Monday, February 28, 2011

It's great to be a white guy.

I have no idea why, but every year I watch the Academy Awards.

And every year, I turn off the TV, mildly entertained, yet wondering how I again could have spent three hours watching Hollywood's aristocracy fawning over each other. They marvel at one another's important contributions to American culture; their orations are often worthy of Emmies for best Oscar performance.

This year, my disdain for the show's planners dialed up to an eleven, but not until the closing moments. Fifth graders from Staten Island's PS-22 chorus brought down the house with a fantastic rendition of "Over the Rainbow." That part was really cool.

But just as the song reached its finale, the kids scooted to the front of the stage and squatted down as a curtain rose behind them, revealing all the evening's Oscar champions. The contrast was profound, as the predominantly brown-skinned, T-shirt clad eleven-year-olds knelt reverently while the overwhelmingly Caucasian award winners, bedecked in millions of dollars worth of evening wear and jewelry, towered above the tots.

I'm sure the event's organizers juxtaposed these disparate groups to show that yes, dreams can come true. But at that moment, one glaring fact dominated my thoughts: those kids from Staten Island, especially the non-white variety, are faced with a far higher rainbow to vault than the cronies and fat cats behind them did.

Maybe I'm a little sensitive to our disadvantaged youth since learning about what our Republican-controlled House of Representatives has been up to of late. On February 18, led by Representative Chris Smith, R-New Jersey (that's him, above), the House passed a measure to end Federal Funding for Planned Parenthood.

That's three-hundred and thirty million dollars a year.

You may have heard conflicting information from your favorite right wing pundit, but make no mistake. Planned Parenthood has been prohibited from using federal monies for abortion for over thirty years. Nope, these funds are used for ninety percent of what PP does: preventive, primary care, which helps prevent unintended pregnancies through contraception, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections through testing and treatment, and screen for cervical and other cancers. How despicable, indeed.

Over 1.2 million youths and adults participate in Planned Parenthood educational programs every year.

One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life, which piqued my curiosity. I wondered how many women serve in the United States House of Representatives, and the answer is:

Out of a total 433 members, sixty-seven, or fifteen percent, are women.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Clearly, a savings of  $335 million from the coffers of Planned Parenthood won't amount to a ding in the budget bucket. Then why? Why do these men care so much?

That's the point. They don't.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Taking Your Kids to Vegas: Fear and Loathing Meet the Griswold Family.

I negotiated the right turn onto the strip, meshing with the cabs, limos, buses and pedestrians like a poorly functioning zipper. The first thing she saw was a massive billboard which pulsed with more wattage than one of Palin's red dresses.

My daughter gazed up at the illuminated row of six male torsos, cropped at their necks and waists. Their tanned firmness made me feel solid about our planned visit to Cheesecake factory.

"Dad, what's Chippendale's?" my ten-year-old asked.

"Um, it's a place where people watch muscular guys strip almost naked and pay them money."

"Can guys go? Like, would you ever go there?"

"You know, I would, but the young guys who work there don't like us old alums coming around and distracting their customers."

No response. "Do you think any of them are gay?"

"Absolutely. All of them are."

This morning, my family and I returned from a five-day trip to Vegas. Please, try not to judge.

Try not to judge how, each time we cruised the strip, my wife or I had to answer a different question:

"Dad, why is that pregnant lady in handcuffs? And why are the police making her walk a straight line?"

I always replied confidently and calmly. "Actually, if you look a little closer, her boyfriend is wearing the cuffs. Hey, who wants to ride the roller coaster at New York, New York?"

"Dad, why do you need to call a number to meet girls? Can't you just meet them in person around here?"

Again, I had to be cool. "Yes, Las Vegas has more lazy people than any other city besides Houston. Look it up. Now who's excited to see Blue Man Group?"

Bad parenting? On the surface, perhaps. But after evaluating our mid-Winter break vacation options, Las Vegas seemed a no-brainer—a short flight, a condo with a pool, nice weather, strippers and gambling.

We don't see much of our fifteen-year-old anymore, so five days in Sin City with her became the equivalent of five months of her brief appearances around our house. She wasn't a happy camper about an extended trip with immediate family only, exiling herself to her iPod and texting universe. After my wife and I put down our feet and insisted that she engage more with the family, it didn't take her long for some true self-actualization out by the pool:

"I never realized how much I miss my ankle hairs when I shave my legs." I didn't feel the need to respond. How does a father follow up such depth?

I must admit that I had my own self-actualizing poolside moment, upon doffing my shirt and glancing down at my white upper body. My chest looked like Steve Martin's head was face down on top of it. When the hell did I start looking like this? Oh, sure, for quite a while, I've had a smattering of gray chest hair, but this was a freaking white out.

At that moment, I resolved to visit the drugstore for three boxes of "Just for Yeti" prior to visiting another sunny winter destination.

Our trip was by no means devoid of more wholesome educational value. We drove out to Red Rock Canyon, which is like visiting the surface of Mars, and Hoover Dam, which is one of the most incredible and beautiful structures I've ever seen. And because we declined a GPS device in our already fully loaded Hyundai Excel, we spent a lot of time in the car "talking."

"Dad, I know you think you know where we are, but that's not the same 7-Eleven."

"Dad, do another U-turn. Those are fun."

"Dad, let Mom drive. We still love you, but please let Mom drive."

We shared a lot of laughs, many at my expense, but we really did have fun. I know, Las Vegas is seedy, it's greedy, it's sketchy and it's skeezy, and I've got one more observation:

It's the best trip we've ever taken.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Royal lineage: A story of two heirs.

It wasn't a typical double date.

Each couple converged in the multiplex lobby following the synchronized finishes of their preferred movies. One pair decided to screen "The King's Speech" prior to the Oscar deadline, while the other duo opted for the slightly lighter "Never Say Never," the story of Justin Bieber and his unlikely rocket launch to stardom.

I should probably elaborate at this point. My wife and I attended the mature-themed film, and my daughters did Bieber, to speak.

After we met up, we each were quite satisfied with our respective choices, and were eager to talk about what we'd seen. Even though the subject matter and historical time frame differed significantly, the two movies dealt with a couple of guys who were strewn into extraordinary situations and compelled to make good under extreme pressure.

Granted, Justin Bieber isn't a bona fide monarch...or is he? If we traced his non-familial teenage heartthrob lineage, we could probably begin with the original American idol: Frank Sinatra. Arguably from there, the crown might be traced to Fabian and Paul Anka, and on to Frankie Avalon, Davey Jones, David Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Shaun Cassidy and Rick Springfield. Okay, let's do a quick tally. Caucasian bubblegum boy stars, 10, every other ethnicity, Zero.

During the mid-eighties, the industry giants must have decided that a boy band was at least four times as good as a single star, so the pre-fab ensembles took over, like New Kids Under the Block and N' Sync. Crooked boy band architects like Lou Pearlman came up with the formula for success: Half of the group would have talent, and the rest would rock intricate facial hair carvings.

But then, it was back to the future, as guys like Jesse McCartney, Zac Effron and any other solo acts who looked good in Mickey Mouse ears seized the reins back for the cause of the lone wolf.

Enter Mr. Bieber.

I'm not going to retrace the lineage of the British monarchy, but prior to King George VI, played by Colin Firth in "The King's Speech," the head royal wasn't expected to publicly address his subjects. The introduction of the newfangled "wireless" technology rewrote that rule as he ascended to power; his people were no longer satisfied with someone who simply looked good in a uniform while cutting a ribbon, they wanted to hear what he had to say.
Oh, yeah, and the new king possessed a debilitating stammering problem.

Have you ever spoken publicly, like at a wedding or a work meeting? It's difficult, especially when you're attempting to convince or inspire people. You feel nervous, sometimes nauseous. But what if you're expected to do as such, even though you can barely string four words together, and an entire nation's confidence in your abilities as king rests on a single address?

Adult diapers? Aisle 18b.

Years ago, my manager suggested that, since I got so anxious speaking in public settings, that I join the local Toastmasters club. It was a great experience and trained me to hold my own without quivering like aspic-covered ham while speaking to a large group.

I won't elaborate too extensively on the time back in 1989 when I entered district "table topics" competition. I had won the club and area contests, so I was feeling a bit cocky with my abilities. The winner got a really cool trophy, which I suppose would've looked nice next to my framed letterman's jacket.

Oh, but there would be no trophy for a shallow pond that day.

A speaker of table topics must face the audience and receive a small piece of paper containing a subject from the Toastmaster. The contestant must then speak extemporaneously on the subject for one minute, with five seconds allowed for mental preparation. My topic that day was "What kind of vegetable would you be?"

My first thought, which I know is sick, was of famous people who have been vegetables, but I could think of none. I locked up completely and babbled incoherently for an entire minute, and actually did list a lot of vegetables. I'm sure that impressed my first grade teacher when we did that farm unit, but the audience looked like I was inserting needles into their shins

After an inappropriate cucumber comment, the longest minute of my life was over.

So, to Justin Bieber, you beat the odds, you didn't mess up when it was time to lay it all on the line, and, even though I'm a little bitter about that, I admire such traits in your rich, little, non-threatening, sixteen-year-old self.

To King George VI, even though you are dead, you beat the odds, you didn't mess up when it was time to go for broke, and the man who played you will probably get a trophy, which I didn't at that Toastmasters thing.

Yes, I'm a little bitter about that, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Long Live Chuck Taylor.

I've got a weird obsession, especially for a guy.

Some would consider it highly non-masculine and chalk it down to my twenty years of exposure to the fashion industry. Others may theorize that, since we all have some yin and yang inside us, I have a little more yang than most men.

And those who remain, or the vast majority, wouldn't care.

Last week, as I sat wedged into the back corner seat of King County Metro Route 54, I engaged in my customary bus-riding exercise: I checked out each and every person, male and female, who boarded.

A heavyset man stuffed his body between one of those bus stripper poles, which are coated with the next monkey pox super bird flu, and a skinny, goth girl. As he settled in uncomfortably between animal and mineral, his feet called to me like a beautiful siren.

He wore Converse One-Stars.
You see, from my earliest memory, I've had a thing about shoes, namely "sneakers," as they're referred to on the east coast and parts of Illinois. Over here, we call them "tennis shoes," which is like referring to all soda as "Coke."

Anyway, as young as age five, anytime I scored a new pair of kicks, I couldn't keep my eyes off them. I actually watched them while I ran, which was a problem. I'm sure that whenever that salesperson asked me if I wanted to wear them out of the store, the look he or she received was the puzzled expression of a kid who'd been asked if he wanted the spikes which had just been pulled out of his feet to be re-impailed.

Here they are..they're called PF Flyers. Back in the Sixties, their ads claimed to make any kid run faster and jump higher, which was difficult to do if you're watching them while running. Nonetheless, I still made my mom time me wearing the Flyers and compare my jumps between my sweet new rides and the old JC Penney Specials or Sears Canvas Nightmares. Shoe snob at five? Guilty.

If I weren't outside admiring my form, I'd be in the house, the new shoes always in view. In fact, the styling above is quite similar to how I'd lay them on the floor next to me while watching Speed Racer. It was the best way to achieve maximum satisfaction from my awesome, new acquisition.

I got really excited about cool shoes because, as a kid, I burned through them faster than Sarah Palin exhausted male names that start with "T" and are types of wood. And because of that, my parents couldn't afford the PF Flyers or Suede Converse One-Stars every time. Some pairs had two stripes rather than three; sorry, but no thirty-dollar Adidas Superstars this time, buddy.

I really hope I understood.

Since seventh grade was a marquee year, first year of junior high and all, Mom and Dad again sprung for the Cadillacs. Nike hadn't been around long in 1975, so not many people were yet familiar with the swoosh. I sat down in math class that first day, wearing a sparkling new pair of Nike Cortezes:

Lord, I loved those shoes, at least until the girl behind me called me "Nike" (rhymes with "Mike"). Apparently, she thought I had personalized my shoes with my first name on the back heel. Weird and unintentional, I know, but my fragile thirteen-year-old psyche struggled with wearing them again, at least until I could find a red marker to blot out the moniker.

My sneaker obsession died down slightly after junior high, since other interests trumped foot fashion, but I never ditched my childhood favorites.

What I'm trying to convey is that, even though I keep up with what the kids are wearing, my taste in shoes hit its head on the asphalt and stopped developing around 1975. My preferences are stunted and limited to canvas and leather. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play some record albums and plug in  my calculator.

Long live Chuck Taylor.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Secret to Offensive, Yet Tasteful, Blog Posts.

Today, I'm doing a little bit of pre-Spring cleaning.

For the past blogteen months, I've posted every two or three days. You may be surprised to hear, however, that the words don't seep directly from my primal brain stem to the digital world; I actually keep a journal.

I carry it around pretty much any time I'm wearing clothes. In the event that a topic bobs its noggin to the surface, I can jot it down before it's lost to the ether of my consciousness, before something shiny derails my runaway train of thought.

Sometimes, the topic is obvious. When Sarah Palin claims to be a foreign policy expert because two black people live in Wasilla, I'll latch onto something like that. But frequently, I need to peruse my backlog of scribblings in order to come up with a decent post.

When combing through my archives, I'll often discover those "What the hell were you thinking?" ideas, infractions which found life on the printed page, but the referee showed up later to throw the flag. So, before I permanently stomp these stories into the cold, damp ground, here are the titles of posts I never have, and never will, write:

"People at Work Who I'd Like to See Naked."

"My Favorite Surprise Movie Endings."

"An Open Apology to Everyone I've Accidentally Sweat On."

"My New Look for the New Year: Ponytails and Skinny Jeans."

"I'm a Doctor, Not a Barber: Why My Vasectomy Bill Included the Cost of a Disposable Razor."

"Shhhh! Guess What My Company Has Planned for Next Fall?"

"My Favorite Daughter."

"Hey, Kids! Exercise is Stupid."

Naturally, I have others, but the crux of this piece is to show, mostly to my wife, that I do possess a filter.

It's porous and wafer thin, but it catches the big chunks.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obviously, obese is the new skinny.

Self-pity is an unattractive trait. Would you agree?

I suppose that, occasionally, I enjoy the attention garnered from someone feeling sorry for me. For instance:

When I’ve got a nasty fever and body aches, I appreciate the gift of non-Safeway, brand name raspberry sorbet.

When my child freakishly vomits into my mouth a bit, I'm grateful to be the beneficiary of sympathetic dry heaves from another understanding parent.

But I don’t expect your sympathy, your kind words or your understanding, when I require stitches for attempting to open a beer without a bottle opener or tear a hamstring because I was racing my daughter to the faster go cart.

And most certainly, I am petitioning no one to convey pity toward the following revelation, which I learned on Thursday:

I am, technically at least...obese.

Like most middle-aged men, I visualize myself far younger than I look. Upon hearing the sound of my voice, I feel no different than that mall-cruising, mesh-half-shirt-wearing, lean prince with backne (that's pimples you don't see when you're checking your shirtless self out), who inhabited my body thirty years ago.

Naturally, these days, the lumbar aches a little in the morning, a couple of new facial developments tend to get nicked by my Gillette Sensor, and the whole concept of the thirty-two-inch waist appears to have been reconfigured by the denim industry. That metric system must've finally caught on.

But, other than that and some bladder skirmishes, I feel absolutely fine-ish.

Last week, a couple of the medications on which I rely—excuse me, which I’ve chosen to maximize my health—were denied refills pending a physical exam. Always taking the half-full approach, I interpreted this pharmaceutical blackmail as an opportunity to touch base with my physician, much like an oil change and lube, where you can't really count on the oil, but you're certain about the lube.

Since I’m closer to fifty than forty, and I’m not naive, I had fully girded my loins for the traditional “straight to third base” physical, the kind where, after a thorough exploration from rain forest to desert savanna, the final chapter involves a spelunking excursion into the stalagmite caves.

The doctor's feedback of my topographical area went something like, "Okay, this, this, that, this and those are moles. They'll always be benign, so don't worry."

I wanted to say, "Yeah, but what about this one over here that's growing eyes and the beginnings of hooves?" I kept quiet.

And then, the elephant in the room made his presence known. It was time.

Earlier, as I entered the exam room, I had noticed two Costco-sized tubes of personal lubricant on the counter. One appeared to have never been used, and the other had squeeze marks all over it, like a four-old-had been handling it. I may have reprimanded my kid about wasting toothpaste this way, buy I decided I didn't give a rat's ass whether or not the doctor started from the bottom of the tube or not. I wouldn't be watching, anyway.

As I mentioned, I was as hygienically prepared as going to a dentist appointment, except this time, only flossing was obligatory, and a certain part of me was clean enough to play Yahtzee on.

Once Dr. Spelunker led with the cold, gooey advance party, Cavequest 2011 was underway. I tried to play it cool, thinking that women endure this type of exam far more frequently than my whining self, so I attempted to toughen up with thoughts of baseball. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before I was imagining being the new kid at prison.

Finally, the doctor was finished, and we agreed to still be friends and see each other in another year. After putting out so easily, it's really all I could have hoped for.

"And by they way," he added, peeling off his latex gloves, "your body mass index indicates that you are .5 over the "obese" cut-off mark. If you lose five pounds you'll be down to "overweight," so let's shoot for that. Take care, now."

Nothing quite like being told I'm just barely obese, and that with a little work, I'll be overweight.

As I slowly re-applied my clothes and my dignity, I resolved, I don't care what anyone says. By this summer, I'll make it even further and just be fat.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why I hate Valentine's Day.

Please forgive me for the potentially offensive subject matter of this post. It’s a topic which tends to polarize people, and if you disagree, that’s fine. It’s a bit of a hot button issue, yet doesn’t pertain to religion, The New York Yankees or anyone from Wasilla, Alaska.

It’s Valentine’s Day. I hate it. Not intensely dislike, but actually physically hate it. I loathe it more than the thought of French kissing Donald Trump or eating Swedish Fish off of Kim Kardashian's eyebrow. I despise this phony, guilt-tripping, panic-inducing day in February more than just about anything other than one of my daughters marrying a clown.

Why? And how did this seemingly harmless, processed cheese of holidays transform itself into a big syrup of ipecac sundae?

Allow me to retrace the events which precipitated my fall from grace. Roughly twenty-five years, sixty-seven days and three hours ago, I was in the midst of a college relationship. It had all begun so splendidly; she was bubbly and cute, dressed nicely, had a pleasing figure...and she seemed to be really interested in me, which goes quite a way when you’re an immature, twenty-two-year-old guy.

At the beginning, I found her little quirks endearing—carrying around a large enough purse to hold her hairspray and blow dryer and insisting that we always hold hands in public. She laughed at my jokes with a tone of confusion, but, hey, any laugh is a good laugh.

Oh, sure, she frequently criticized my clothing choices, informed me that beer drinking causes acne and suggested I shed a few pounds, since “everyone is looking.” She also required that I borrow someone’s car for our weekly dates on the town, or that I be on call 24/7 if she needed reassurance about a midterm or a new sweater. Nonetheless, I overlooked her idiosyncrasies. I was smitten. We inhabited that magical collegiate Greek system and emitted the essence of the All-American campus couple.

After about a year had pased, I had become at least eighty percent over her. I frequently conjured up reasons to not see her, but we still spent a lot of time together.

On one such occasion, we met at the student union building to study and eat red licorice, which I knew would involve sporadic study moments mixed with my reassurances of her fears and anxieties: “Yes, you’re still beautiful, even though you’re twenty now.”

She floated the idea of participating in a “pinning” ceremony, an event signifying our engagement to be engaged. This gala traditionally involves the combined memberships the sorority and fraternity, and culminates with the guy (me) affixing a fraternity-crest-embossed pin to the recipient (her).

“How about if we schedule it for Valentine’s Day? That’s our favorite holiday, remember?” She stared resolutely at me, my eyes homing in on her lipstick-flecked front tooth, which she’d obviously missed during that morning’s forty-five minute primping session.

No, I hadn’t remembered it being our favorite holiday. In fact, no environment is ideal for breaking up, but if I truly wanted to douse this fire before it spread to the neighbors’ houses, I had to make a stand…right now. So, rather than opting for the difficult, yet honest, route by saying something like, “I’d rather eat my own arm,” I took a slightly less controversial angle and replied, “Okay.”

And in less time than it takes for your brain’s pain center to register a stubbed toe, the wheels of the pinnin’ where a rollin’. Flowers, champagne, kegs and cake were ordered. Each day which passed and hurled this event closer to reality was a day I vowed to end this fiasco...tomorrow.

From the pinnee’s perspective, each of the earth’s rotations further focused the culmination of her fairy tale illusion. Our celebration had long ago ceased revolving around us; it centered smack dab on her. What color dress should she buy to stand out, yet not look cheap? Which guys in my house should she ask to line up to hand her single red roses, culminating in my pinning the medallion of no return to her... dress strap, or something.

Oh, how the spineless suffer needlessly.

Valentine's Day, or VD, finally arrived, and a gelatinous fog of resignation surrounded me as my fraternity brothers and I traipsed the five blocks to her sorority. As I entered the foyer in the lead position, my shoes shiny and my suit—kind of old—I looked into the living room.

Sorority living rooms are a lot like funeral homes, because not a lot of people hang out in them. All of the fun happens in the fraternities, so the scene I came upon resembled a large group of girls who looked like they were attending a funeral before the prom.

And there, front and center, was the pseudo bride. I don't recall the ceremony very well, mostly because it went so fast. Songs were sung, flowers were exchanged, but really, the whole thing was a strange cultish wedding where you'd expect Tom Cruise to give a speech at the end.

We had beer and cake at the frat house afterwards, since sororities don't officially acknowledge the existence of alcohol, sex or eating disorders. Just as the evening appeared to be winding down, my betrothed approached me and informed me that she had a surprise.

She insisted that we perform a spotlight dance, again, for all to see. One of her pledge sisters then pulled out an alto saxophone and serenaded the crowd with "I only have eyes for you." As I again felt the eyes of many upon me, I wondered if they could notice that I was clinically dying.

Then, oh merciful Jehovah, it was over.

We stayed together about six more months, until even my cowardly self could stand it no longer.

I learned a lot about myself, relationships and honesty during my time with the only girl I ever pinned. I learned that it's okay to proclaim your love to the world and it's okay to do nice things for people you care about. I learned that by living a lie, it only gets worse with time.

I also learned that I hate Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You’re giving me a headache in my eye.

How do you feel about talking?

I know that’s a strange question, but think about it for a second.

Do you like to talk? Do you like to listen to others talking? When is your favorite time for talking, and when do you absolutely despise any type of verbal exchange, regardless of how minimal?

Yesterday, I sat in a large meeting. As fifteen minutes became a half-hour, as a half-hour became an hour, I realized that nothing was accomplished that couldn’t have been conveyed in a two-paragraph email. I counted the people, a quirky meeting habit of mine, and twenty-three were in attendance.

That’s twenty-three “human hours,” almost a calendar day, spent watching one or two people listening to themselves talking. For some reason, work meetings have been given the cultural go-ahead to abide more meaningless chatter than any other forum known to humanity. And when it’s finally time to end a meeting, no one knows how. Usually, a prolonged silence is followed by someone finally saying, “Thanks,” standing up and shuffling out. I think some feel that being the first to leave a meeting is a sign of weakness, that you've turned in your meeting torch.

Depending on the activity, varying degrees of conversation are acceptable. What’s society’s prescribed amount of talking at funerals? How about during the national anthem? Or a colonoscopy?

I’m afraid I haven’t the answers.

When two men stand at the urinal, virtually no talk is allowed, especially if no divider wall provides a buffer between the “dueling banjos.” If a guy feels comfortable enough to speak to his voidmate, it’s barely above a whisper, since we can't ascertain the owner of those Florsheims in the stall next door. They are shiny and well-maintained, signifying the feet of a manager, and breaking bathroom silence, at least verbally, is frowned upon.

I've had a couple of chance lavatory encounters with an unfortunate fellow who requires the flow of conversation to facilitate other flows. I wonder if he’d talk to himself if I weren’t in there. Would he irately look down and say, “Look, you work for me, and when I say go, I mean go. Oh, jeez, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. You know you’re my best friend, so I'm just going to relax and let you tell me when you're ready, buddy. Shhh! Someone’s coming.”

Guys are weird.

Not only do physical settings affect the quantity of conversation, but so does the passage of time. How many long-standing relationships, which begin with two people talking all night, so excited and so stimulated, evolve into that elderly couple at Applebee’s who sit at the same booth, addressing nothing but the Sunday paper?

Some would contend that that couple knows each other so well that they can communicate non verbally. I hope so, because I don’t want someone to look at my wife and me in twenty years, and say, “Isn’t it cute how she understands his grunts?”

I guess the lesson here is that, unless you’ve got something meaningful to say, less is more. At my mom’s memorial service, I probably heard “she’s in a better place” twelve times. I wanted to say, “Impossible. What’s better than a church fellowship hall filled with mourning family members, Folgers Crystals and egg salad?”

So, from this point forward, patience is the key. I’ve been writing this drivel for a year-and-a-half, so what gives me the right to judge other blatherers? If someone has something to say, I’m going to let them talk as much as they want. I’ll try not to interrupt and let their streams of consciousness continue unencumbered.

But, to keep chatter to a minimum, I’m going to request decorative urinals for the conference rooms.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ronald Reagan: Evil doing while napping.

Ronald Reagan would've turned one hundred years old today.

It's strange to celebrate an event like this.

It's one thing to observe the day John Lennon would have been seventy, or to commemorate the anniversary of an historic event, like the first Big Mac.

We celebrate Lincoln's birthday, but we don't assign a number to it. We don't lament, "Damn, he'd be 202 years old today; if only he'd ducked."

I made the mistake of pointing out my grandma's hundredth birthday to my wife, even though she had died in an assisted care facility at age eighty-eight. Always the sensitive spouse, my wife replied, "Yeah, it's too bad she couldn't hold on in the nursing home those last twelve years."

Hey, mean wife, I realize my statement was ridiculous, but stop referring to life and death in logical terms.

So here we are, singing the praises of a guy whose antics really held up over time. Some believe that Ronald Reagan personally ended the cold war, demanding that Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down that wall." What many don't realize is that the Soviet Union was already on the verge of economic collapse, and Reagan was actually referring to a wall in the Gorbachevs' guest quarters.

Apparently, Nancy believed there was a camera in it, and she didn't want to be taped "just saying yes" to that virile hunk of president.

The man claimed to have been unaware of the shady dealings during his tenure, such as the arms for hostages scandal, the dirty deeds in Central America and a presidential travel schedule based upon astrological data. So what's worse? A guy who signed off on criminal activity or one who was profoundly oblivious?

Pick your poison, I suppose.

Ronald Reagan busted up unions, he deregulated the financial industry and he threw our nation into a crevasse of debt so deep that we're still feeling its effects twenty years after he left office.

He ramped up the "war on drugs," pouring billions into killing the supplier, rather than treating the user. It hasn't worked.

He slashed mental health funding, which can be witnessed in any urban setting in the rantings of people who desperately need institutionalization, but are depended upon to regulate their own meds while living on the streets.

It's ironic that the President was simultaneously encountering his own bout with mental illness.

He was an actor. The man had great hair, a winning smile and a folksy demeanor. Sometimes I think that we Americans merely desire a President who can re-assure us that we are God's chosen people, grin, hop on a horse and go and clear some brush.

So, before we deify this guy, before we re-write history and place his face on the three-dollar bill, let's look just a bit more closely at Ronald Reagan's legacy. He looked great standing in front of Old Glory, didn't he?

But what was on the inside?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Resting up for Porn Sunday.

Welcome to the second and final chapter of my two-part series centered on Super Bowl week.

While 95 million viewers will belly up to the big screen for Sunday's big showdown, 40 million more of us will spoon against a smaller screen to watch... a little porno.

Apparently, a lot of us prefer the "Free-to-Lay" Woman to the Doritos Girl.

And therefore, I’d like to discuss a peripheral event which has been planned to coincide with Sunday’s big game and take advantage of a worldwide audience.” This happening has been dubbed, “Porn Sunday.”

I’m not making this up.

At first glance, you’re probably thinking, “You know, that’s a great idea. Why not a porn Sunday? It’s like suggesting that you try orange juice at dinner time, also.” I’d wager that, if I ranked all of the days of the week based upon how seriously I’ve considered watching a little skin action, Sunday would finish a distant seventh. You know, day of rest and all.

But Porn Sunday is not what you think; it isn’t a marketing ploy by the National Adult Film Industry Association to increase its popularity in America. On average, we dudes experience porn awareness every seven seconds, anyway.

There's no telethon hosted by Ron Jeremy, who dons a tight tuxedo with a flesh colored ribbon to honor the cause. No tears will be shed, because there won't be a special video tribute to John Holmes, backed by the inspirational refrain of “One Shining Moment.”

There will be no award-winning dialogue.

Porn Sunday is the brainchild of the XXXchurch of Las Vegas, Nevada. Its aim is to encourage churches across America, this Sunday, to vocally condemn pornography and its divisive stranglehold (maybe not the best word choice) on the American family. The XXXchurch has enlisted NFL quarterbacks Jon Kitna and Matt Hasselbeck as spokesmen for the cause, which will air this weekend.

Let me just acknowledge that the adult film industry is hardly a bastion of progressive thought and ethical behavior. It’s a medium rife with the exploitation and endangerment of women and their health.

It is also legal.

And with the Middle East on the cusp of self-immolation, with America’s youth fighting two wars and with our economy, infrastructure and educational system in shambles, can’t we place the eradication of porn a little further down the to-do list?

Why should we take the advice of a couple of professional jocks, anyway? What will they say?

“Hi, I’m Jon Kitna, and I’ve achieved success throwing a ball around because I’ve worked hard all my life. In other words, guys, I always keep both hands on the keyboard. Please, don’t surf porn, and if you do, delete your history. I mean, don’t surf porn.”

And won’t most of us be watching the pre-game, the the pre-pre-game and the pre-pre-pre game shows while these two are on some other channel suggesting that my wife duct tape my hiking boots over my hands before going shopping for the afternoon?

No, thanks, guys. I suppose I appreciate your concern for America’s demise into the abyss of pornography, but here’s one suggestion for each of you.

Before giving your sales pitches, get rid of those National Geographics under your mattresses.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When you follow a legend, try not to tailgate.

What is it like to follow a legend?

What’s it like to know that you’re filling a void left by someone whose legacy is immortal?

We’ll find out this weekend, as Aaron Rodgers, upstart quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, attempts to water ski in the wake left by Brett Favre, former patron saint of Cheeselandia.

Please notice I used the word, “former.” By now, most of us are fully aware of how Mr. Favre has tainted his legacy since leaving the Bay of Green. Oops, I probably shouldn’t use words which contain “taint” and “leg,” since Favre chose to photograph those parts of his body and text them to a female employee of the New York Jets.

I haven’t seen the pictures, so I don’t know if any fun props were used, like little helmets or anything, but those Packer fans who had previously appreciated Brett’s down-home folksy family guy persona were bitterly disappointed. Oh, yeah, and he also joined Green Bay’s bitter rival, the Minnesota Vikings.

Steeerike two.

But there’s one thing Mr. Favre has accomplished, which is sufficient for a few die hard fans to stick with him like the virus he picked up at the Detroit Airport Hilton back in ’96.

He’s won a Super Bowl.

Our history is crammed with folks who’ve attempted to maintain success after a legend has preceded them and wandered into the sunset. Some have pulled it off. For example:

Mike Brady married Carol, each coming off the traumatic demise of his or her spouse. They seemed to hit the ground running, without so much as a botched suicide attempt from Jan or huffing incident involving Peter. The kids called them “Mom and Dad” immediately, the walls weren’t adorned with pictures of their dead departed and they never called each other Phil or Madge by mistake. Nice work, you two.

Brian Williams inherited the reins from Tom Brokaw, and has performed admirably. In fact, the network no longer needs to cut to a commercial while waiting for Mr. Brokaw to finish saying “Jalalabad.”

Barack Obama didn’t exactly follow a legend, but the man he succeeded was considered President by many. And even though a stuffed crust pizza could’ve communicated more effectively, Bush’s entire Cabal of Crazy achieved legendary abuses of power.

Of course, some weren’t quite up to the task of filling the loafers of greatness:

Anyone who sang lead vocals for Van Halen, Queen or The Doors should be ashamed of themselves. Okay, I’d do it if they asked me, but come on, guys, Freddie Mercury is Queen. Jim Morrison is The Doors. David Lee Roth and a toupee is Van Halen.

Does anyone remember Charlie’s Angels without Farrah Fawcett? I know she only put in one year before having a contract dispute and being replaced by Shelly Hack, but Farrah will always be Numero Uno Angel. Rest in peace, Farrah.

Back in college, I religiously watched “The Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson.” Johnny was older, but he was hip and he was hilarious. He launched comedians who altered the landscape of American humor, and after Jay Leno took over, I decided to check back in when grandpa jokes became funny.

There are others who came up short, like the new Coke, Val Kilmer as Batman, the second Darren Stevens and whatever that stuff is that replaced trans-fat. Holy sweet mother, I miss trans-fat.

So good luck, Aaron Rodgers. May you lead the green and gold to victory.

And afterwards, no texting.