Monday, January 31, 2011

She died thirteen years ago today.

She looks a little tired, doesn't she? She was about thirty years old in this picture, taken sometime during 1964.

My mom, Peggy Haywood, passed away thirteen years ago today. That's me she's holding.

She always told me that the baby in Irish families is treated just a bit differently, and I suppose that's true, since my brother is a convicted arsonist, my sister recently served time for grifting senior citizens out of social security checks and I have done absolutely nothing illegalish.

Oh, you know I'm kidding, Tom and Ann. By the way, Ann, Colonel Sanders called and he wants his tie back. And Tom, I always wondered who Pee Wee Herman patterned his character after. You may be entitled to compensation.

Please indulge me, while I tell you a little about my mom. Last year, I described the day she died. Since her death does not define her life, I'll expound about the woman she was.

She was born Margaret Loraine Conway in Medora, North Dakota on April 21, 1934. Her Irish immigrant father, Patrick Conway and mother, Marie, were fifty and forty years old, respectively at her birth, which were considerably advanced ages, especially during The Great Depression. Marie was the only member of her family to receive a college education, since she was born without fingers on one hand, and thus, such a heinous birth defect, in her parents' eyes, eliminated her from the "desirable wife" pool.

Nonetheless, Marie and Patrick produced a brood of seven children, two of whom died during childhood. Peggy, which is the Irish nickname for Margaret, was the youngest, the "baby."

My mom didn't know her dad very well. Patrick died when she was eight years old, leaving my grandma with three young daughters at home and two sons fighting the Axis abroad. I can't imagine what a hardship this was, but I think this era may have planted the seeds for the humor which exists in the family to this day.

The family moved to eastern Washington after the war, and my mom came of age during the 1950s, wearing poodle skirts and saddles, idolizing Montgomery Clift and chasing her dream of being a teacher. She loved basketball, at a time when girls' hoops involved less sweating than playing chess.

She met my dad at a teachers' college, Central Washington College of Education, where they fell in love, were married and raised a family in the midst of Cold War America. Mom took a break from teaching elementary school to stay home with the kids, and I think that's the period of my life that shaped me into the person I've become.

She possessed the perfect recipe for learning, playing, communicating and, more importantly, an overwhelming compassion.

From that point, I'd like to say that the rest is history.

But here's the thing—I don't want just history. I want her here...right now.

Every time my teenager steps onto the court for an opening tip-off, I yearn for my mom to be with us in those uncomfortable bleachers. I can see her sitting there, calm and collected, yet beaming at the sight of her granddaughter, playing a game which she herself played sixty years ago, albeit in a skirt.

When I say to my ten-year-old, "You really shouldn't wear your hair back like that, because I can see the face lift scars behind your ears," and she responds, "Dad, it's totally worth it to look five," who do you think comes to mind?


I miss her so much. When she died, I was thirty-five and she was sixty-three, which really pisses me off. Sometimes, one of my kids looks at me in a certain way, and I reflexively think, "Hi, Mom." I wasn't cheated out of knowing her, but my kids were, and it makes me angry and sad and grief stricken, even now.

Even thirteen years later.

Mom, there's a lot going on right now, and I hope you're watching, because these kids have you to thank for how truly sensational they are.

I wish you were here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No football this weekend? I'm here for you.

We've reached the lost weekend.

Like a gaping hole between two molars, denying your ability to fully enjoy that red rope, we've come upon an impasse of underrated proportion.

You see, there's no football this weekend, due to the traditional fourteen-day drought between the NFL playoff and the big one, the Super Bowl.

Rather than preparing for another excuse to drink beer and spill chunks of salsa onto the shag carpet, we must endure seven more days of worn-out jockisms and hype.

As I mentioned, this can be rough on a fan of the grid iron. Many of us are addicted to merciless displays of male domination, and I can't scratch that itch even by watching a Leave it to Beaver marathon. I need to watch at least three hours of sanctioned violence, followed by an hour of questioning my testosterone levels, followed by five days of searching for a kit where I can test it by peeing on a stick.

But here's the good news—I think I've found a fantastic substitute.

Imagine eating a Wendy's Triple with extra mustard, and immediately going to bed. As you drift off, the beefy gut bomb slowly trudges through your digestive tract, getting delayed more often than a father trying to get his ten-year-old to school.

Your body is toiling, desperately attempting to dismember the food baby, so you sleep fitfully. Your dreams are vivid, yet strange. You toss and turn, yet return time and again to a vision of women, in Victoria's Secret underwear, strapping on helmets and shoulder pads and knocking the hell out of each other on an indoor football field.

You wake with a start. Since restful slumber isn't an option until the planet you just ate succumbs to gravity, you turn on the television, and wasn't a dream.

It is lingerie football,  and I can't remember a time when I felt as disgusted and appalled as I did for the entire ninety minutes I watched this spectacle.

Oh, sure, these women are adults, they're in very, very, very good shape and they probably receive at least minimum wage for knocking each other around in front of leering, um, me.

But if either of my daughters ever hinted at pursuing a career in lingerie football, I would insist that they either wear full football uniforms, or, if they were mandated to don sleepwear, it must be the fuzzy kind with built-in feet.

I have to admit, I didn't really watch the entire game, but I needed to claim I did for comedic purposes. And therefore, I'm not fully aware of any special rules which might exist, but here's my idea of a typical penalty, as announced by the referee on the public address system:

"Illegal hands to the Brazilian, number seventeen, defense. However, since the offender talked dirty to the official for the mandated thirty seconds, that penalty is negated. Repeat second down."

Apparently, we've got our own team of Amazon warriors down the road—The Seattle Mist. I feel that it's my duty to support this fledgling league, since it only enhances Seattle's major league status, and my wife is totally cool about it, with one condition.

Season tickets aren't really in our budget right now, so I'll be listening to the games on the radio.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pulled over: when seeing the light is a bad thing.

I spotted them in the rear view mirror, and they were gaining fast. I quickly concluded  that, once I pulled to the side, those lights would whisk on by, the wail of the siren "Dopplering" into the distance. God help whomever that maniac is pursuing.

Nope, not this time—no passing on by, no Doppler, and from the depths of my lungs, no cleansing exhalation of dissipated anxiety. As I changed lanes, he changed lanes. As I slowed and stopped, he slowed and stopped. Shit.

I got nailed for going thirty-two in a twenty. Cost: $189.00, or $15.75 for every mile an hour I exceeded the speed limit.

My positive karmic acts leading up to the pullover could not have foretold this event. Since I had committed to staying home with my ailing younger daughter, I offered to give the older one a lift to school, followed by a trip to Red Box and the grocery store. The patient at home had requested a movie and some nice coconut bars to cool her scorching throat. Nice gestures by Papa all around, no?

Maybe my karma was less about being kind to my kids today, and more about spitting my gum out on the street while biking back in July. It's possible that that decision may have led to an elderly lady's walker adhering to it, thereby causing a nasty spill, a broken hip and death from pneumonia on her ninety-ninth birthday.

Okay, I admit it; I shouldn't be speeding in a school zone. I could have hit a kid or a teacher or a puppy as I recklessly darted down Roxbury at the breakneck speed of thirty-two miles per hour. Society needs to be protected from a madman in a dented, sapphire blue Kia minivan.

And as they say, no one is above the law. If I'm caught breaking it, I must pay. I must be pursued by the tools our law enforcement community deems necessary for apprehending a speeder, or in this case, a mag-wheeled, turbo-charged phallic symbol bearing the logo of the Seattle Police Department.

Sour grapes? Maybe. And by the way, obviously someone in the SPD has Photoshop at home, because that picture above is as cheesy as they come.

I wasn't pulled over on a quiet suburban street where children play jacks and sell lemonade. This was a double-yellow-lined thoroughfare with a posted speed limit of thirty-five. The school is inside a massive Catholic church and the crosswalk is protected by walk signals and traffic lights.

The term "warning" is not listed on the approved words list for the SPD Traffic Enforcement Division. What I'm sure is on the approved list are mustaches and those heartfelt "have a nice day" wishes they convey as they slap that mint green paper into your palm and retreat to their muscle cars.

Since the fuzz man who pulled me over stuck perilously close to the clichéd cop, I probably should have thought faster and transformed myself into the stereotypical perp. I should've yanked off my shirt, unclipped my seat belt and ripped up my proof of insurance card.

Oh yeah, I also should have pierced some holes in a pop can and stashed it under the seat.

I realize I sound like Edward, King of the Whineland. After all, someone has to pay for the overtime these guys are putting in to pull us over during their overtime.

And I probably wouldn't be droning on about this if I hadn't returned home, opened the mailbox and found a jury summons for my wife.

Maybe we'll run into each other at the courthouse.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Talking to our kids: Why honesty isn’t the best policy.

A couple of my co-workers are brand new parents; they're both fathers of "weekers"—you know, "She's twenty-one weeks," or "He'll be six weeks old in three weeks."

It's fun listening to them describe the changes in their tiny offspring, the new found cackling, cooing and crawling. I sit and listen to them like I'm a Spanish American War vet  hearing battle stories from a couple of soldiers still in boot camp.

I stormed into work this morning, shortly after my wife and I had engaged in a drawn out verbal battle with our teenager. I had ridden the bus in a quiet rage, churning over her insolence, selfishness and disrespect. As I sat down at my desk, the two rookie dads stood nearby, discussing the recent maturity of their kids' diaper contents.

"I know she's only seventeen weeks old, but since she's been eating those yams, her onesies smell like an Arby's restroom. She's growing up so fast."

"Hardy, freakin' har," I thought. Then actual words came out.

"Just wait until she's able to talk back," blurted yours truly, Mr. Self-Righteous. "Someday, you guys will know what it's like when the person for whom you'd jump in front of a bike messenger, treats you like something she peeled from her scalp."

I caught myself acting the part of disgruntled parent, but the damage was already done.

"You want to trade places with me and do the four a.m feeding?" one of them asked.


Can't there be a middle ground between ultra-needy, defenseless infant and smart-talking child? To be fair, my kids have enlightened my ears with wonderful, tear-inducing gems since their early days, many of which have been elaborated upon in this blog.

But that's not today's topic.

I've prided myself on taking the high road in response to most of their ridiculous comments; after all, I am the chronological adult of record. Nonetheless, I've prepared a small list of comments I could have made were I not the poster boy for the American Ice Water in the Veins Association.

The following statements were actually made by either my fifteen- or ten-year-old daughter. To protect the innocent, I won't say who said what:

"Dad, I thought adults don't get pimples."
My response, if I weren't the ultimate high road navigator: "Those aren't pimples. They're stress nodes caused by you. If three more pop up, I could die, so watch your mouth."

"Dad, can you not make so much noise unloading the dishwasher? I'm trying to wake up slowly."
My response, were I not the Dalai Lama, married to her mama: "Oh, sorry about that. Tomorrow morning I promise I'll tip toe into your room and slowly awaken you wearing full clown make-up."

"Dad, those bike tights look disgusting on you."
My response, if I weren't the most sensitive male this side of Kurt on Glee: "You know what, you're right. In fact, I'm done exercising. From now on, I'll eat what I want, when I want, and show up to your parent/teacher conferences wearing a gravy-stained yellow polo shirt neatly tucked into gray sweat pants, and sound like I'm snoring, even though I'm awake."

"Dad, next time will you spread the fake butter more evenly on my English Muffin?"
My response, assuming I weren't shattered by her comment: "Of course, Snookums. The Oompa Loompas normally perform this function. I truly am ashamed."

Again, I love my daughters. Really.

And some day, their kids will probably criticize them for saving fifty cents and buying the Safeway brand Pop Tarts.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sarah, it’s time for you to run along.

It's probably not a manly thing to do. And I realize the time could have been used much better changing the oil or cleaning the oven or meditating to Kenny G.

But I did it anyway...I watched the Golden Globes.

Every time I tune in to any type of awards show,  I marvel at how beautiful everyone is, how their incisors gleam in the flash bulb light, how the silky ivory of each Vera Wang gown jumps to attention from the crimson carpet.

And then I remember that it's just another competition; it's no different from the elementary school student council elections or the Pillsbury Bake-off or The Gong Show.

Our society is so obsessed with competing and winning. Why? We vie for titles in eating, drinking, dog showing, cooking...even losing weight. The winner steps to the podium as a conquering hero, while whomever achieves second place in Iron Chef is relegated to the culinary scrap heap, even though she can whip up an Eggs Benedict that would make you see John the Baptist.

Back in 1939, Gone With the Wind defeated The Wizard of Oz for the Best Picture Academy Award. Was there really any kind of defeat? No way. Both movies are classics. In fact, had the two movies actually gone mano e mano, the Wizard of Oz would've completely stomped the combined armies form Gone With the Wind through the tactical prowess of those winged monkeys.

And to take things a step further, if Rhett Butler had gone toe to toe against the Wicked Witch of the West, well...let's just say I know who would've ended up on top.

America needs winners and losers.We hate ties.

If that familiar phrase, "A tie is like kissing your sister," holds any accuracy, the only people whom I'm sure are satisfied with ties reside in remote areas of Snohomish County, where a tie is considered foreplay.

Usually, after a hotly contested battle, the loser rapidly fades away. Sarah Palin lost, and most of us assumed she would go away.

She didn't.

In fact, she interpreted her resounding loss as a mandate that America wanted more of her—more folksy, third grade vernacular, more down home God-fearing hate speech. So what if she didn't read magazines or newspapers? She had no time for that liberal drivel when there's moose jerky out in the smoker that needs tendin'.

Since I'm a dude, I'll equate her actions to a sports analogy. Sarah Palin lost the game. During the game, she was flagged for numerous infractions, including eye gauging and spitting in the face of her opponent. After the game, she suggested that those who aren't fans of her opponent throw bottles and batteries next time they see the team who defeated her.

Oh, and just to make things easier for her fans, she passed out maps of where they'll play their next game.

Sarah, the polls don't lie. You lost an election two years ago, but you decided to hang around after the janitor had turned off the lights and everyone had gone home. America is tired of you, but you obviously don't understand this.

Since you are a bona fide American loser, please, follow the graceful lead of the Buffalo Bills, Michael Dukakis, Nancy Kerrigan and 2011 First Runner-Up, Miss Arkansas.

Go the hell away.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seriously, you’re killing me.

Every morning, I arise at Insane O’Clock to make it to the gym by Stupid Thirty. While there, I try to make the experience as devoid of emotion as possible.

Why? Because, and I’m sure I’m not alone here, when my heart rate reaches a certain level of anaerobic distress, little annoyances magnify into large obsessions.

At first, nothing is that big of a deal. That dude over there who wears so much Drakkar Noir I can taste it until after lunch? That's cool. That woman on the rowing machine who strains so hard she meows? Hey, she's working hard.

But after I’ve been on the elliptical for a good twenty minutes, I’m sweaty and crabby, and I find irritations everywhere.

On my shin is an itch that won't be tamed, so I have to perform a “marching scratch,” keeping my claw stationary as the lower leg rises to meet it.

I curse my shorts for hiking in the center, even though the problem lies within the shorts.

That guy on the machine next to me chomps his gum so loudly that I have to crank the volume on my iPod and turn the other way to avoid the aura of Eclipse Wintergreen and last night’s Pad Thai. On a positive note, I learn that “Total Eclipse of the Heart” sounds awesome loud.

I then fantasize about discovering a loose set of latex gloves, slipping them on, pulling the gum from the guy’s pie hole and calf roping him to the squat rack with it.

Once the workout is finished and the mild endorphins engage, I can tolerate the minor skin irritations, the sweat droplets clinging to my old man eyebrows, which are wilting over my pupils and obscuring my vision. But I’m far from tolerant.

A woman, while spraying and wiping down her exercise bike, accidentally mists my forearm as I walk by. Because she’s unaware of this egregious violation, I feel pangs of temptation to pretend that she sprayed my eyes and scream at her that my eye is still tender from yesterday’s paper cut.

Yet I endure in silence.

After an uneventful workout this morning, I entered the locker room for a quick shower and departure and noticed feet peeking from under the door of the room’s single bathroom stall. The Nikes within pointed to the right, which told me he was performing a more “invasive procedure” than if his feet had pointed to the left.

He exited the stall just as I was preparing to enter the shower, but I felt compelled to see things through. The man plodded past the sink and over to the scale. He stood for several seconds, obviously trying to achieve minimum weight on the sliding device, and finally stepped off.

He then stepped in front of the sink, gazed at his bed hair in the mirror and walked out of the room. His hands were as dry as a soiled bone.

Alas, I’d born witness, yet again, to a dump and dash.

Later, as I walked through the parking lot to my Kia minivan, I resolved to not let this dirty, dirty man’s behavior ruin my day. Much of the world lives in far less sterile conditions than we do here in anti-bacterial land, so I desperately tried to put the affair out of my mind.

I returned home and lovingly greeted my family with fist bumps.

Monday, January 17, 2011

He always had a thing for the smart girls

Nathan had to admit it: He'd always liked the smart girls.

If anyone asked him, especially Kurt or Curt, he'd deny it with more vigor than a desperate escape from one of his big brother's full nelsons.

But just between Nate and his inner Abraham Lincoln, he felt compelled to fess up to himself about his fondness for females...especially the smart ones.

He was eleven now, and he'd had these feelings for a while. He'd decided that they'd begun in earnest sometime during second grade. As with any class, it was divided between kids who did anything for the teacher's attention, those who went to extremes to avoid it and those who were indifferent.

The girls in Nate's class who'd jutted their arms into the air before Ms. Pringle had even finished her questions were obviously the attention-getters. Sure, some were cute, but not attractive to Nathan. Some were painfully shy, and then, there were the others.

That select group was comprised of girls who only offered the answer when it was correct, speaking confidently and loudly, yet not boastfully. He was enamored with each and every one of them.

Nate didn't adhere to the classic standards of beauty as prescribed by his friends. Sure, women like Cheryl Tiegs and Cybil Shepard and Farah Fawcett were pretty, but were they intelligent?

And since Nathan's second grade year of reckoning, he'd developed several crushes of varying degrees. Karen was sharp and funny. Since he'd known her for so long (since kindergarten), Nate felt very protective of her. That's why, last year, he'd punched Ronny Redman in the ear after "R Dub" had hit Karen with a rock-filled snowball and made her cry.

There was also Fiona. She played soccer with the boys at recess, and whenever she returned to the classroom after a chilly time outside, her rosy cheeks melted Nate's heart. Her effortless skill on science projects only iced the cake.

But Nathan Ryan Andrews held a torch, one so heavy and white hot that he could barely hoist it with two hands, its flame singing the hair on his arms. And the torch he hoisted...was for Lindsay.

Lindsay was wonderful. She was at least four chapters ahead in Math and already reading at the gold level in the SRA series. She had bright red hair, almost orange, and Nate could barely speak to her, even though they often took the same route to school in the morning. He'd frequently walk a little bit behind her and to her right, since that way, she'd see his good side should she glance back.

Sometimes he'd inconspicuously orbit her at recess, playing out conversations they could have and how they'd end with Nate walking away, Lindsay and her friends erupting in laughter at Nathan's witty, yet insightful, comments. And once, he'd actually gotten to ride in her car, when her mom saw him returning from school in the rain, felt sorry for him and gave him a lift home.

Nate had only talked to Lindsay's mom, which was sort of okay for the five minute ride. She'd asked him polite questions as he took in the smell of the automobile which harbored him and his future wife and mother-in-law.

Snapping back from his daydream state, Nate realized that he'd been pacing around the entire recess with no destination. It was cold, and the snow was beginning to soak through his boots and even both pairs of socks. Nathan hoped he hadn't appeared mildly insane, as occasionally his lips moved when he was deep in thought.

He looked toward the backstop and noticed Karen approaching. She stopped at least ten feet from him, which seemed strange.

"Hey, Nathan."

"Hey, Karen."

"Guess who likes you?"

"I don't know. Who?"

"L..." Before she could finish the word, an ice ball glanced off Karen's neck, opening a small gash below her jaw. Her eyes welled with tears.

Nathan's head darted around and spotted the rapidly retreating figure of R Dub, who sprinted clumsily through the snow toward a small group of boys.

Launching himself toward fleeing culprit, Nathan closed the distance to four feet as the recess bell rang.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A tale of two evenings.

Last night was a little odd.

After weeks of hype, my elder daughter, as I mentioned in this post, finally suited up for the big game...the Winter Ball, that is. It really was a lot like the build-up to a dramatic sporting event:

She arrived early to receive treatment from the trainer, or in this case, she got a pedicure and intensive hairapy.

She reviewed the game plan with her coach. Her mother planned a well-orchestrated photo session for thirty teenagers and caravan to the Old Spaghetti Factory in time for a seven o'clock reservation and eight o'clock dance. Since spaghetti can be a potential land mine for my kid, she practiced on some Yakisoba earlier in the day. Although the surface area of her dress virtually eliminated any possibility of receiving an errant sauce drip, her hair remained in harm's way. The coach thereby covered this contingency.

Finally, she applied eye black, or rather, makeup. Game time.

Okay, enough with the sports analogies. I wasn't present to witness the evening's events, since my younger daughter and I veered off in our own direction. We went out for dinner ourselves, and returned home to watch none other than the Miss America Pageant.

And that's when the evening assumed an odd tone. While my teenager and wife experienced a semi-annual, ultra-dolled-up event, the rest of us witnessed the culmination of a lifetime of  "dolled-upedness," in the form of these beauty contestants.

I've preached repeatedly to both kids about the objectification of women in these competitions; they're certainly talented, but when half the points are based upon how they look in two-piece swimwear and evening gowns, it's like saying, "Please stay with us, because following the debate, Senators McCain and Obama will oil up and wrestle in lime jello."

The pageant was sponsored by a company called DSW, also known as "Discount Shoe Warehouse." Each commercial featured shot after shot of high-heeled pumps, wedges and any other types of shoes which could be worn with swim suits. My elder daughter, who wore similar stilts last night, informed me that the dance venue wouldn't allow girls to remove their shoes, with the consequence of being evicted from the venue.

What's up with that? Was it a way to ensure that no one would stay too late because they could barely walk after two hours, or maybe it was to show solidarity with the hobbled Miss Americans?

Either way, Miss Nebraska won the extravaganza and wore the same facial expression as my older daughter, who returned home aglow after attending her first dance with an actual date. The main difference was that for one of them, a year of extreme girly-girlishness awaits; for the other, it's back to spaghetti sauce in the hair.

I'll take the latter any day.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This time, she's going to a dance with a boy.

It's happening again. This Saturday.

Another heapin' helpin' of hormone stew, another melding of primitive frontal lobes encased within adult bodies.

And these bodies won't be wearing much.

It's time for my teenage daughter to attend another dance, but this time, it's with

Usually, I report back after the fact, since the whole pre-function comprises a story unto itself. This time, however, I'd prefer to talk about the buildup alone, since it's been an odyssey.

High school dances are different than they were in my day. Back in the Seventies, unless the event was a 'tolo' or 'Sadie Hawkins' dance, the guy bore the responsibility of asking the girl, period. I can recall being so nervous that I could feel pimples on my face completing an entire lifespan, from red giant to white dwarf, during the course of asking the object of my affections for the privilege of her company.

These days, either gender can ask the other to any dance, which is terrific for both parties. The old system seems so Victorian when you consider that an adolescent male could simply prioritize his choices and work his way down the list, like some sort of seasonal babe draft. In addition, couples are now not mandatory for attending; one girl can accompany two guys, two girls can attend with one guy or any other imaginable combination. I guess you'd call this system either "hippie commune" or "Utah friendly."

Now, if you snooze, you lose, which is why my baby girl asked her date to the Winter Ball back in November. Soon after he accepted, she proudly showed me a picture, taken with her phone of course, of the two of them together. Maybe this is the way kids show that the deal is sealed, or possibly it was just one of the thousands of phone photos taken during the course of one day, but they gave the appearance of a happy couple.

After I acknowledged the look of contentment on their faces,  she replied, "Of course, Dad. It's obvious that we're in love."

The girl has a dry sense of humor, but I'm still not convinced she wasn't being serious.

With the dirty work out of the way, the next checklist item for my woman child was the dress. I'm not sure when this happened, or why I wasn't consulted, but last Sunday, my teenager appeared in our living room, holding an article of clothing which apparently is considered a dress in her culture.

I quickly performed some rudimentary math, and deduced that the fabric would barely cover her torso.

"It looks really short," I understated.

"Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing spandex underneath, so even if it gets hiked up, no one can see anything." So not comforting to me, yet she looked so very confident with that statement.

"You only need to touch your nose to hike that thing up," I countered.

"Dad, just wait until you see me with it on. You'll feel much better." Fair enough.

Five minutes later, she emerged from her room, not only wearing the dress, but also a pair of black pumps which would put Gene Simmons to shame. Again, I used my right brain to assess some basic spatial relationships and concluded that she now stood six feet, two inches tall.

I quickly veered toward a less confrontational manner. "Are you going to want to be taller than (I'll call him) Matt when you guys get your picture taken?"

"Good point, Dad. Hmm...I'll look for some shorter heels tomorrow."

She turned and retreated back to her room to change. I felt good, actually really good, after having talked her out of shoes which only look appropriate in Whitesnake videos. Chalk one up for Dad.

"Oh, and about that dress..." Too late. The door to her bedroom slowly closed, slightly muffling the sounds of Lady Gaga emanating from within.

She had pulled it off. The old bait and switch.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What are you doing for lunch?

I enjoy discussing subjects which benefit from "under-the-radar" status; stories whose content isn't overblogged—things like men who enjoy fabric stores, or how to make amazing meatloaf with bacon, cilantro and just a tiny bit of cat food.

Another such topic, which really isn't so obscure, is nonetheless the runt in a set of robust triplets, that guy who thinks he's helping to move the couch by carrying the middle part, but he's really just pissing off the guys on the ends, and whom eventually gives up and goes back for some lamps.

Of our three daily meals, breakfast holds the distinction as "the most important meal of the day"...which it definitely is. Breakfast arrives after we've spent several hours deficient of caloric intake, and I often awaken felling like my body has begun consuming itself. I could probably stand a little more self-consumption, yet nothing hits the spot like opening up the fridge around 9:30 on a Saturday morning, to be greeted by a triangular, foil-wrapped shape: Two-and-a-half slices of pizza from last night. Mmm...boy.

Dinner, of course is the heavyweight, the meal which often features more than one food item. It's also an opportunity to catch up with the family about each person's day, her triumphs, injustices she may have endured, who is the latest slutty member of her class...but enough about my fifth grader.

I'm sure most of us would agree that, of the three daily meals, dinner gets the lion's share of planning, execution and enjoyment.

So let's talk about lunch. I submit that lunch, though not acknowledged as such, is the meal we think about the most. As little kids, lunch doesn't play a huge role, since our moms had to yank us out of whatever we were doing to sit down for a PB and J and some Campbell's Bean with Bacon. To most preschoolers, the midday meal is a speed bump along an otherwise smooth day.

Not until we spend a full day at school, do we fully appreciate the charms lunch has to offer. I can remember in first grade, around ten o'clock each morning, thinking, "Okay, enough already. We've made paper chains, learned about baby salmon and I saw a kid smash his forehead trying to walk up the slide. It's time for some freaking food."

An hour-and-a-half later, we finally walked through that magical bucket brigade, where ladies in hair nets ladled hamburger gravy over perfect potato bud domes. A dollop of Waldorf salad and a scoop of cubed fruit later, and I was inhaling that stuff faster than you can say Miley Cyrus Michael Phelps.

Not long after those honeymoon days of a hot lunch served on a yellow, plastic tray, the luster wore off for nearly two decades. A renaissance occurred with the advent of the business lunch—a more beverage-centric paradigm shift.

No Friday noontime soiree with work mates was complete without ordering and consuming at least one Electric Ice Tea. And nothing screams professionalism quite like a large pack of twenty-something, Smirnoff-breathed accountants, boisterously returning to the office. Our mullets bounced through the lobby, our obnoxious guffaws leaving a noxious, ice tea cloud to be sampled by the elderly woman waiting to speak with someone about estate planning.

At this juncture of life, lunch has settled into the role of comfortable, unassuming friend. Alcohol no longer fits into the equation, since most schools frown upon parents picking up children smelling of India Pale Ale. Lunch and I are like a seasoned married couple who don't need to speak to communicate. We merely acknowledge those familiar signals—the growling stomach, the fantasy about bathing in chowder—both mean lunch isn't far off.

Turkey sandwich? Sushi, Hom bow? Thai curry? Cheese and crackers? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

Salad or fries? I'll take the fries...because it's lunch time.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Done Deal: How to Master the Art of Negotiation.

Why so much bickering? Why so much vitriol, so much downright meanish, cruelish nastiness?

These could be considered rhetorical questions, but really, a simple answer exists as to why our Congress can't seem to find common ground...on anything.

They've lost the ability to negotiate.

We occasionally read that they have come to some sort of agreement on some sort of issue, but consensus is rarely reached based upon give and take; it's based on give and give.

For example, last year an historical health care bill squeaked through a Democratically controlled Senate and House and was signed into law by our President. Cool, no?

No. What actually transpired in a Congressional super majority was the pledging of favors and earmarks to buy crucial votes...from other Democrats! The G.O.P sector didn't even need to show up, since not a single Republican crossed the aisle to vote in the affirmative. The Democratic Party, on the heels of a sweeping electoral mandate, failed in their ability to negotiate, even among each other.

Pathetic, indeed.

Had the right wingers in Congress actually stepped to the bargaining table, the following demands would surely have been honked out by one orange-skinned, gravelly voiced congressman from Ohio:

"We, the Republican caucus, in representing the interests of the American people, agree to allow health insurance for thirty million uninsured Americans, including ten million children. In return, we humbly request tax-exempt status for pharmaceutical corporations, a Saturday morning cartoon featuring Joe Camel and we'd like President Obama to wear an Exxon t-shirt on his next state of the union address and tearfully deny global warming... Oh, and we'd also ask for a brand new war somewhere."

As I stated earlier, this isn't negotiation, it's insanity. Why can't these people learn lessons from other areas of their lives where negotiation is commonplace and quite effective. Here are some cases where the art of negotiation prospers:

Husband/wife negotiation—"I promise I won't laugh when you try to grow facial hair if you promise not to grow facial hair." Done deal.

Workplace negotiation—"Let's just agree to disagree on this. You think I'm an egotistical prima donna and I think you're a knuckle-dragging mouth breather. You think I'm profoundly incompetent, while I believe you are grossly unsanitary. Now, we're are we going for lunch?" Done deal.

Parent/child negotiation (slightly more cumbersome)—
Father, addressing his daughters, aged ten and fifteen: "You guys, please make your lunches for tomorrow before Glee comes on. "

Fifteen-year-old daughter: "Okay." Done deal.

Ten-year-old daughter: "Really? So I have to make my lunch and take a shower before Glee comes on?"

Father: "Yes."

Ten-year-old daughter: "How about if I make my sandwich and take a shower before Glee comes on,  and then tomorrow morning, I'll add the fruit leather, goldfish and juice box?"

Father: "That's more for you to do in the morning then, and it might make us late."

Ten-year-old daughter: "Dad, technically, you should make my sandwich because you used the butts of the bread last time and we had an agreement about not using bread butts."

Father: "Fine. Add the other stuff in the morning." Done deal.

See? It's not that hard. Maybe these people are just spending a little too much time at cocktail parties with  lobbyists, and not enough with their bargain-driving offspring.

Let's hope these politicians can work together...but I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The past couple of months have been, like, totally sweet.

It starts just after Halloween.

Random bowls of candy begin populating your workplace. As you saunter down the hall on the way to the fax machine, a scattering of high fructose morsels beckon you from the top surface of an orphan file cabinet.

A step-and-a-half to the right is all it takes as you clutch three Kit Kats and two boxes of Dots and escort your sweet new companions briskly back to your cubicle. The last of the fun-sized candy has either disappeared down your gullet or wedged between your molars before you’re done scanning the Perez Hilton homepage.

After a few days of constant exposure to sweets, you’ve developed a habit. Every day around three, with Rolex precision, you rise from your Herman Miller with sinister intentions. You’ve purposefully manufactured a trek to the copy room to retrieve some unneeded printouts, but your true mission is to troll for sugar the way Jack the Ripper sought out anything standing in the darkness wearing a bustier.

Orbiting the floor with your paperwork, you betray the appearance of legitimacy, but your head swivels with sugarlust. After one full revolution, you’ve come up empty. You realize that you're quivering. Merciful God, please, provide for this sinner! For the sake of all that is Peter Paul!

As you obligatorily scan the kitchenette on the lonely walk back to your snackless cubicle, a familiar pink shape stares back from the countertop. Stained with grease spots, its cardboard lid is crookedly stuck open. Your primitive brain stem instantly recognizes that the carton has been delivered to that familiar location where snacks go to die, so you stride into the room and peak into the void. The smell of hours-old sugar and lard leaps to greet you as your head bows to address the half eaten maple bar.

Since you're far too overwhelmed with work to dispose of the empty doughnut carton, you tear off half of the half, rationalizing that you're benevolently saving a quarter of the compressed, lumpy dough for a starving comrade. And for one afternoon, your sugary demon is held at bay.

As fall melds into early winter, holiday baked goods replace candy as the drugs most commonly available at work. This is fine. This is good. If an afternoon unexpectedly arises with no complimentary sweet snacks in your office, you have no compunction about abandoning the workplace for Starbucks and its offering of for-cash baked goods. You, sir have needs, and right now, a macaroon is more important than oxygen.

Christmas and the new year celebration have now come to pass, and your pants are tight. You dismiss this an anomaly caused by laundry overdrying, and by now, your blood sugar is so thick it could be tapped like a Vermont  tree. You're feeling sluggish. You’ve lost all discipline, and finally, finally, you resolve, you proclaim and you promise.

You shall shed some pounds.

As you wallow in your shame on that first Monday back at work, you wonder how this all happened. How could a fun sized Kit Kat trigger such a spiral of hedonism? 

You know what? It doesn't matter, because you're back in the saddle, baby. You're purchasing a one-way ticket to Svelt Land. By June, you're going to look like a 1967 version of William Shatner, without girdle.

Starting tomorrow. Someone just brought in a tin of Almond Roca from Costco.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Our Faces Are Groovy: The Baby Boom Turns 65.

My grandpa referred to them as “hippies” or “commies” or “longhairs.” Whenever I visited my great aunt in Yakima, and she’d spot one, she’d misguidedly say, “Look at that beatnik over there. Please don’t become one of them, Timmy.”

I was always intrigued by them; they’d seemed so outspoken and rebellious. And as of this year, they’ve joined the ranks of the elderly, the same demographic occupied by those who stood so harshly in judgment of them forty years ago.

They are sixty-five years of age and they…are the Baby Boomers.

Technically, I’m one of them. Since 1962 was the year my mom awoke from her general anesthesia to discover she had given birth to me, I fall at the tail end of this pervasive generation, which is defined as anyone born between 1946 and 1964.

Since I'm a bookend, I don't share many common experiences with these children of the Greatest Generation. While the older Boomers enjoyed the inspired musical groundswell of The Beatles and their British counterparts, kids my age were lucky to experience a Canadian invasion. It was just a little more challenging to rally behind the anthems of Gordon Lightfoot and Bryan Adams.

The older Boomers burned draft cards and bras; they took to the streets to cry out against that insidious bourgeois enemy, the establishment. We younger folks may have burned a library card or two and we took to the malls to protest the removal of the cigarette machines. Our generational elders paved the way for a more progressive society; we paved the way for a new breed of activist known as the Young Republican.

The junior Booms did enjoy some advantages over the codgers. We didn't have to wear those weird saddle shoes (okay, I actually did), we didn't get polio and we reaped the benefits of the processed food wave. Frosted Pop Tarts and Crunch Berries were food groups denied our elders until well into adulthood.

Our demographic squad was succeeded by generations X , Y and, I suppose, Z; our Ping Pong was replaced by Pong, which was replaced by Space Invaders, which was replaced by Myst, which was replaced by Call of Duty, which was replaced by sexting. Such a grand technological evolution it's been.

So, how about a little quiz?

What do Barack Obama and George W. Bush have in common? If you guessed that both have held our nation’s highest office, you’d be correct. Sure, one is a brilliant Constitutional scholar who bucked our racist history, while the other can't seem to make the transition from being hooked on alcohol to being hooked on phonics, but they, in addition to Bill Clinton, have been our only Baby Boomer presidents thus far.

How about Bono and Prince Charles? Yep, they’re Boomers, too, even though Bono has female undergarments thrown at him while Chuck prefers that they're presented on a Waterford platter with a side serving of mango relish.

Conan O’Brien and Bill O’Reilly? Both are Irish, both are comedians, and both are Baby Boomers.

Then there's Ted Bundy and Karl Rove. They, too, are members of the Boomer Club, but they've got so much else in common, the only difference is that Rove has less hair and a passenger seat in his car.

How did you do on the quiz? In case it’s piqued your interest, other notable Baby Boomers include Donald Trump, Courtney Love, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mitt Romney, Tom Cruise, Rush Limbaugh, The Bee Gees and Fabio.

I'm simply bristling with Boomer pride.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Playing Adam to New Year's Eve.

Okay, then. The stained dry erase board of another lame duck year is finally wiped clean.

As Dr. Faux, I mean Dr. Phil, is fond of barking at teenage mom meth addicts, it's time to "pull ourselves up by the bootstraps" (insert authoritative Texas drawl here), and move on into 2011.

I don't really consider myself middle-aged anymore, since it's improbable that I'll live to be ninety-six, so from here on out, I'd like to be labeled as "accumulaged." This is the period in my life where stuff begins building up: Christmas ornaments, computers, belly fat, trips to the bathroom. I've even imagined a way to promote this golden, new era—"Try the new Tim. Now with a third more prostate tissue!"

One of the benefits of witnessing my forty-ninth New Year is the slow mellowing of New Year's Eve expectations. As a young adult, we all expected to have the party of the year—to sing, to dance and when the ball drops, to passionately engulf the face of either your soul mate or whomever was closest at the time.

New Year's Eve, 1984, was my watershed party experience. I'd had a girlfriend for about a year-and-a-half, and things weren't going so well. She suggested getting dressed up and going to Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle to usher in the new year, shoulder-to-shoulder with throngs of drunken strangers. After that, we'd hop in a cab, basking in the glow of a re-kindled, re-dedicated relationship.

It looked good on paper, so I reluctantly agreed. From our earliest days together, this girl had tried her best to transform me into a GQ cover guy. She pressed hard to rid my wardrobe of t-shirts and jeans; a trip to campus meant checking my loafers to make sure the pennies hadn't slipped out, popping my collar and tying a pastel colored sweater around my shoulders. My friends had teased me relentlessly, but I had brushed them off, lamely contending that she was "improving" me. I do wish, however, that they hadn't run into me buying that blow dryer at the drugstore.

Anyway, yes, I now realize—red flags, all. Relationships shouldn't be contingent upon one person "fixing" the other. And even then, I felt like a buffoon as we rode the cab downtown. It was freezing cold, but I was firmly instructed not to deviate from the winning polo shirt/ torso wrap combo. By the end of the evening, I could no longer feel my nipples. I was afraid they may have simply broken off after bumping into someone, and I'd find them the next day, looking like little pieces of turkey jerky in the waistband of my Jockey for Hims.

We each did our best to pretend to have a good time, but I think we both realized the absurdity and futility of our situation.

That night twenty-six years ago, I vowed to never immerse myself among a mob in an attempt at manufacturing fun. By the following year, my girlfriend had been replaced by a companion who's stuck by me, in the comfort of my own home, every New Year's Eve since:

Dick Clark.