop pop star Justin Bieber is accused of fathering a child with a twenty-year-old fan.

Isn't testing for Bieber's paternity ability sort of like asking for the tattoo department of a Mormon bookstore?

2) Chris Brown, hip hopper extraordinaire, goes ballistic in his "Good Morning America" dressing room after being questioned about punching out girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, breaking glass and generally trashing the premises.

Classy move, Chris. What better way to show that you've changed your violent ways.

1) Lindsay Lohan, in between jail and rehab stints, manages to find time to pose for "Playboy," not once, but twice, due to a reshoot.

You go, Lin Lin. Always ahead of the curve, I've heard that you've made pasty, toothless and strung out the new healthy, organic look for 2012.

I guess that's it. Feel better about yourself now? I know I do.

I wish I could have presented this list to my wife a while back after asking her co-worker when the baby was due.

She wasn't pregnant.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Purging yourself of those post-Christmas doldrums.

Wow...okay...I'm back. Good to be back.

How would you describe what's been going on in your world for the past week? I've been rattling my oxidizing grey matter to describe the sequence of events which follows Christmas, and the best description is what I'll call the "Alfredo Analogy."

Have you ever dined on a nice seafood fettuccine smothered in a succulent cream sauce? As is common with most American restaurants, we're served enough to fill Kenny Chesney's hat, so naturally we box it up and take it home in anticipation of later microwavable awesomeness.

So, yeah, that's how I'd describe the lead-up to Christmas—piping hot Fettuccine Alfredo.

We crack the lid on our December 26 pasta to discover a petrified, softball-sized rubber band noodle ball. And regardless of what method we employ to heat it back to its original form, it's forever assumed the identity of its own weaker, less attractive twin.

Sure, all the ingredients are present; it's just that all molecular activity has halted and your fabulous dish from the previous evening has now permanently morphed into Fettuccine Afraido.

Christmas has ended.

The day after Christmas dawns like those countless mornings when we've awoken in a strange place without a toothbrush. Our head pounds as we stagger to button the now wrinkled shirt we wore to the club last night. At length, everything is finally accounted for except our dignity...and a sock. We flee into the chill of another shameful morning.

Actually, that's never happened to me. I've just dated women who've had lots of those experiences.

I'm obviously being too dramatic here, but let's face it—the first few days following Christmas are a bit of a letdown. The tree still stands, the cookies and candy and fudge still line our counters, but it all looks just a little warmed over.

Today, rather than wallowing in my sluggishness, I asked my eleven-year-old daughter if she'd like to go to the mall—just the two of us—to exchange and return some gifts she'd received.

"Dad, do you even have to ask?" Apparently I hadn't needed to ask.

"Why do you love the mall so much?" I felt pangs of regret as the words spewed out. "All it is is a whole bunch of overpriced crap."

"It is not crap. The mall is amazing. Are you saying my stuff is crap, Dad?"

"No. I just think there are a lot of punks who cruise around looking for trouble because they're bored." I knew this to be gospel as I was one of those punks thirty-five years ago. Take away those saggy pants and peel on some wedgie-inducing moose knuckle flair legs and we're one in the same teen tool.

Here's where things got sort of weird.

I've worked in the fashion industry for the past twenty years, and even though I haven't kept aggressively in touch with the latest clothing trends for young women, it's kind of soaked into my DNA, anyway.

Thirty minutes following our mall discussion, I found myself seated on a bench in a store called Delia's, consulting with my daughter about how best to assemble a sassy outfit with her seventy-five-dollar gift card. Parents lined the long seating area, assessing their daughters as they poked their heads out the dressing cubicle doors.

Actually, using the term "parents" implies that dads were in attendence. They were not. It was a bunch of moms

And I could tell they didn't know quite what to make of me, especially when my daughter opened the door, I looked at her in some jeans and a top, and proclaimed, "Oh, that is so cute."

Heads turned, but I'm not sure if they were looking at my daughter or the dude who had just channeled Tyra Banks.

I felt the hot pinkness of embarrassment seep into my cheeks and armpits. Oh, my God. Did I just say that? I've always tried to stick to androgynous words like "cool" and "nice." "Cute" had yet to breach the levee.

But it was too late.

I made sure every mom in that dressing area got a glimpse of my masculine three-day beard growth as I knocked over three camisoles on my way out.

Boom. Post Christmas doldrums—gone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Time for the 2011 Pondie Awards.

Hello, and welcome to the First Annual Pondie Awards.

Our staff has worked tirelessly in compiling this year's winners, and similarly to Pondie's wealthy yet emasculated second cousin Oscar, we believe that everyone deserves a trophy—you know, like T-ball.

Unfortunately, however, while many will stumble home from the after party, their pockets stuffed with mashed up pigs in a blanket, only one fortunate soul in each of our categories will claim this coveted award for his or her mantel or TV tray.

Without further ado, let's get to the victors, shall we?

In the category of "Politician Whose Pantsuit Makes Her Butt Look the Most Psychotic," the Pondie goes to Michele Bachmann, for asserting that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, global warming is fictitious and Jesus hates all gays except for her husband, Marcus. Congratulations, Michele.

Runners up in our next category include Scott Peterson, Charles Manson and Susan Smith, but this year's Pondie goes to O.J. Simpson in the category of "Oh, Cool. That's Right, You're Still in Prison."

The 2011 "Nastiest Way of Recycling a Nasty Thing to Try to Make it Less Nasty" Pondie is awarded to that thing McDonald's sells that has all the Big Mac ingredients inside a tortilla instead of a bun. Congrats on such forward thinking, McD's, and we can't wait for next year and the introduction of the Mango McRib Smoothie.

In the category of "Most Adept at Seizing a Moment of Silent Prayer in Front of 60,000 People to Thank Jesus For the Touchdown He Just Scored and Also His Awesomely Ripped Arms," the Pondie goes to Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. Kudos, Timbo. Thanks to your public displays of piety, those Muslims trying to tackle you don't stand a chance.

We actually have a three-way tie for our next prize. The Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian people win the Pondie Award for "While the Rest of the World Watched Kim Kardashian's Ridiculous Nuptials, We Chose to Risk Our Lives So That Our Children Might Grow Up Free."

Justin Bieber wins in a close battle with the cast of Barnie and Rupert Murdoch to take home the trophy for "Least Likely to Be Able to Impregnate Someone." Who'd a thunk, Biebs!

Nominated for "Person Most of Us Would Like to Set on Fire, Starting at His Offending Area," the Pondie goes to Jerry Sandusky, who deserves to be free on bail about as much as a Strawberry Frosted Pop Tart deserves to be a fruit.

And finally, 2011 Pondie for "Stop Complaining About Your Stupid Problems—I Was Shot Through the Brain and Look at the Progress I'm Making" is awarded to Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Congresswoman, you inspire us all.

It looks like our show has run a bit long. We apologize and promise that next year, we'll nix FOX News on Ice.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas. War is Over.

It is, is it?

So let me get this straight. The Iraq war is officially over.

Just like that.

Did someone simply walk around one last time to make sure the oven was turned off and the iron was unplugged, tilted the blinds, turned on the porch light, slammed the door and cranked the dead bolt?

I guess so.

Apparently, it was that easy. At a cost of nine years, nearly 4,500 American and 100,000 Iraqi lives and a trillion dollars, the world's largest and most expensive fork exposed its tines and on Friday signaled that this thing is done, done and done.

Make no mistake, however—we're leaving a lot of parting gifts to this fragile mishmash of tribal alliances, including an embassy larger than anything this side of the Dugger's house.

Still unaccounted for are $6.6 billion earmarked for Iraqi reconstruction projects and one billion dollars in missing tractor trailers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades provided to local security forces.

Such a comforting statistic.

For all of the soldiers and families who've finally gotten an opportunity to put this nightmare behind them, Friday was a landmark day, and wouldn't you have thought our print media would concur? I definitely believed as much.

But here's the front page of the Detroit Free Press (end of war article framed in green):

 And one of my local papers, The Tacoma News Tribune:

When the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II, it received this treatment in the New York Times:

And another of my neighborhood publications, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Judging from the prominence of first two headlines, the end of hostilities in Iraq barely justified the front page.

How do you feel about that?

Granted, Iraq wasn't a popular undertaking from the get-go. America was more polarized over the decision to engage in these actions than any era since Vietnam, and after having two anti-war signs stolen out of my front yard in liberal West Seattle, I experienced little difficulty in drawing such a conclusion.

Many of us believed that our President and his cronies were selling us a bill of goods, fabricating evidence to associate Saddam Hussein with the organization responsible for September 11. Heeding the warning of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a lot of us felt that America's current military industrial complex was fabricating evidence in order to profit from a nation's patriotism, paranoia...and ignorance.

So many American lives were wagered to safeguard and install Pizza Huts and Baskin Robbins, Subways and Burger Kings. KBR, a former Halliburton division, supplied $20 billion dollars in food, fuel and housing.

I wonder what KBR's gross margin was on a Double Whopper or foot long Meatball with pepper jack and no onions.

Here's what sticks in my craw, and I'll try to be concise, here:

Our troops, at minimum, deserved a headline with the day's largest typeface, preferably thirty-six point Futura Bold. Many participated in two, three or even four tours over there, and by God, they warrant a large freaking announcement in the freaking newspaper.

America needs to care, but it seems like nobody really does. This war has been predominantly fought on the backs of working class and poor kids who are looking for a way out of their situations. People took to the streets during Vietnam because they or their child risked being drafted into a hellish situation, and now it just doesn't hit home for a lot of us since we don't have many dogs in the this fight.

I know we're all busy right now with holiday preparations, but please, do me a favor.

Wherever you are, take five minutes. I'm not asking you to stand up or look around or do anything. Just take five minutes and think about what a lot of people have been doing for the past ten years, and what many are still doing in distant, hostile lands.

Then think about what we can do to bring more of them home.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Time to crank it to eleven.

T minus one week to go—this is when things get serious.

Up until now, Christmas preparations have jogged along, with a three-quarter sprint a couple of weeks ago for tree procuring and hall decking. Since then, a few online presents ordered here, some gift cards purchased there, but no huge dealio.

As of today, however, the figurative holiday oven has heated up our entire household, and many of those miscellaneous tasks have embedded their tentacles into my consciousness with greater urgency than that constant beckoning by my leathery man bladder.

Christmas cards, still not completed, are always a multi-step process, one in which I never allow myself enough time to accomplish. Choosethefamilyphotoorderthecardsbuythestampsaddresstheenvelopesandmail. Each letter of the preceding word represents roughly one minute of the chore, and I always seem to break the delicate chain at "buythestamps," thereby adding "drivetothestoretobuymorestampsandahugekitkatbar" to the end of the original word.

Another obligation which has leaped forward on this Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve is my role as the official procurer of holiday baking raw materials. Thanks to my family's gluttonous needs, Safeway is now lighter two large packages of chocolate chips, four jars of marshmallow cream, ten bars of baking chocolate and two huge bags of peppermint candy.

While it may seem like an average Friday movie night for Rush Limbaugh, that's enough sugar to choke a woolly mammoth, and by the end of tonight, the kitchen counters will be lined with fudge, bon bons, sugar cookies and peppermint bark. Hot damn.

I've decided that my my wife and daughters should consider themselves quite fortunate to have someone—well, to have me—as their support staff, their shopping Sherpa. After reading this morning's paper, I've discovered that a lot of dudes were a little too predisposed this time of year to run down to Safeway and home, and back to Safeway, and home again, to contribute to their friends' and family's sugar comas.

For example, here's what happened on this day, December 18, in history:

1865—The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

Wow. That's a big one. Free pass for Mr. Seward from doing holiday errands for his family. And if there were any way I could thank him today, I'd regale him with an entire nation's gratitude and some Crest Breath Strips.

1940—Adolph Hitler ordered secret preparations for Nazi Germany to invade the Soviet Union.

Yeah. How'd that work out for you, Dolph? You probably should have run to the store for some strudel mix and refilled your Thorazine prescription, like Eva asked you.

1972—The United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War.

Nixon should never be mentioned in the same sentence as Hitler, but each committed some serious military blunders on days where they would have been better off just stuffing their Haggar slacks with rocks and slowly shuffling into the Atlantic.

2010—The United States Senate approved repeal of the military's seventeen-year "don't ask, don't tell' ban on openly gay troops in a 65-31 vote.

Okay, so two useful moves and two bonehead ones on this day in history. The ironic aspect of the 2010 event is this: Can you think of anything positive our Congress has accomplished besides the don't ask, don't tell repeal? I can't.

They must've been pressured to adjourn and get some shredded coconut before the store ran out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Confessions of a starstruck fan.

"Oh, my God. There he is!" I elbowed Corey in the arm a little too hard. "It's him!"

By now, most of the fans in our immediate area had pivoted their gaze away from the field of play and onto the celebrity who stood mere feet away behind the concourse railing.

"Holy shit, it is him! And he's throwing t-shirts."

An erratic flock of lime green shirts saturated the chilly night air as the crowd surged and grabbed and caromed off one another. One garment seized on a gust and drifted just above Corey's reach.

Ever the athlete, Corey hastily ushered any fear of pain, humiliation or paralysis to the temporary mini-storage of his consciousness. He leaped high, his ASICS running shoes separating from their sticky, concrete moorings and clutched the floating green booty. Sweet, sweet victory.

Then he toppled over the seats in front of us and landed firmly on his back, wallowing in three periods worth of football stadium filth. He held his prize aloft to spare it the bacterial soup his entire body was occupying.

Thirty seconds later, as my stomach still heaved with spasmic laughter and  my eyes still gushed the salty byproducts of hysteria, another t-shirt landed on my shoe. I slowly bent down and scooped it up.

I examined the shirt's graphics: swathes of blue and white slathered the day-glow green cotton fabric, and the only logo present...was that of sandwich juggernaut, Subway.

It was Monday Night Football in Seattle. And the sandwich king himself, Jared, had just thrown us t-shirts.

That's right—that Jared. The Jared who used to wear pants the size of Rush Limbaugh's Dockers until he dropped seven hundred pounds (or so) eating only six-inch whole grain subs with parsley and pepper, and became a massive celebrity.

Well, a celebrity anyway.

It's crazy how crazy we became upon seeing this man. After witnessing the manner in which people reacted to this manufactured icon, thank God most of us were too young to experience Beatlemania.

And to compound the frenzy, we were fed a cocktail more intoxicating than whiskey and Vicodin: famous people and free stuff.

Oh, how the starstruck human can behave.

Occasionally, my enthusiasm is well grounded. When Bill Clinton visited Seattle for one last campaign stop at Pike Place Market prior to the 1992 General Election, I deemed the opportunity too valuable to squander. In typical Clinton fashion, he arrived and hour-and-a-half late, gave a long, rousing oration, and by the time I had waved to his smiling likeness in the departing motorcade and arrived at work, I'd missed half a day.

Was I in trouble? You bet. Did I regret my actions? Not on your blue-dress-staining life.

But then there are instances like the Jared Affair, times when the celebrity tsunami washes away any semblance of rational thought.

Several years ago, while taking my usual lunchtime route to the gym, I passed downtown Seattle's Monaco Hotel. A moderately sized crowd of youngish women and teenagers blocked the sidewalk next to a luxury tour bus.

"What's going on?" I asked someone.

"We're waiting for 'N Sync to come out."

"Really?" I thought. "Hmm. I could hang out for a second to catch a glimpse of these guys up close. No big deal. They're huge right now, and even though I couldn't care less about their music, what harm could it do?"

After ten minutes had passed, I again assessed the situation. "Well, I'll wait a couple more minutes. I can still get in a short workout in and it would be a shame to miss these guys after waiting for this long."

Twenty minutes in, and again I regrouped. "Okay, so I won't be working out today. Whatever. Ten more minutes, though, and then I walk away. This is ridiculous."

After forty-five minutes, I was so hell bent on personally checking out Joey's well-manicured beard, Lance's blue eyes, Justin's curly locks and JC's...(I don't know, nose?) that they would have had to tase me with a Ted Bundy-sized dose of electricity to stop me from seeing 'N Freaking Sync.

Finally, almost an hour after I'd planted myself on that sidewalk among all those hardcore, overwhelmingly female enthusiasts, they emerged together.

I must admit, after waiting for so long, my heart did speed up, if only slightly.

And seriously, the only reason I screamed is because someone stepped on my toe.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How the Gingrich Stole Christmas.

"Hey, Newt! Put on your helmet! You're going in for Cain!"

"Really? Really, Coach? Can I? Yes! Don't you remember, though? I'm not very athletic. I just help you think up plays. And I don't have a helmet because we couldn't find one big enough to fit my recess-ball-sized head."

"I don't care, Gingrich. We're out of subs, so get in there!"

Okay, enough with analogies originating from my football-soaked brain stem. Hard to believe, isn't it? It's finally Newt's turn as the leading Republican for the 2012 Presidential nomination. Wow.

First, Michele Bachmann tapped herself out of the running by confusing the potentially life-saving HPV vaccine as a sinister gateway drug to mental retardation. that I've really pondered this fact, I'm surprised that bug-eyed Stepford Wife didn't wholeheartedly support the vaccine.

After all, it could increase her voting base.

I know, I know. Cheap and insensitive. Couldn't resist.

Shortly after Bachmann stumbled through the political sliding glass door, Rick Perry rose to the top, but quickly shat himself by proving incapable of naming the three cabinet-level departments he'd vowed to eliminate. Oops.

What's the deal, Texas? Out of all the available talent in your expansive state, why do you only elect governors who, while vehemently opposing reproductive rights, believe that back in 1973, Roe vs. Wade fought just before Ali and Frazier?

It's painful to watch Perry attempt to drum up facts and figures. It's like his thoughts are Pong balls knocking around in his cavernous head while his eyes follow behind. Nice hair, though.

And then it was time for the former Chief Executive Officer of Godfather's Pizza, a product which actually broke my mom's tooth back in 1978, to bear the standard for the Grand Old Party.

Unfortunately, Herman Cain also choked on his chances by denying, despite daunting evidence to the contrary, how much extra pepperoni he'd personally delivered over the past twenty years.

I wonder if Herman was a thirty minutes or less guy.

Enter Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich, that terrier-faced, twice-adulterous, Muppet who just doesn't know when to say when. After losing key staffers and nearly imploding back in May, Gingrich has wrestled front-runner status from Mitt Romney, whose hat has been in the ring so long it's covered with John McCain's dandruff.

Newt's a different animal, however. He's an idea guy and he's not into tempering his thoughts prior to verbalizing them in his gurgling, pre-pubescent tenor.

Since he's got so much experience working with poor, non-white children, he's proposed a plan which could compel even Geoffrey Chaucer's rotting corpse to stand and applaud:

Gingrich, who firmly believes, in all his Caucasian splendor, that we each possess an equal shot at economic success and wealth, has proposed allowing under-aged minors to work as school custodians.

Since these kids obviously suffer in poverty due to their single mothers' lazy work ethics, what better way to teach the value of a buck than to hire twelve-year-old black kids to replace union janitors and throw scented cat litter over vomit at a fraction of the cost?

Win. Win.

More recently, Newt branded the Palestinians an "invented people." Before you feel sliced by sharp pudding lids of outrage, remember that Gingrich knows the definition of an invented person, since he's one himself.

His philandering past has been dumped into the compost bin and he's  re-invented himself as a humble, monogamous public servant. He has sought the Lord's forgiveness, the ultimate Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for cheating on two wives, even discussing divorce with his first wife as she lay in a hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery.

Anyway, yeah, Newt Gingrich is your guy right now, Republicans. What do you think? Are you going to support this schmuck?

Or will you wait to hear if God's going to vote for Obama again?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My non-encounter with a total bastard.

She shuffled into our small, galley kitchen as I concluded a ritual which has burned itself into my muscle memory after hundreds of times preparing her same on-the-go breakfast.

I noted that she had dressed herself for the day in her "baller" outfit: ponytail with a hair band to pull any strays back from the forehead, a sweatshirt, basketball shorts, black, midcalf-length socks and Adidas slides.

As I stuffed two pieces of bacon into a toasted English muffin and handed it over, she addressed me in her usual morning monotone. "Hey, Dad."

"Morning. Hey, I've been thinking about something lately. When are you and I going to play each other one-on-one again? Last time I beat you really easily."

"Dad, I was in fifth grade. That was six years ago. Just name the time and place and I'm so in."

"What's your point? I'm still taller than you."

"Umm, no. Actually you're not. Hey, Mom! Can you come here a second?"

My wife, having been dwarfed by our woman-child at least three years ago, entered the kitchen, thereby filling it to its maximum human capacity.

"Who's taller, me or Dad?"

"Stand back to back." Our heads butted and slid against one another as they competed for supremacy beneath my bride's steadying hand.

A brief moment of quiet and stillness. "She's got you by about a quarter of an inch," my wife chortled as she left the room.

"Ha! I knew it!" Her teenage smugness nearly fogged up the small window above the sink.

"No big deal," I lamely retorted. "I'm probably not done growing yet anyway, because my knees and ankles have been hurting lately. I think the growth plates are active and I could still top off at six-three or so."

Her familiar monotone returned. "Ha, ha, Dad. You're forty-nine."

Okay, so what if my sixteen-year-old daughter is taller than I am? I'm still her dad— probably. She's still my baby—just a really tall baby.

Those who've read even a few of my postings are aware that the my wife, younger daughter and I have spent countless hours in bleachers, folding camp chairs (with cup holders) and glitchy, sloppy mud, watching this kid play.

And I'm not complaining. It's a joy to witness this terrific young woman as she joyfully pursues her lifelong passion on a high school basketball court. Intellectually, I'm aware that these are fleeting moments, that they'll be no more than vapor in a few years.

But here's the thing: When that ball tips off, I become an unsheathed, inflamed nerve, a hypersensitive human father unit whose only function is preventing harm to my offspring or her teammates.

If my fervor somehow could embody a liquefied right-wing Christian theocratic tyrant, I would be stewing in Michele Bachmann juice.

The perfect storm of potential over-the-top fatherly fan behavior occurred last Wednesday, when my daughter's team traveled across town for a non-league contest against a storied opponent, one whose multiple championship banners hovered over the hardwood.

I arrived non-filtered—on my own—los lobos solo. Sitting halfway up in the middle of the stands, I maintained a decent decorum as the opponent surgically dismantled my daughter's squad. Hey, I surmised, it's not meant to be tonight. Such is life, so I'll sit back and enjoy watching my girl play, despite the bitter defeat at hand.

By halftime, the deficit was twenty-four points, and in my opinion, it was time for the opposing coach to call off the dogs.

Unfortunately, he believed otherwise, as the third quarter commenced with the same highly athletic line-up, the same full-court press, the same assault of three-point salvos.

The lead had ballooned to forty points by the end of the third, as had my spleen, slowly searing like a nice Ahi tuna. The opponents convened in a huddle, the coach joking and laughing with his dominators before sending, that's right, the same group out to continue the onslaught for the game's final quarter.

I was pissed. As my daughter's team struggled to push the ball even beyond the mid-court line, their slumped shoulders betrayed total defeat and complete humiliation. My eyes maintained a constant lock on the enemy coach.

And that's when he said it.

With a gluttonous grin still plastering his face, he barked to his players:

"Come on, you guys can play better than that. These guys are bums."

Huh? Seriously? Had he, a high school basketball coach, representing his school and its unparalleled record of academic and athletic esteem, actually just vocally branded his opponents as bums?

Red wasn't the color that filled my vision; it was more of a brownish maroon.

I wanted to hurt this man.

This bastard, in all his misplaced hubris, had just mortally disrespected my daughter's team and school. And I wanted to visit physical damage upon him.

My wife wasn't there. No one could stop me. Scenarios cascaded through my consciousness as my eyes maintained adhesion to the back of his head:

I could charge the court and get one good shot in before I'm pummeled by his assistants and arrested. Sure, my daughter would never speak to me again and I'd be banned from entering public schools for at least five years, but it may still be worth it.

I could confront him after the game, possibly leading to a physical altercation in which I would not be the beneficiary. Still possibly worthwhile to make my feelings known.

Finally, finally, the contest had mercifully ended, a forty-five point shellacking. Okay, I murmured. If you're going to do something awesome, you've got to do it now. Come on. Do it. Now!

Knock it off, I told myself. Pull yourself together. You're not going to perform either of those stunts. If this guy wants to be a punk, he's definitely been a punk before and he'll probably always be a punk regardless of any immature act you may try, so get over it and move on.

And I did get over it and move on...

...after returning home and emailing the school's athletic director and principal.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's butt crack time.

It wasn't just any weekend.

It was that weekend.

Tape, very small nails, electricity, butt heard me, but I'll get to that later.

After flirting last year with the notion of a prosthetic tree, my family and I opted to go the unnatural natural route, because, even though we wouldn't be purchasing our green friend from inside the hardware store, we'd decided to buy one out in the parking lot.

We also made the collective decision to nix one of those tree farm scams thirty miles outside of town, where you're compelled to drop fifty bucks for the five-minute privilege of sawing your own pre-sheered tree, loading it in the car and choking down a complimentary, yet chunky, cup of Swiss Miss and a broken sugar cookie prior to heading back to the city in a cramped, overheated Ford Ranger.

Nope. Not this time. The kids and I were finally on the same page. We unanimously agreed that the tree farm route was synonymous to vetoing the frozen turkey from Safeway for the honor of driving to the sticks, paying three times as much and killing the poor beast ourselves.

In other words, why mess with the gobbler when you can go right for the breast.

This time around, for as long as it takes to sing "Oh, Tannenbaum" between six and seven times, Dougie Fur, in all his deadness, had traveled to his final resting place.

Anyone who tells you that wedging a tree into its little green stand is easy, is either lying or reasonably competent, because by the time that tree stood upright in a water-filled basin, the only man sweating around his wife more than I was on Saturday was Herman Cain.

My daughters like to enter the picture after most of the heavy lifting has been completed; sort of like the dentist who cruises in after the hygienist has ruptured her S5 disk trying to chip the filth off your teeth, and pokes around for thirty seconds before slapping off his rubber gloves and charging you a couple of Benjamins.

Sorting quickly through everything with which they hadn't either held a personal connection or made, the kids decorated feverishly, until no space existed to place another ornament or pillow, snow globe or angel.

Once fully decorated, the living room assumed a festive, yet slightly disturbing ambiance. A delicate nativity scene, one in which stepfather Joseph was conspicuously absent, was dwarfed by its bookend neighbors, a giant Christmas penguin and a chillingly lifelike Saint Nick doll in a baseball outfit.

A large Santa head fabricated from half a Clorox bottle stared out from the wall, giving the house the feel of a home which had bagged itself a Christmas elf and proudly displayed the trophy.

Finally, after having completed the day's garnishments, the family relaxed together in a room lit solely by little white, green, red and blue lights while Dean Martin crooned a slurry verse of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on the old CD player.

"Hey, Dad, can you help me put up some lights in my room?" asked my sixteen year-old. I knew what she actually meant was, "Hey Dad, can you single-handedly put up lights in my room?"


"Thanks, Daddy." She knows I melt when she calls me that.

We rose from our seats, trailed by my eleven-year-old, and entered the minefield, the floor strewn with shoes and hairbands and hooded sweatshirts. I proceeded immediately to the task, as this would be the day's last demand upon my talents. Standing on a stool, my teenager handed up pieces of strapping tape, which we soon surmised would not affix the light string to her plaster walls.

I exited and returned with a hammer and nails. Quickly stringing the lights along the ceiling line, I hit a snag at the corner, as the string continually slipped out of its anchorage.

With each failure, I struggled against the urge to mutter profanities. After all, come on, it's Christmas, damnit.

After the fifth attempt, the string again slipped. "Shit!" Oops.

"Hey, Dad, I can see your butt crack," offered the teenager.

"Okay, do you want me to put down this hammer and this really small nail and this huge string of lights which is teetering on collapse and get down from this stool and pull up my pants? Huh? Is that what you want?"

No answer.

"Just look the other way or something."

I pounded. I taped. I failed. I pounded some more. I swore some more. I pounded. Finally, success.

"Dad, guess what?" This time it was my younger kid who had been steadily giggling while sitting on the bed.


The older one chimed in. "We filmed you on my phone."

"You filmed me? Are you serious?"


"You filmed the whole butt crack conversation, too?"


They erupted into throes of purple-faced hysterics, high fiving and rolling on the bed.

"That's pretty funny," I deadpanned. "That's clever. Nice work. Well, I'll tell you what. You might want to leave these lights up after Christmas...because I'm never doing this again!"

I gathered up my stool and tools and stumbled out of the room.

"Don't you want to watch it?" The laughter hadn't ebbed.

"It's okay. I'll save it for when you guys are grown up and not around to decorate anymore. It'll keep me from missing you."

Actually, I'm not sure it will.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Saudi Arabia Allows Women to Compete? You Guys Are the Best!

I'll just get to the point on this one, since it's so insulting on so many levels.

After never having allowed women membership on its country's Olympic team, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee has decided to finally allow females to compete.

Good news, no?

Well, not really. It's not like the Saudis woke up yesterday with a new found estrogen sensitivity. The kingdom was threatened with an International Olympic Committee ban if they proved unwilling to provide at least one woman athlete to this year's London summer games.

And that's precisely how many will be attending: one. Oh, and only if she trains outside the country's borders.

I'm telling you, if those guys weren't sitting on top of all that petroleum, they wouldn't be the cool kids and we wouldn't keep trying to sit at their lunch table.

It seems almost worse to allow a single woman to take part on the Saudi Olympic Team than none at all, simply because she then adopts the "token" label, which is rarely perceived favorably in our society.

Tokens are symbols of patronization; they're bones thrown to mollify the underthinking masses and offer up a least-common denominator.

Mitt Romney is the Republican Party's token handsome, commander-in-chief-looking candidate (who also just happens to believe that after Jesus died, he arose and road-tripped across North America. I'll believe that when someone digs up a black and red "JC '01 Fishers of Men Tour" t-shirt).

Besides Mitt, that GOP slate of candidates is stuffed with more tokens than a Donkey Kong machine at a Battlestar Gallactica convention, but let's not pry open that cat food can of crazy.

In some forums, tokens are necessary, and often welcome, like in sitcoms,  cartoons and politics where characters like Gilligan, Shaggy and Rick Perry portray token idiots. They're predictably unpredictable; their characters contribute tension and drama to any storyline.

Who can forget Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn's constantly high surfer dude in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? He's what made the film a classic, at least among my generation, through his stereotypical role as a token stoner (or, should we say "tokin'" stoner?) portrayal. Spicoli's relationship with Mr. Hand, the representative hard-ass teacher, drove the movie.

Other Hollywood small-screen tokens appear merely absurd when viewed through our contemporary prism of tolerance and social awareness. Otis, the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show, made audiences howl as he voluntarily stumbled into the city jail and passed out in the cell as Andy and Barney shook their heads.

Come on, what's funnier than a ruddy-nosed, stumbling alcoholic? Hello, Emmy Awards.

Linc, the only black guy on the 1970s hip cop show, The Mod Squad, muttered maybe one or two lines per show, but for the most part, the talking was left to the white folks. His job was to kick ass.

Pat Boone and the Osmonds were white people's safe, far less talented token answers to Little Richard and The Jackson 5. Hey, Michael Bolton and Kenny G, Pat and Donny called and they want some credit next time you crank out another awesome album.

Make no mistake, however. Saudi Arabia's lame gesture doesn't stand alone in contemporary society's recent history, either.

John Kerry, during his failed 2004 Presidential run, committed a cardinal sin, which I'm sure contributed to his eventual demise among East Coast voters and sandwich lovers.

During a campaign stop in Philadelphia, Kerry was handed a famous Pat's cheesesteak. Rather than biting into it as I would, by making it disappear into my gullet with more gusto than a Linda Lovelace movie, Kerry took a small nibble, barely encroaching on the cheesesteak's magical ingredients.

John Kerry, while running for our land's highest political office, had taken a token bite of a Pat's Cheesesteak.

I was appalled.

McDonald's offers salads as a token attempt at healthy food alternatives. I read somewhere that they've sold six of them since 2007.

Budweiser advises us to drink responsibly. In my opinion, drinking Budweiser is irresponsible.

And my final example is probably the most ill-advised token of all. It's the perfect example of an afterthought, of a stupid, pointless gimmick meant to pander to an entire gender:

The Trojan Condom: Ribbed, for her pleasure.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dads, let's face it—we're all over the map.

Throughout human history, our natural world, in all its beauty and complexity, has revealed some formidable bonds­—hot fudge to white Capri pants, Bubble Yum to freshly permed hair—and the fiercest adhesion of all...that of mother to her child.

The maternal instinct: Holy sweet mother. It’s universal, it’s absolute and it’s deadly.

Who doesn’t have a few inspiring tales of superhuman behaviors exhibited by his or her mom which defy explanation, logic and occasionally, gravity?

Most of us need search no further than our own moms’ exploits. As a child, were you ever subjected to having your chest sat upon by some cretin whose knees pinned chubby arms down, thereby rendering your entire face vulnerable to whatever torment the perpetrator considered amusing?

Usually, an older sibling supplied that torture, but such was not the case when my mother happened upon an older, bigger neighbor thug playing “dangle the loogie” over her youngest cub’s contorted, wind-bleached overbite. I think I was eight.

I’m still not sure how she heaved the hundred-twenty-pound chump off me, but in a matter of milliseconds my sternum had ceased masquerading as a shoe salesman stool.

I dragged my emancipated body up on one elbow in time to witness the back pockets of the bully’s Sears Tough Skins rapidly vaporizing on the horizon.  A baritone bark broke the neighborhood silence, and what sounded like a cross between James Earl Jones and a dryer buzzer bellowing threats of calling the fleeing perp’s parents—was actually my mother’s protective instincts put to music.

Obviously prepared for any contingency, she had apparently stashed a testosterone inhaler in her purse
right next to the little Kleenex packets.

I would definitely mess with Texas before messing with someone’s mother.

But how about dads?

Do fathers possess that hard wired circuitry which requires no thought, just reflex? Are they motivated forces other than fear of harm to their offspring?

Does human paternal instinct really exist?

It’s difficult to draw any conclusions based upon fatherly behavior in the animal kingdom, since it’s all over the spectrum. Many rodents, such as rats, lemmings, gerbils and marmots, routinely practice infanticide for a variety of reasons. Male lions, while not accustomed to snuffing their own offspring, frequently kill a rival’s cubs to eliminate any future competition and to force the mother back into heat.

Although universally considered taboo among Homo Sapiens, this behavior seems to occur at Chuck E. Cheese on any given Saturday.

Other furry fathers, however, put classically flawless dads like Ward Cleaver and Mike Brady to shame, utilizing extreme measures to exhibit their mad daddy skills.

The male marmoset acts as both a midwife and maid when Mrs./Ms. Marmoset bears new life. Not only does he bite through the umbilical cord, he also cleans up the birth area afterward. The only time I’ve heard of this type of behavior in human circles was reading about an organic birthing group here in West Seattle, where the newly christened dad must obtain a special vegan dispensation prior to severing any flesh between his under utilized canines. I believe they refer to themselves as “Placentists.”

Another formidable male baby advocate is the Emperor Penguin. Those of us who’ve seen that heart-tugging film, March of the Penguins, will recall how he gingerly stands stationary for two frigid months, forgoing food and warmth to nestle his newly laid eggs in his “brooding pouch”, while the female returns to sea to replenish exhausted nutrients. 

For God sakes. I have friends who whine like Kim Kardashian when their wives leave with the girls for a long scrap booking weekend.

On the surface, we human males appear so simple. As children, most boys engage in games of conquest and dominance over a weaker enemy; definitely lion-type behaviors. I can recall playing “Star Trek” on the playground as a corpulent third grader. After the alpha males had claimed the plum roles (Spock and Kirk), I felt fortunate to be awarded a part as Sulu or Chekov, and not one of the nameless, red-turtlenecked crewmen who are killed by huge-headed humanoids within the first seven minutes.

We weren’t nurturers, not by a long shot. We blew up stuff and scoffed at the ridiculous rituals in which our female counterparts partook across the playground. They reveled in their positions of privilege within traditional Cold War family units, staying at home and tending to two or three idyllic children each, sitting at chrome and Formica kitchen tables, smoking cigarettes and drinking Manhattans while waiting for their husbands to return home from high paying jobs at Boeing.

We guys didn’t transcend the lion phase for quite some time. Sure, we eventually evolved into slightly tamer cats who understood the necessity to nurture relationships in the event that we desired encounters which lasted longer than a half-hour futon dance followed by a dark, rainy walk of shame.

Once we’d refined our behaviors enough to secure a mate, we summoned, at minimum, the fortitude to hang the “Yes, We’re Open for Fatherly Feelings” sign on the outside of our emotional front doors.

Then came the “We’re not trying to get pregnant, but if it happens, it happens” phase. No big deal, we rationalized. This could take a really long time, and I am still king of my own jungle…who takes out garbage and other helpful stuff.

A month later, we saw the stick. It was blue. A few weeks after that, we checked out the ultrasound. After squinting and turning it slightly north northwest, we saw the first crude imagery of our babies.

The lion, as if gunned down by a dart from the Stork’s tranquillizer gun collapsed into a bottomless slumber as a gentle creature waddled around his massive form to assume the shift.

At least that’s how it went for me: Lion to penguin. Dude to dad.

After my bloodshot eyes focused on that beautiful little girl, the world shifted on its axis. I emerged from the hospital as Super Penguin, eventually becoming so hyper nurturing that the phrase “Choosy Mothers Choose Jif” mortally offended me because it didn’t address fathers. I resolved that, once our fifty-five gallon drum of Costco Jif  ran out in six years, this choosy dad would choose Skippy.

I read a number of books on establishing bonds with your newborn, and again, took things to the extreme. After spending an entire day with my daughter nestled into a cheap, powder blue front pack, I finally extracted her to discover my baby with her usually wispy hair caked in sweat and pasted to her steamy cranium.

Is it cool for babies to sweat? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

My penguin behavior waned and mellowed slightly as I grew accustomed to my role as a father, and by the time my girl reached middle school, I felt prepared to face the challenges of parenting a tweener. 

Then the paradigm shifted…again. I vividly recall the day, sometime during her first week of sixth grade, when she explained all the food choices in the expansive middle school cafeteria.

I  won’t call this a flashback, but, okay, I had a total flashback. It was something I heard in the junior high lunch line which forever altered the lenses through which I viewed reality. Two male ninth graders stood in front of me as we queued up for a couple healthy scoops of soy burger gravy over mashed potato buds. My ears perked up upon hearing them mention the name of one of my classmates (I’ll call her Stacy.) Here’s the gist of it:

First ninth grader: Hey, man, do you know that Sevvy (seventh grader), Stacy Fergus?

Second ninth grader: No, but I’ve  heard she has a nice ass.

I turned inward, processing that term: nice ass. How can he say something like that about someone’s butt? Hmm. Hey, hang on a second. Just one minute, now. ..they do. Girls’ butts do look nice. Oh. My. God.  This is fantastic. This is super cool. Girls butts are nice. They look really, really good! Yes!

Snapping abruptly back from 1975, I realized that my daughter would now be encountering guys like I was then, guys who’s minds were setting course for a strange new land of female physical appreciation.

Adolescent lion cubs.

And just like that, just as I felt that powerful synergy, that oneness with my paternal instincts, my world listed on its side and dumped the contents of my contentment into the roiling seas of uncertainty—again.

Maybe it’s time to crossbreed a few of my internal animals. Perhaps if I can meld the nurturing vigilance of the Emperor Penguin with the fierce resolve of the lion and the tireless work ethic of the marmoset, I will never again need to switch things up midstream.

I’ve got to draw the line at the male sea horse, however, despite my wife’s hearty endorsement.

He gives birth to his young.

Monday, November 28, 2011

More wine? But of course.

Ahhhh...the old weekend getaway.

Can't come soon enough, then it passes too quickly.

My wife and I (Shall I call her "Ms. Shallow Pond?" Nope.) get some time away about as often as Rick Perry says, "Gull durn it, maybe I am dumber than an Easter basket full of skin tags," so it was really nice to venture out to La Conner, Washington Saturday.

Nestled among the Skagit Valley's muddy, yet organically fragrant tulip fields, La Conner offers everything a stereotypical Northwest couple desires, regardless of sexual orientation. If you fancy high-waisted denim, antiquing (used as a verb) and enough Gortex to withstand temperatures between forty and forty-five degrees, this hamlet can be your adult bouncy house.

The trip was arranged by my wife as a gift for my birthday last August. She purchased a package through the patron saint of one-offs, Groupon, for one night's stay, a bucket o' champagne, a "couple's massage," a wine and cheese reception and continental breakfast in the morning.

Pretty decent, no?

We arrived with little time to spare prior to our scheduled couple's massage. I'm not going to lie; since it hadn't yet been explained to me, this term could have encompassed any number of activities:

1) Is the couple required to hold hands or maintain contact between any other body parts to stay true to the massage's definition?

2) Does one masseuse masterfully work on two people simultaneously, like a musculoskeletal Keith Moon?

3) Is the couple merely given a five-minute tutorial and left alone in a wicker hammock, holding half a tub of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" and a remote? "You can start Blue Lagoon: The Director's Cut any time you folks are ready. Bye now," she says as her butt length braid disappears out the curtained French door.

I hadn't the answers. Soon enough, however, we each were comfortably embedded in separate massage tables, attended by our own masters of relaxation. Even as I type this, not until tomorrow afternoon will my gluteal muscles attain their original clinched state.

Afterward, we poured ourselves downstairs to the lobby for the wine and cheese reception. Free events such as these tend to assume an Eastern Block vibe with an air of desperation. Although no one spoke, I could read on each person's face his or her desire to consume as much free cheap-ish wine and stale-ish crackers before the 7 PM cut-off as their gullets could hold.

My bride and I fared well.

We ambled across the street to a brew pub to actually pay for some dinner, sat at the bar and met some interesting locals, one of whom played quarterback for the University of Mississippi during the 1970s. I'm afraid that's two less quality hours my wife and I will have spent together when it's all tallied up.

And I know this sounds weird, but I got his phone number.

We returned to our room, collapsed onto the king-sized bed and awoke the next morning to the sound of flushing toilets and wheeled suitcases overhead. Dread not, however. A continental breakfast awaited, and it, too...was absolutely free.

Again, we entered a room where people behaved as if the complimentary fare could be removed without notice, and the food, while quite decent, had similar Eastern Block-type attributes to the wine and cheese soiree.

The kiwi slices still contained skin and no one knew how to eat them. Some tried; all failed. Stacks of ham and cheese filled a plate. After taking a few slices, I realized the only bread with which to eat them was pumpkin spice.

As we drove back to Seattle through a driving rainstorm, we vowed to spend more time together—you know, more date nights. Sometimes, we forget what life was like before two powerful life forces entered our universe and dared us to make a go of it.

And although we do lose track frequently, it does appear that...we're making a good go of it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Best friends forever.

Okay, let's see...three things left...yogurt, light cream cheese and...damnit! Kidney beans! Shit.

Memphis prided himself on zero percent backtracking at the grocery store. He knew the establishment like the front of his hand; Whole Foods was indeed his bitch and he loathed swimming back upstream after knocking off the shopping list with maximum obtainable efficiency.

Twirling the cart in a one-eighty, Memphis opted to utilize the wasted time by fishing out his club card. His Fossil tri-fold wallet was immaculately organized, with one sector devoted only to memberships--ACLU, Whole Foods, blood center. The desired color peeked out for easy thumb-swipe access.

He'd picked a squeaky cart, but ignored the wheels' noise as he glazingly gazed ahead. Almost to the Latin food aisle.


Memphis' head jerked a bit too harshly toward the voice. He didn't often hear his Christian moniker voiced in the grocery store.

"Yes? Hello. Hi."

"It's me, Jordan.  Remember? Your best friend until fifth grade? And then I moved to Montana?"

"Oh, Oh, my God. I'm so sorry. Of course I remember you, Jordy. How are you? You've...changed."

"Yes, I certainly have, but then, haven't we all?"

"This is true. How the heck to you end up back here?"

"Well, things didn't go so well after I moved out to Bozeman. I won't bore you with all the details. Let's just say I really wanted to come back to a place where the memories weren't of bullies and bad choices know...just overall confusion. It didn't help matters that you and I had been as tight as two boys could have been, and then, instantly, I had no one.

"I have to tell you, though, Memphis. It's as if the Fates have brought us together here, because I've only been back for a couple of weeks and you were number one on my list of people to call."


"No bullshit, man. You  taught me some really important lessons at an impressionable time. Memph, if it weren't for you, I wouldn't have learned how to throw a tight Nerf spiral. Seriously, though, you probably won't believe this, but I might not be here talking to you or anybody else if it weren't for some discussions you and I had in our secret treehouse."

"It's just so shocking to see you...after so long." Memphis shifted slightly toward the bulk foods row.

"I know, and as you can see, I've had some work done."

"I never would have noticed."

"Bullshit, man. But that's cool. Hey listen, let's get together for a drink some night. I really don't know any people in this town and those who I do...I really have no interest in awkward small talk with them. How does your Friday look?"

"Umm...not...good. I know I've got something with the kids, but I can't remember exactly what."

"How about Saturday? I'm free all day."

Memphis' forehead crinkled. "Oh, uh, geez. I've got to install one of those doors for cats that swing and they're part of the door."

"A cat door?"


"Okay, I'll tell you what." It appeared instantly in Jordan's hand. Here's my card. Call me when you're available and we'll catch up. So, can I at least have a hug?"

"Umm, oh, I can't. I've got that crud that's going around. You take care, though okay?"

"Okay, you, too." Jordan's face, betraying her new found wisdom, cast a waxy smile as she pivoted her black, A-line skirted hips and slowly retreated from Memphis' view.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Becoming your best you: another gym story

It's not lost on me that that my cozy, little corner of the blogosphere regularly dishes out a heapin' helpin' of yarns about my experiences at the gym.

Most don't contain subject matter you'd want to peruse while prying off the plastic lid to enjoy the hell out of the magical combo of corn, gravy and bacon in your KFC Famous Bowl.

But I think I've finally discovered why I talk about the gym so much. That welcoming little sweat box, affectionately known as the Fauntleroy YMCA, provides the genesis of nearly every workday.

It's a springboard to the next sixteen hours, and it can either unfold painfully, like Greg Louganis in the 1988 Summer Olympics:

Or in triumph, with Rodney Dangerfield's seemingly impossible "Triple Lindy":

Regardless of the outcome, either is magnified when operating during the fragile morning hours of 5:30 to 6:30. For example, my workout yesterday proceeded uneventfully; I worked up a nice lather on the nice cardio machine, not the one that hasn't been cleaned for so long that the its structure is seasoned with the granular residue a thousand sweaters, and I don't mean the kind Bill Cosby wore.

The lady who sings while rowing was wonderfully absent, as well.

And most favorably, the soap dispensers in the shower area were loaded to the brim with blue, gooey goodness, thereby eliminating the need to traipse my dripping nakedness to the carpeted sink area. As great as I know I look, no one wants to see a nude, wet and irritated man in the mirror while loading his toothbrush with tartar whitening baking soda peroxide triple protection Aqua Fresh, now with tooth straightener.

So, yeah, none of that stuff happened.

However, after toweling off and commencing the process of transforming myself into a presentable human, I discovered that I had packed two pairs of underwear...and no socks.

On occasion, I've also done the opposite, with two sock rolls accompanied by no underwear. Both are embarrassing.

These oversights are not "I-just-locked-my-keys-in-my-car" embarrassing, or "I-just-slammed-my-shin-against-a-fire-hydrant" painful. In those instances you roll out your Howitzer gun of profanities and fire them off them without regard to whom they may strike:

"M*#%^r f%*&ing son of a b*tch! I am such an idiot. I deserve to be struck with surgical precision by a top secret bomb which kills only stupid people and leaves buildings and the intelligent intact."

No, forgetting socks or underwear merely requires a small firearm of vulgarity, like "Forgodsakes" or "Shit. Why are you such a stupid f*(k stick?" and they're often inaudibly muttered.

You just have to ensure that no one sees you pull on your pants commando style, since it makes you look like you're headed to film a porno scene at the West Seattle Motor Inn. And people will judge your hygienic practices from that moment forward, should they witness your shoes laced over bare feet.

After returning home and rectifying any wardrobe missteps, I try not to project such blundering behavior onto the day which lies ahead. A quick affirmation in the mirror, a la Stuart Smalley, and it's time to roll.

My sixteen-year-old daughter once volunteered some unsolicited, yet sage advice regarding dressing for success. She stated that she always tries to look the best on Mondays and Fridays.

She wants everyone to enter the weekend remembering how good she looked on Friday, then she has to look awesome on Monday in case they'd forgotten.

I'll settle for underwear and socks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You people disgust me. Any good deals?

My biggest fear in writing this post is apprehension toward being construed as a hypocrite.

Perish the thought of getting myself clumped in with other colossal two-faced charlatans, like the meth-snorting Pentecostal preacher who seemed to think he could exorcise the gay out of himself by confessing how Daddy didn't toss the Nerf football around enough during his formative years, and hence Satan and his alluring penis flytrap club swallowed him whole.

Of course, a solid six-week course later, he was cured. And just to prove it, he harbored no qualms about moving the Top Gun poster from the bedroom ceiling to the bathroom wall right in front of the toilet.

So, yeah, please keep in mind that I don't want to come across as a super-sized hypocrite when writing about today's subject: Christmas shopping. With Black Friday approaching, this whole conspicuous consumption fiasco just keeps worsening.

It's a beast which must continually be fed larger and larger animals to maintain its expanding girth. At first, rodents suffice, but before long, Mom and Dad must lie to little Johnny that his wonderful Golden Retriever, Mark, has been sent to a farm where he'll be much happier.

But we know where Mark really went.

It's also similar to when you arrive at the Mexican restaurant starving out of your gourd and immediately commence stuffing yourself with chips and salsa. After a three-second respite to catch your breath, you realize that the salsa is so spicy that you're drooling tonsil sweat, and must therefore maintain consuming the liquid inferno to avoid mortal agony.

You're then lucky to finish a third of your enchilada platter.

Enough with the similes. I think you'd agree that the Christmas advertising onslaught ensues earlier each fall. Wal-Mart, ever the trailblazer in ethical retail practices, actually published a listing of its "door buster" items barely a couple of days after the kids had separated their Halloween candy between the good stuff and what's probably still sitting in a plastic bowl in a corner of your kitchen (Smarties, trail mix, definitely raisins).

Wal-Mart, as inherently evil as it is, employs highly effective marketing strategies to maximize profits during the holiday season. Taking a page out of the Jerry Springer manual, where Donnie Ralph is already so fired up before he goes onstage, he's pissed even before he finds out his sister's baby isn't his, the Wal-Mart shoppers are equally as worked up before the sun has risen and their oyster stuffing has fully digested.

And this is where my hypocritical nature enters the scene.

I love getting ridiculous stuff for Christmas. I don't care if it's something I don't need or never wear, like a t-shirt that says "I'm With Stupid" and the finger points to my crotch. Hopefully, no one had to stomp on an elderly lady's one remaining kidney to acquire that last extra large, but boy, will I enjoy opening it and slipping it on before watching "A Christmas Story."

Do I need anything, anything that exists on God's brown earth, for Christmas? Heck, no. Not by a long shot.

Maybe if a home liposuction kit or DVD of my greatest high school sports moments suddenly populates the shelves, I'll mount Saint Nick's lap and beg like a yippy Pomeranian, but otherwise, I think I'm good.

Let's just have a good time, watch all the great old Christmas specials and dig in to those Triscuits, cheese logs and Frangos. That's what it's really all about, right?

Well, there are some funny doormats out there, too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The other ninety-nine percent: Here's to the sexy un-sexy.

It's quite a title, isn't it? The Sexiest Man Alive!

Wow, that’s a lot to live up to, especially if you’re Bradley Cooper, who’s been selected by People Weekly as the hunkiest hunk of hunkiness to hunker in the annals of hunkdomy, at least this year. Other winners have included Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, George Clooney, Danny DeVito and Brad Pitt.

Just making sure you’re paying attention.

After seeing these actors’ flawless mugs grace the covers of People year after year after year, can’t People’s editors branch out just a little? Our planet harbors roughly three-and-a-half-billion males—that’s even more dudes than when there’s a sale on Skittles at Target—so can’t these deep-pocketed tunnel visionaries look outside the thespian world for once?

I’ll bet dollars to donuts that some carpenter exists in Bangladesh who can easily substitute his abs for a nail gun. Or maybe a bricklayer in Moldova whose nickname is “the bricklayer.”

Let’s face it—sexy men abound. Do we all need to resemble Leif Garrett in his pre-heroin days or James Dean in his pre-headless days to be considered sexy? I sure as Harry Hamlin hope not.

Look at Sully Sullivan, the captain who landed his jetliner on the Hudson River with the cool and calm of a thousand Arthur Fonzarellis, thereby saving hundreds of lives? Let me tell you, he’s no Redford, but I was ready to play stewardess, place his seat in its fully reclined position and hand him some salty nuts after hearing about his extreme act of heroism.

And how about the bus driver I witnessed, who resembled Fred Flintstone more than any actual human, all the way down to one finger missing from each hand, as he sprinted out of his coach to run down a passenger and hand her the purse she left on board?

I realize I’m only mentioning guys due to the ridiculous context of “Sexiest Man Alive,” but sexy women also line the planet like  a gravel road to an Appalachian meth lab. To conclude my post, here’s my list of sexy women who may not be on most radar, yet still possess an “it” factor:

Tina Fey
Queen Latifah
Betty Rubble
A woman I saw at Safeway buying mushrooms
Janeane Garofalo
America Ferrera
Susan Sarandon

As I’ve stated in previous posts, I’ve got a thing for funny and smart women, so the list also includes my wife, who, if asked, wouldn’t consider herself a classic beauty, but actually is.

My co-workers and I joked about creating a calendar entitled, “The Men of ********* “(our company’s name). It’s not such a far fetched idea, especially since we elevate these celebrities to such iconic status, why shouldn’t we celebrate each other? I say yes to the everyday sexy beast who resides in all of us. I’ll volunteer for any month with thirty-one days.

But I’m not taking off my shirt.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cain and Perry rise again.

The following conversation, between Republican Presidential candidates Herman Cain and Rick Perry,  was overheard and recorded in the elevator of the Omaha Four Seasons Marriott:

Perry: Herman, my man! How you doin', brother? 

Cain: Well, hello, Rick. It's interesting that I'm the only guy you've ever called brother, including your brother, but anyway, Herman's been better, you know?
Perry: I hear you there, bro. We just can't seem to catch a break, can we? Things just seem to happen in threes, don't they? First it's all that hubbub about those ladies you felt up. Then I get lambasted for being ill-informed and forgetful. and then...that third thing...well, hell, something else happened.
Cain:  You bet something else happened. I choked up a lung trying to fake my way through the Libyan situation. It didn't work, so Herman's going to have his campaign chairman, you know, the smoking guy, mail out coupons for five percent off a Godfather's dessert pizza. Each pie will have "Yes We Cain" spelled out in candy canes. Not a bad idea coming from a guy with twelve percent lung capacity, eh?
Perry: Yep, that's brilliant, brother. I love your pizza, and I've always wanted to try one with three toppings, but I've always forgotten the third one, panicked and ordered Copenhagen.
Cain:  Rick, do you honestly think we've got a shot at this thing, after the mistakes we've made?
Perry: Hell, yes, brother. We're still ahead of Bachmann,. Good lord, she's such a freak, she thinks it's a sin to put her hand up her own skirt. We're kicking Santorum's ass, mostly because he can only afford to advertise in the Little Nickels, and Gingrich seems to know his stuff, but all it takes is for America to visualize him once with his shirt off and those white, wiry hairs orbiting that heretofore unknown third octagonal nipple, and it's all over.

Oh, yeah, there's also Ron Paul. We can't have someone named "President Paul"—it sounds too much like "Coach Jerry."
Cain:  Good points, Rick. Herman really does feel better now. How can we beat Romney though?
Perry: That's not going to be easy, brother. He's polished, smart for a conservative and wears really warm underwear. I think our best strategy may be to ask him to name three lines from Spinal Tap. America loves that movie, and if he's not  up to the task, he'll be pulling up the rear with Huntsman.
Cain:  Great idea. But I can only think of one line from it.
Perry:: No problem. We'll put our heads together. As you know, brother, two is my limit.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where's the party?

I think I must be missing something.

Maybe it's my advancing age. Maybe I'm one of  those outlying planets, like Uranus or Pluto, which orbits so far from the sun that it takes fifteen years to find out what happened last Thursday.

I suppose I'm a little sensitive because I work in fashion advertising, and in order to rake in the green, we must peddle the black, in the form of little black holiday dresses. Or medium black or plus size black. Whatever your size, you'll step out in style this season.

Okay, that was weird and annoying. Sorry.

My employer is also fervently pushing men's tuxedos because, apparently, we're now kicking off the biggest party season of the year, bigger than a slate of all-new Kardashian episodes. That's fantastic; I love parties. I'm a "my-red-plastic-cup-runneth-over," party aficionado.

The thing is, I currently don't, nor have I ever, worn a tux to anything but weddings and proms, and it's been so long that none were black. Where are all these black tie galas? Who are these people? Am I merely an insignificant, jean-and t-shirt clad island in a sea of dashing partygoers filled with Carringtons, Ewings and Bond, James Bond?

Actually, I couldn't care less about dressing up that fancily for an evening of patent leather follies. I'm a low maintenance reveler, whose party modus operandi has evolved slightly, yet not changed all that much.

Like most of us, the only parties I attended as a school-aged kid were birthday affairs where all activities were scheduled to culminate with the grand cake and present-opening ritual. After indulging in a few games or maybe eating some bad pizza, it was time for the birthday boy to get his.

I prided myself on consistently hugging the guest of honor to grow an inch. Pinches are mean and can bruise. Plus, I used to get spanked for pinching.

High school parties differed widely from the structured, adult-sanctioned kiddie bashes. No agenda was necessary when forty people gathered by a river, a keg of Rainier in the bed of some dude named Lonnie's Mazda pickup. The only certainty was a makeout session between two random folks who would deny the entire episode at school on Monday.

I prided myself on consistently hugging Lonnie, or whomever facilitated the event. Chipping in a couple of bucks for the keg seemed so shallow and impersonal.

I believe the word "college" is Latin for "It's noon somewhere." The party concept rose to art form status during those four (or five, in my case) years of higher achievement. We wore togas, asked girls their majors at least seven hundred times and learned to drink beer out of receptacles normally reserved for lifting and separating.

I prided myself on consistently hugging the person at the party who looked the saddest. Despite my good intentions, let's just say the emotion no longer betrayed sadness following my embrace.

As an adult finally free of academic constraints, the parties I attended still enjoyed a collegiate atmosphere, yet with an an added air of sophistication. After all, malt liquor had replaced beer as the beverage of choice. Frequently, the guests would stuff themselves into the kitchen to maintain close proximity to the liquid refreshments, leaving the main room virtually vacant, other than really tired people who lay face down on the living room futon.

At these homey events, I prided myself on consistently walking down the dark hallway, opening the door, turning on the light and hugging whichever couple had chosen the coat-piled bed as a good place to vigorously nap.

We don't even call them parties anymore. We're all pushing fifty and they're not referred to as "get-togethers" or "barbecues," certainly not formal soirees where cumberbuns and bow ties, silk pashminas and strappy heels spackle the room. It's usually a small group of friends, some wine and nice chairs with lumbar support.

I pride myself on hugging everyone in attendance. And most of these people finally know me so well that, by golly, they usually hug me back.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some thoughts on the worst act imaginable.

Most of my stories are attempts at pointing out the silliness, the absurdity, of the human condition; my usual goal is to amuse and hopefully make you chuckle a bit.

This is not one of those posts.

We've all witnessed events in which we are required to make moral decisions. I suppose that's why we're referred to as adults. And our actions in response to these decisions, when examined in the aggregate, plot a highly accurate map of our character.

These behaviors can be as seemingly inconsequential as yelling for the driver to stop the bus while an approaching commuter sprints up from the rear, or as serious as confronting a drunken fraternity brother before he can further force himself onto an unwilling and distressed girl.

Sometimes we do act. Others, we're left feeling the punctures of those emotional daggers, materializing themselves into phrases like, "I should have said something. I should have called someone. I should have done something."

By now, most of us have familiarized ourselves with the chilling events surrounding the Penn State football program. Long time assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, has been  charged with forty counts of child sexual abuse which allegedly occurred over a fifteen-year period.

His victims purportedly were young boys whom Sandusky had met in his capacity as founder of Second Mile, a charity dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families. Now sixty-seven, Sandusky has pleaded innocent to all charges, despite some damning eyewitness accounts of his crimes.

Most notable among the first-hand narratives was the testimony of a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, who, during March of 2002, had stopped by the Penn State locker room during the later evening to drop off some gym shoes. Alerted by sounds emanating from the shower area at such an odd hour, McQueary discovered a naked Sandusky raping a boy who appeared to have been around ten years old.

What did the twenty-eight-year-old McQueary do upon uncovering such a horrific scene? Did the former record-setting Penn State quarterback physically intervene to remove the child from harm's way? Did he immediately notify campus police? Did he even ask Sandusky what the hell was going on?

No, no and no. He walked away.

Mike McQueary left the locker room and notified his father. Did the elder McQueary advise his son to promptly contact authorities or, at the very minimum, head football coach Joe Paterno?

Again, no. McQueary, the younger, informed his coach the following morning. Paterno, the revered eighty-four-year-old Nittany Lion King, passed along the information to his athletic director, Tim Curley, and proceeded to cleanse his arthritic hands of the unsavory information.

Oh, yes, and then Curley, with frenzied abandon...also did nothing.

According to my calculations, at this point in 2002, four employees who possess knowledge of the sexual abuse of a child, and who are lawfully mandated to report said knowledge, had done nothing to alert law enforcement. They likely discussed it among themselves and probably either railed to each other about Sandusky's abhorrent behavior or conveniently rationalized it to protect the program.

Yet zero times four continues to equal zero.

Nearly ten years and countless additional victims later, the ball has finally dropped...on a man staring at seventy years old, who may serve at best ten percent of his life in prison. Such cold comfort.

I'd like to relate an experience which occurred in February of 2009. Since I share a sizable chunk of my life in this forum, I've occasionally been tempted to discuss it, since it godsmacked my existence to the marrow, but the time never felt right...until now.

I served as Juror Number One in the trial of a man accused of one count of first degree rape of a five-year-old girl, in addition to three counts of child molestation and seven counts of possession of child pornography.

If I could describe this three-work ordeal in one word, it would be "damage"—profound damage to the sweetest little girl you can imagine (who was the same age as my younger daughter), damage to victim's family, the accused's family and damage to judge, jury and everyone in the courtroom.

"Trial" is another apt word. I can't and won't describe the levels of depravity to which that child was subjected or the images and testimony which caused illness for some and tears for many.

I'm sure the trial didn't end for most of us after the gavel slammed down a verdict of guilty on all counts. Nearly three years later, I still think about it every day. For the first year, I had dreams...lots of them. But I can't wrap my brain around the permanent emotional trauma suffered by the young victim, how she will search for the pieces of a lost innocence and attempt to place them where they once fit together perfectly.

They're our children. Nothing is more precious. Nothing.

These predators are not shadowy figures who lurk behind the laurel hedge. They are our friends and relatives, our teachers and clergy.

Do the right thing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Delusions of fandeur

The term "fan" is an abbreviation, one which derives from the polysyllabic word, "fanatic."

How accurate, indeed. Fans truly are fanatics. As such, I really don't consider those who share passing fancies for particular artists or teams fans. They're fanciers.

And to insert the crazy peg into a higher notch, sports fans are people who harbor irrational, emotional, indescribable loyalty and admiration for other people and groups they usually don't, and likely will never, know. Fans project a group's successes and failures as extensions of their own lives, even though the fan influences a contest's outcome equally to a three-year-old toddler in Uzbekistan.

Sound like the behavior of a delusional miscreant? Does to me. It sounds downright nuttier than a box of ice cream drumsticks with those delicious chocolate plugs as the sugar cone's crunchy swan song.

Sorry. Anyway, yes, these people are crazy...and I'm one of them.

It always begins with the color purple. Oh, no, not that movie featuring a young lazy-eyed Oprah in her acting debut, I'm talking about the actual color. Once my head pops through the neck hole of any apparel which happens to include the combination of purple and the single letter, "W," a slightly altered mindset occupies the wild-haired noggin which emerges.

At that point, I have become a University of Washington Husky fan. My team has become "we." Everyone else would be "they." If I'm walking through Target clad in the Husky splendor of a t-shirt or baseball cap, I can spot the wearer of a WSU hoodie from the far end of the lunch meat aisle. I'll assert my superiority over the Cougar merely by scooping up two packets of Buddig chipped beef to his one.

He is obviously humiliated. I then return home with two envelopes of meat and not the coconut shampoo I had been directed to purchase.

Saturday night, my fanaticism reached a fever apex when the University of Washington football squad hosted the sixth ranked Oregon Ducks, a team Washington has squared off against ninety-six times. The night's contest would be the last game held at ninety-one-year-old Husky Stadium prior to a two hundred fifty million dollar renovation which will render the site unusable until 2013.

My brother and I, Huskies both, delivered ourselves into the center of the tempest, an expansive tailgating area outside Husky Stadium, awash in a sea of purple with specks of diseased green and yellow. Of all available colors, Oregon had apparently long ago chosen hues to represent renal failure and profound sepsis.

The UW still maintains a sizable advantage in all-time wins, although they have not beaten the Ducks since 2003, an era when Nike founder and child labor superhero, Phil Knight, decided to inject Oregon's football program with so much cash, he's allowed to shower with the players.

With the Big Swoosh as the program's benefactor, the Ducks have branded themselves by never donning the same uniforms twice in a season. Their helmets alone have been painted black, yellow, grey and about seven different shades of green. And all are as attractive as what you might see produced by the morning's first nose blow.

Oh, and by the way, none of the U of O players attended high school in the state of Oregon. Hmmm.

After a highly enjoyable day of walking around campus, reminiscing and tailgating with old friends, we strolled the half mile for the main event at the stadium. The air was electric and the hot dogs were bad, and the only slight hiccup of a fantastic experience was Nike's 34-17 victory over the good guys.

That's how fans talk sometimes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gambling advice for the inexperienced.

There's no debate; times are tough.

Unemployment is teetering on ten percent, income disparity has expanded to levels unseen since the nineteenth century's Gilded Age and the American economy is dipping her toes into a second, frigid recessional pool.

Oh, and one other thing: Vegas is suffering—big time.

I know, I know. And I'm sorry to add to your worries, but someone's got to stand up for that little wide spot in Nevada's Interstate 15 commonly known as "Sin City."

And it's not Vegas's fault, either. The lockout instituted by the National Basketball Association, which now has extended into the season's inaugural two weeks, is causing the MGM to feel less than grand.

According to USA Today, the city's sports books are due to experience a fifteen to eighteen percent reduction in betting action due to the labor impasse between the human redwoods and the human deadwoods. That’s a lot of cash.

So many parties are inflicting so much pain on each other here, it’s like Thanksgiving at the Lohans.' The millionaire players refuse to acquiesce on a fifty-fifty split of revenue and, before too long, will be scrambling to scrape together payments their for Maseratis, masseuses and mistresses. And XBox upgrades? Out of the question.

Stay strong, players. Although I’m not standing in your size seventeen shoes, I can only imagine your hardship.

The teams’ owners are also in a tough spot, and I wish them godspeed during this arduous journey. After securing sweetheart deals to build and maintain their teams’ arenas at public expense while reaping all proceeds, these benevolent patriarchs have discovered that they’re paying the players too highly. Profits aren’t at an acceptable level and expenses must be reined in.

Our local and state governments reached this epiphany about overpaid teachers long ago, and Lord knows their houses are in order.

But I digress. Let’s address those members of the suffering masses who are truly reeling from the NBA lockout— the casino sports gambling operations.  Have you ever visited a sports book? I have, once.

Last winter, during my family’s wholesome Las Vegas vacation, my wife and daughters dropped me off at Mandalay Bay to place a couple of wagers while they visited some super duper outlet mall. Apparently, not a lot of sports betting happens on Thursday afternoons in late February. I nervously approached the long, narrow desk, fully lined with idle bet takers. They stood in an expansive row below a massive wall of digital match-ups, odds and live feeds of sporting events.

Since all were available and I wasn’t sure how to proceed, I chose the friendliest looking employee— a shorter, youngish woman in a white blouse and maroon vest.

“Hi.” I waited for a reply. Nothing. “I’d like to put five dollars on Duke to win the national championship of college basketball.”

What the hell? When had I started talking like this? I sounded like an eight-year-old who was too smart to communicate with people and insisted on wearing his favorite shirt every day.

She glared at me like she had a long hair stuck to the back of her tongue and was unable to snag it. “I’m sorry, sir. The minimum bet is ten dollars.”

“Oh, okay,” Thinkofsomethingfunny, thinkofsomethingfunny. That’s how my brain works when I’m uncomfortable.

“Okay, ten dollars, then. I hope the Blue Devils are worth that much green.”

My face immediately flushed as the public address announcer in my mind spoke. “You, sir, are a massive idiot. Stop talking forever. I mean it. Never talk again.”

I thanked her, collected my ticket and disappeared into the cavernous casino. Briefly glancing back from a safe distance, I absorbed the perfectly spaced line of gambling attendants, staring ahead as before...

...with the exception of one, who ever so subtly shook her head.