Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have fun at camp, honey...don't forget your beer hat.

"Dad, how long do you think it'll take me to stop being nervous about this?"

"The second we get there, I promise."

The school year is rounding the corner and gimping into the home stretch, with just a few unfinished tasks on the docket. Final exams and field days, locker scrubbings and library fines, yearbook signings and report cards all poke their heads to the surface during these final weeks.

Oh, and one other item of unfinished business: fifth grade camp.

As my eleven-year-old daughter and I entered her school gym this morning, she toted a pink rolling suitcase, a sleeping bag and a heavy load of tween anxiety. The room teemed with the sounds and smells of a pre-adolescent hormone potluck; girls and boys segregated themselves in gaggles of giddy excitement.

Why is it that, even though I'm sure many bathed this morning, they still exuded an earthy musk? The boys wore hats and flannel shirts, their sneakers flopping around untied and their eyes barely visible beneath shaggy bangs. The girls adorned themselves in varying shades of pink, which graduated to a brownish around the sleeve areas. Long hair plastered their scalps and tangled at the collar.

The Frisbee conked my daughter in the head just as we placed her baggage next to her assigned spot on the wall. An aforementioned male street urchin ran up and grabbed the disk as she fought back tears of pain and anxiety.

"Hang on a second," I commanded. I wanted to throttle his little turkey throat. "Why are you playing Frisbee in a room full of people?"

"I don't know." I believed him.

"I'll tell you what. Hand me that thing right now. You just hit my daughter. Now get out of  here before I find your teacher."

He did as instructed and I stood next to my girl, clutching both her the round plastic toy. I desperately yearned to call upon my mad Frisbee-throwing skills, finely honed thanks to six months of post-college unemployment, and hurl it at the young man's long-solidified cranial soft spot.

Thankfully, a calming force from within stifled the urge.

My daughter and I passed a few more minutes together along the old gym wall. We reverted to our usual roles, where I would tell her a stupid joke and she would shove me in the chest. Joke, shove, joke, shove, joke, shove and finally, she was ready for me to go.

I squeezed her for as long as she would allow, then exited quickly and didn't look back. Friday still loomed far in the distance.

As I hiked slowly back to the car, I thought back to my week at camp, sixth grade in this case, and hoped to God that her experience would be nothing like mine.

I don't think any of the guys in my cabin at Camp Auburn had read The Lord of the Flies, but they seemed to have grasped the plot quite naturally. Once we had all gathered inside Cabin Number Five, Donny, the alpha male, took over.

"Who here knows how to ride a dirt bike?" Donny had thrown down the gauntlet immediately. Eleven boys raised their hands. The twelfth did not.

I was the twelfth. Donny's beady eyes locked onto me, followed by the rest of the pack's. "Are you a fag or something?'

"No. I've just never ridden a motorcycle."

"That means you're a fag," reasoned Donny in a highly unreasonable voice.

Why hadn't I just lied? I was sure that's what guys did in prison. How many scared inmates simply made up stories about killing someone with half a Snickers Bar and two twist ties just to keep the heat off? Not this inmate, apparently.

He then examined the Olympia Beer hat my mom had bought me just for camp. "And Olympia's piss water."

Apparently, this twelve-year-old had a discerning palette for malted beverages, as well.

Fortunately, a kid named Ralph had begun unpacking his Aquaman pajamas, which drew the hiyenas' attention away from my Kawasaki virgin status. Donny, apparently harboring a healthy dose of jealousy for blond, seagoing superheroes, then labeled Ralph with the same tolerant moniker he had generously given me.
Donny would call each kid in the cabin a fag at least once during the week.
Hitting a nice stride after a few hours getting used to Donny, I eventually tolerated, if not slightly enjoyed, my time at camp. We sang songs, caught small fish and met new filthy kids. A high school-aged counselor named Claire stole my heart and I signed up for every art, craft and activity over which she presided.
I vowed to marry her some day...after I stopped being Donny's wife, of course.
I've chosen today to tell this story since my daughter is surely out of Wi-Fi range and can't be spooked by her dad's stories of mean kids and pecking orders. One thing is bothering me, however. I knew I forgot something this morning.
I didn't review dirt bikes with her.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

You're going to bump your head around 7:38.

Wouldn't it be nice to foretell the future?

Some actually can, like Vegas oddsmakers, hairsprayed weather vixens and my wife, when she warns me about saying yes to one more French 75.

On first blush, possessing powers of prognostication appears an ideal set up; future events could be parlayed into incomprehensible riches, risks could be hedged and uncertainties clarified. A future where no fog muddles the horizon could prove to be a golden ticket to a Utopian existence.

Or could it?

What if you knew what was going to happen, yet couldn't stop it? Would you want to know the precise days and times of your family members' deaths? How about your own demise? While some would argue that being provided with Cliff's Notes to your destiny actually alters it, I'm not sure destiny can actually be altered.

And how about the smaller stuff—the flat tires and the food poisonings and the sinus infections? Would you want to know that Tuesday at 7:09 AM, you're going to stub your little toe against the door jamb with such a vengeance that your neighbors call to ask when you bought that barking sea lion?

I wouldn't. 

I also wouldn't have wanted to know:

–that on September 19, 1986, in a moment of clumsy haste, I would rake an accounts payable ledger cover across the bottom of my nose, resulting in a third degree paper cut and heavy bleeding. Actually, I don't think paper cuts are classified in degrees of severity, but this one really hurt and looked like I hadn't trimmed my nails prior to a nose mining excursion.

–that while lifting a lawn mover down three steps to the parking strip on July 10, 1990, my ankle would buckle at a ninety degree angle on the last stair. The pain seared so brightly that I swear Jesus was contemplating calling me home as I rolled on the sidewalk like an Italian soccer player waiting for the magic spray. And yes, I would have walked toward the light had I been able to walk.

–that on August 22, 1980, the day my senior yearbook picture was to be taken, I would awaken with a Defcon Five zit on my nose. And this wasn't an average zit. I've had millions of them and I'm proud to announce that this one was inducted into the Acne Hall of Fame in Fresno, California, in 2003. 

It was the kind that forms a lava dome beneath the dermis and requires eleven percent of your body's blood supply to nourish. Fortunately, it looked more like a sunburn (see image above), but make no mistake, I feared that sepsis would overtake my vital organs by the end of the day.

–that on May 28,2011, while clearing some stuff out of my mother-in-law's backyard, I would hoist an old bird house from the ground, only to discover that it harbored a speakeasy for bumblebees. I may never know why one of them decided to fly behind my ear to plant his stinger, but let's just say the barking sea lion made a guest appearance for the neighbors that day in Auburn, Washington.

I'm ecstatic, not just glad, but ecstatic, that I wasn't clued in about these events. And although they didn't contribute material hardship or permanent injury, the element of surprise proved to be a blessing.

A common bromide in my house is "Be careful what you wish for, because you just may get your wish."

I hereby proclaim, despite all of the implicit and explicit benefits associated with an ability to foretell the future, that I prefer blissful ignorance from this moment forward.

How about you?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's not going to get better...ever.

What do you think? Are they savvy observations or merely the rantings of a cranky, old man?

Sage or cynic?

I think he's spot on.

The great George Carlin owned many talents, the largest of which was his aptitude for jerking down the curtain to expose that man at the controls. His comments, scathing and occasionally offensive as they were, cut to the core of our behaviors and value systems, and he never shied from labeling a quacking, waddling bird as a duck.

Carlin's tirade against "the owners" in the attached clip proved prophetic this week, as Washington's state legislature, facing a five billion dollar budget shortfall, decided that nearly half should bleed from the arteries of our public education system. Teachers, many of whom already personally subsidize their classrooms' pencil, paper and parental needs, were rewarded with a two percent pay cut.

I can't speak for you, but not once have I heard a candidate, Republican or Democrat, pledge to gut education as part of his or her platform. Never has a rolled-up-shirt-sleeve-wearing-town-hall-touring talking head spouted off about how our educational system spoils and pampers our children and needs to be scaled back to accommodate more pressing needs.

So why, once they are elected, do they suddenly change course?

Time to circle right back to Mr. Carlin's thesis. Do the owners, the CEOs, of corporate America really want our children minimally educated, learning only what is necessary to become corporate cogs? And are our elected officials simply their toadies?

I don't think these top dogs really care, one way or another. As long as state budget deficits aren't passed along through higher marginal taxes, the kids can eat caviar or fish heads; doesn't matter. In a land where wealth is coveted and celebrated, no one dares question the morality of a chief executive who pulls down in one year an amount which would rescue a struggling school district.

According to Forbes.com, Lloyd Blankfein, head dude at Goldman Sachs Group, pulled down seventy-three million dollars in 2007. That could purchase a couple of red recess balls and maybe some sidewalk chalk.

Howard Schulz, infamous owner of Starbucks, somehow stuffed $98.6 million into his green apron and decided that, not only couldn't he afford to own the Seattle Supersonics any longer, he also couldn't swing sending a dozen caramel macchiatos down to my wife's high-poverty school ten miles south of Starbucks headquarters.

And Aubrey McClendon, grand poo bah at Chesapeake Energy, somehow found time to purchase the Seattle Suprsonics, massively pollute the environment and campaign against gay rights while still raking in $117 million.

Now that's elite-level multitasking.

As George Carlin so brutally intimated, "It's not going to get better..ever...so appreciate what you have."

I certainly do, because I'm afraid my kids won't have nearly as much.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Should I say something?

It didn't really seem like a big deal at first.

Then it became an ethical dilemma.

I gazed a half mile into the distance, spotting the bus as it rounded the corner and slowly approached. Swiveling my head ninety degrees, I noticed an elderly woman walking as briskly as possible toward me; she had no view of the oncoming coach as I did.

Was she trying to catch this bus? Maybe, but they come every ten minutes. Should I yell to her that it's coming? I could, but she may not understand and feel threatened. How about if I just motion with my hand to come quickly? Also creepy, plus, if she picked up her gait any further, the specter of a broken hip looms with the risk of slamming to the asphalt.

What did I do?


I boarded the bus and watched the woman's wobbly silhouette diminish through the back window. I then sat and ruminated for the thirty minute trip downtown. By rationalizing each scenario into a course of non-action, I had possibly robbed this elderly woman of a ten-minute chunk of her day. Due to perceived embarrassment and sheer laziness, I had committed, albeit slight, an unethical act.

We encounter these situations more often than we think.

My eleven-year-old daughter and I enjoy watching a show entitled, What Would You Do? every Friday night on ABC. Unsuspecting witnesses are faced with ethical decisions through the use of hidden cameras and actors. For example, a waitress in a diner, played by an actress, refuses service to a gay couple with children and creates a scene in front of a roomful of patrons.

As the cameras roll, some people ignore the situation entirely, while others choose to confront the server and/or comfort the victim. A substantial minority actually side with the waitress. The drama builds until the show's host, with camera operators and grips in tow, bursts into the room to announce that it's all been staged.

The scenarios are intense, like a group of drunk teenagers on a public sidewalk, encouraging a sober friend to imbibe, or an adolescent couple dealing with a new found pregnancy in a coffee shop.

But those types of dramas are rare, compared to the smaller and more common scenarios we face.

When should you say something?

Sometimes, it's simply a matter of reaching a boiling point, like when I encountered a guy scattering his toe nail clippings on the floor of the gym locker room.

Other instances, we're trying to do someone a favor. It's easy to tell your spouse that she's got a piece of chickpea in her eyebrow, but try it with a stranger:

"Excuse me, ma'am, but that leaflet of romaine lettuce between your teeth flaps like a little green flag whenever you make the long "e" sound. I just thought you should know."

I've got a big problem with people who need to just blow their nose, but won't do it, even when an Aloe-lotion-coated nose wipe lurks ten feet away. It's easy with one of my kids: "For the love of Kimberly Clark. You've been sniffing since Monday. Stop doing nose Kegels and get a freaking Kleenex."

But when it's a stranger, I'd feel pretty jerkish asking him if he'd like a tissue.

Yesterday, again on King County Metro Route 21, a man sat beside me, zoning out on his palm held electronic pacifier.

Remember as a kid, when your big brother would pin you down and dangle a thick saliva rope over your face, only to slurp it back in just before it splashed down on your little oily forehead?

That slurper was my seatmate, only he was playing professional Duncan snot yo-yo master, performing amazing nasal feats prior to snorting his inventory safely home in the nick of time. Growing distracted to the point of obsession, I highly considered ripping my shirt off and offering it to him as a small token of my irritation.

Before doing so, however, I felt compelled to play the scene out mentally. You know...a little cost/benefit analysis:

"Shit! Just blow your nose!" barked the pallid, shirtless, middle aged man, extending a torn Old Navy polo toward the startled commuter. The irate passenger's arm quivered as the striped blue material offered itself to no one.

The bus halted and idled at the next stop as Transit Security pulled up behind. The bare chested perpetrator was led away in handcuffs.

I'll just put on some headphones next time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

No rapture? Hey, honest mistake.

Hey, everyone makes mistakes.

I recall believing wholeheartedly that the castaways from Gilligan's Island, after so many close-calls and with a professor who could build a radio out of Mrs. Howell's Cross-Your-Heart Bra, simply were not karmically meant to be rescued.

But in 1978, they finally were, after fourteen years and possibly a couple of Gilligan/Mary Ann love children.

When Fresca came out with two new varieties, Sparkling Peach Citrus and Sparkling Black Cherry, to compliment their classic grapefruit flavor, I sped to Safeway for a case of each. On the way, I pondered renting a back hoe to dig three deep holes, fill up each with a different variety of Fresca, and plunge rapturously backward into each on a sizzling summer afternoon.

Unfortunately, there would be no pools; the new flavors tasted worse than curried sand.

So who am I to judge Harold Camping, the man who predicted a May 21, 2011 rapture, the day Jesus would return to lift the righteous into heaven, while the remainder of the sinful masses would suffer on Earth until roughly Octoberish?

And this wouldn't be the biblical J.C., the guy who forgave everyone including his torturers, hung out with prostitutes and may have actually possessed a northern African ethnicity.

Nope, the dude who came back was going to be a Caucasian bad ass, and this time he'd probably be sporting a fresh crew cut and pulling a trailer filled with water boarding supplies.

Oh yeah, and he'd be clean shaven except for an awesome mustache.

Alas, Mr. Camping erred, and as far as I can tell, nothing happened. His rationale involved a complex numerological calculation, concluding that scriptural signs pointed to May 21 as the day of "harpazo," the Greek word for being "caught up," or "snatched up."

Have you ever read the Bible, especially the Book of Revelation? I can see how Gaming could've concluded that such nastiness was at hand, especially after so many prophecies have already come to fruition. For instance:

Revelation 16:1—"Then I heard a loud voice speaking from the temple to the seven angels: ' Go and pour out the seven bowls of God's anger on the earth."

Back in college, some of my fraternity brothers got a little drunk on a Saturday afternoon and made some chili. It was terrible, because they used ketchup instead of tomato sauce, and our president, whom we referred to as "God," told them to dump their bowls out in the alley.

Revelation 12:1—"Then a great and mysterious sight appeared in the sky. There was a woman, whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head."

Hello? Cher, Academy Awards, 1986. I'm not sure if she came out of the sky, but she may have been on one of those cherry pickers.

Revelation 13:1—"Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads; on each of its horns there was a crown, and on each of its heads there was a name that was insulting to God."

Okay, this happened last summer. This aircraft carrier was docked in Seattle. I saw seven sailors walking out of the waterfront Red Robin, and man, they looked horny.

See? Maybe Harold Camping was simply off by a few thousand or million years. It doesn't mean it won't come down the way he's calling it.

But dude, enough with the billboards. You're making it look like Jesus has been in Cabo and he'll need to be picked up at the airport.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Regrets, I've had a few...

"...the record shows,
I took the blows,
and did it my way."
               -Old Blue Eyes

That's the climactic refrain from "My Way," one of my favorite tunes by Frank Sinatra.

As my fingers silently tap the keys in this quiet room, my memory queues up the song. I feel Sinatra's raw emotion as he belts it out and brings it home.

Why do I so love this crooner's tale, this story of taking a difficult path, stumbling often, yet harboring no regrets as the end of the road approaches?

Because I'm attracted to the unorthodox.

I think a lot of us are.

Dirk Nowitzki is a seven-foot-tall forward for the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks. An overwhelming majority of seven-foot professional basketball players are centers, never straying too far from the basket on either end of the court. The center position involves blocking shots, rebounding and pulling the trigger only on high percentage, point blank shots.

But not Nowitzki. While ascending the amateur basketball ranks in his native Germany, an enterprising coach detected skills in the youngster which usually were demonstrated only by the shorter players. The mentor honed the teenager's talents as a three-point shooter and ball handler. He effectively tranformed Nowitzki into a highly unorthodox hoopster, one who became virtually unguardable by other big men.

He's now a lead pipe lock for the NBA Hall of Fame.

The sports world thrives on the unorthodox, since unpredictability equals advantage, but to what degree is the unconventional celebrated in other areas of our culture?

Let's investigate, shall we?

Arnold Schwarzenegger recently revealed that he's been engaging in a little unorthodox behavior, impregnating both his wife and housekeeper at the same time. We'll see how going against the grain works out for Arnie in the long run. Facing America with this revelation is one thing, but when it involves the wrath of Oprah and the Kennedys, God help him.

I suppose he could claim he was only filming the sequel to Pumping Iron, entitled Pumping the Ironer.

Teenagers often practice unorthodoxy. Whether they realize it or not, I salute them for presenting parents with so many ridiculous requests at once that the least ridiculous seems reasonable. For example:

Me: What are your plans for tomorrow?

Teenage daughter: Well, I'm either going to plan a summer trip to Mexico with my friends, get something pierced or ask you for thirty dollars for a mani/pedi.

At that point, I don't even realize that my wallet is now in an open position on my thigh.

Many others march to a drum which plays its cadence in 7/4 time. Some people actually floss prior to eating ribs, so they feel intense satisfaction after finally wedging that meat chunk from between their molars while watching Antiques Roadshow.  

Others, such as Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Charlie Sheen, although highly unusual, should not be misinterpreted as unorthodox.

They're unsane.

My final example is Newt Gingrich, who possesses an unorthodox perception of his public image. While he looks in the mirror and sees the face of an intellectual patriot statesman worthy of admission to SEAL Team 6, the rest of American gazes upon an adulterous hypocrite who sounds singlehandedly responsible for the Earth's critical shortage of helium.

So join the ranks, even if it's just for a day. Try something unorthodox.

Sleep on a different side of your bed. Eat with your opposite hand. Hop in the shower and wash your bottom before cleaning your face and shampooing your head.

Then reward yourself. Pour a big, frosty glass of chocolate milk and drink it from the opposite side.

Monday, May 16, 2011

You think gas is expensive now? Wait until it's 55 cents a gallon!

Time to round up the usual suspects.

Let's go ahead and settle some accounts.

We'll drag 'em in for a little come to Jesus-ing.

Last week, the United States Senate Finance Committee summoned the grand poo bahs of Big Oil, the American chairmen of Exxon-Mobile, Chevron, B.P., Conoco Phillips and Shell for a public flogging. Brooks Brothers brushed awkwardly against Armani as the five Caucasian millionaires sat abreast, facing down a legion of angry senators (who coincidentally, also happen to be millionaires).

No Mary Poppins. No spoonful of sugar. Straight medicine.

Predictably, the topic of conversation was the skyrocketing price of crude oil. The execs mostly sat quietly as the politicians took turns in the art of rhetorical query. I decided to pay close attention, to peel through the layers of rhetoric and truly grasp the core of the communication. After combing through pages of the Congressional manuscript, I've boiled it down to two key questions:

1) Sir, what the hell is wrong with you?

and 2) Seriously, sir, what the hell is wrong with you?

The rest was like listening to a teenager receiving a lecture for missing curfew...including the same amount of listening by the tongue lashee.

The oil suits presented a united front. When informed by Charles Schumer, D-New York that Congress must decide between reducing tax breaks for Big Oil and cutting funding for Medicare/Medicaid, one executive asserted that any tax increase to his company would only cause oil prices to climb further and be passed along to the consumer.

He claimed that, even though these corporations have recognized record profits recently, they reap only six cents profit to each dollar.

Let's see. What's six cents times three hundred twenty seven gazillion?

I'm not really sure what the point of this entire exercise is, anyway. These modern day robber barons have been around since early day robber barons, and in between there were medium day robber barons.

Even so, up until the early 1970s, Americans enjoyed the benefits of cheap fuel and massive automobiles. When my family traveled to New York and back twice in our 1965 Chevrolet Bel-Air station wagon, we three kids caromed comfortably and unsafely around the car's spacious back end. Gas was only about thirty-one cents a gallon, so my parents could have easily afforded to purchase another kid along the way if one of us flew out of the car or was forgotten at a Carl's Jr.

But around 1973, a group of Arab oil producers known as OPEC, decided they were a bit chapped about American and Western European support for Israel, who had been cleaning the clocks of a few oil-rich Arab nations.

I wasn't in the room for the unanimous vote, but the statements probably resembled, "Righteous. Let's do this bitch."

And stick it to us they did. OPEC created an oil embargo, thereby drastically diminishing oil exports to the West. Basically, they employed the "If you're here to see the movie, a box of Raisonettes will cost you seven dollars" approach.

Shortages ensued and prices shot up from thirty-five to fifty-five cents a gallon between 1973 and 1974. I still remember my dad grabbing an extra maple bar as he got up early to join the gas queue every Saturday morning.

I love maple bars.

Anyway, gas theft became common in my neighborhood. A mouthful of siphoned petrol became a paltry price to pay for a few free gallons from someone's topped off Gran Torino with simulated wood grain paneling. People grew angry, really angry.

Imagine someone from the 1970s looking angry, like Burt Reynolds.

And America responded. If it weren't for the greed of a few Middle Eastern aristocrats, we would never have been blessed with such fuel efficient innovations as:

The Chevrolet Vega

The AMC Gremlin

and The Ford Pinto

The Pinto had some small issues with its gas tank exploding due to a flimsy reinforcing structure between the back panel and gas tank.

Who ever said driving a car is risk free?

Our auto industry wouldn't be the Clydesdale of the American economy if it weren't for those three subcompact workhorses, bolstering the ever-expanding middle class of our great nation, seeing us through times both difficult and prosperous.

God bless our insatiable thirst for fossil fuel.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Congratulations! You've had a disease named after you!

"Hey, Dad, guess what? I know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver."

Those were my eleven-year-old daughter's first words as she climbed into our filthy minivan after having completed a six-hour babysitting training session.

"Good for you. Can you do it on kids and adults?" I was curious as to any additional value the fifty-five dollar fee may have provided.

"Maybe, but I'm not sure. I know I can do it on a baby. Plus I  can change a diaper. When can I babysit, dad?  I want to practice all the stuff I've learned, like treating bee stings, broken bones, bloody cuts and allergic reactions."

"Umm, I'm not sure. And let's hope you never have to deal with any of that stuff, let alone all of it. I don't think parents wants to come home to find their kid bloody, swollen and in an arm sling."

She looked at me. "I could show them a big chunk of meat that their kid heaved up." And without pausing, she added, "They changed the name to 'abdominal thrusts.' That guy Heimlich didn't want his name associated with someone choking."

After I briefly pondered that statement's accuracy, my mind drifted to other biological terms which bear the discoverers' monikers. For instance, when I spoke of donating blood in this post, I mentioned a lengthy questionnaire which broaches the subject of exposure to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Who were these people named Creutzfeldt and Jakob? Were they a couple of dudes who slowly went insane after consuming bovine gray matter over a couple of Milwaukee's Bests, or were they lab-coat-wearing techies who discovered the cause of Mad Cow Disease and high-fived over a test tube full of brown, sludgy nastiness?

Thanks to the indisputable accuracy of Wikipedia, I learned that neither theory holds water, as the disease was first described by German neurologist Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt in 1920 and shortly afterwards by Alfons Maria Jakob, giving it the name Creutzfeldt-Jakob. 

I'm not sure I'd want my name forever linked to an insipid brain-eating disorder, but hey, it is good to get your name out there. Some diseases even use a possessive tense, as if it's the property of someone, like Alzheimer's or Hodgkin's. 

If a person is unfortunate enough to contract one of these terrible illnesses, they shouldn't be further penalized: "I'm terribly sorry, ma'am, but the tests indicate that you have Parkinson's Syndrome, so we'll begin treatment immediately after Dr. Parkinson receives his royalty payment."

I've decided I'd much rather be passively tied to a body part, like Fallopian tubes, which were named after Italian anatomist, Gabriele Fallopio. Kind of cool when your name gets an "ian" at the end, like "Johnsonian" or "Kardashianian."

From a less formal standpoint, some anatomical parts, such as "Adam's Apple" are able to exist on a casual, first name basis. And "Hernia" sounds like it could be one of my aunts from North Dakota.

I'm not sure how you'd go about getting a disease or body part named after you at this point, since it appears everything has been covered. And since my name is Tim, if it weren't for a few years and some bad luck, things would be different.

It would be known as the "T Spot."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The needle and the damage done.

I gave blood at work today. Not in the metaphorical sense—literally.

Ever donated blood?

From my perspective, it's one of those things that must be so compellingly convenient and spontaneous that I have to either brush the side of a blood mobile or stumble a few steps out of my cubicle to a waiting porto-bed. No appointments, no bus rides, no effort.

Today was one of those "site sucks," or whatever they're called, where gurneys are assembled in your workplace conference room, surrounded by more rubber gloves, cookies and tomato juice than my grandma's kitchen on hair dyin' day.

The elderly volunteer sat at a makeshift reception desk, tapping a little too hard on a laptop and taking a little too long, bless her heart. I sat patiently before her, waiting for her to conjure the proper information onto the computer screen. "Well, congratulations," the kindly woman said, "today will be your forty-third pint."

Since my brain operates on the smart ass standard, I was tempted to reply, "Yes, but you have no idea where this blood has been," or "That might sound like a lot of blood, but that would barely cover the walls of your average Manson victim's living room."

I refrained.

Donating one's life liquid turns out to be a bit of a mind game, as first one must fill out a lengthy questionnaire, vowing that one has never had sex with a cow or come into contact with a gay man's brain matter.

Hang on. Reverse that.

After filling in the requisite circles, I handed my sheet to a white-coated technician who escorted me to the "on-deck circle," a small booth where more latex gloves, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs lie in wait. My blood was tested for sufficient iron content and I was again queried as to being absolutely positive that I haven't had sex, even once, with a man since 1977.

We're talking about one time over thirty-four years. That's a long time, so I needed clarification about the definitions of "man" and "sex." Not to worry, however.

Now it was time to saddle up and strap on (Sorry, still kind of thinking about that man sex thing.).

I always request that they tap the same vein on my right arm. That thing's been poked with a needle more often than Keith Richards on royalty check day. After the requisite preparations, the cute young tech initiated a healthy mainline into the Ziploc bag beneath my cot. I had counted approximately fifty-seven ceiling tiles, when I noticed her approaching bloodside.

"Oh, it looks like the needle turned a little. I'll just fix it."

I'll try to describe the subsequent sensation, but it's a little murky. Just imagine the feeling of a large needle digging around in a circular motion inside your elbow crook. It was sharp, white and scalding.

"I'm gonna need you to stop doing that." I was desperately willing myself not to meow in pain.

"Sorry. Do you want me to take out the needle?"

"Umm, no. Just stop moving it around inside my arm. It hurts...a lot."

"Okay, it looks like it's working now."

Sweet Jehovah. My vision shrunk to a narrow tunnel as beads of frozen sweat peppered my temples. After three more pain-free minutes, all necessary blood had been transferred out of my person.

The technician again shuffled up to my right. "Geez, it looks like the needle turned again," she offered while peeling back several strips of tape.

"Really?" I asked. "So I guess you really didn't need to turn it in the first place?"

"Ha, I guess not!" She was laughing.

Here's what I didn't say at that point: "Yeah, well, maybe you should go back to practicing on pumpkins or Life Size Barbie, Now With Real Veins! by Mattel."

"Would you like a wrap or a Band-Aid?" As I contemplated the less conspicuous Band-Aid option, visions of spraying artery gravy crowded my thoughts.

"Better make it a wrap," I replied.

Opting not to linger in the afterglow at the "canteen" upon dismounting the gurney, I grabbed two chocolate chip cookies and a can of V8 from the snack and hydration volunteer, turned and headed for the door.

"Thanks for donating," chirped the nice, yet incompetent, laptop checker-inner lady to the back of my head.

"My pleasure."

Did I really just say that?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tired of chump moves.

My dad refers to such acts as "Bush League."

I've also heard them coined "sucker punches" or "cheap shots" or "low blows," but I'll go with my favorite term to describe those underhanded, mean-spirited, feats of cowardice:

Chump moves.

The sports world holds claim to the preponderance of chumps, and they can be traced virtually to the origin of competitive athletics. Using his sharpened, metal spikes to disable opposing players, Ty Cobb held legendary status as a dirty player.

Throughout the ensuing decades, the ranks of the Slimeball Hall of Fame grew in numbers, with Danny Ainge, Alex Rodriguez, Bill Romanowski and Karl Malone held aloft as kings of dirty pool shooting.

Roger Clemens, one of the dimmest athletes to ever throw a round thing ninety miles per hour, claimed to be tossing a baseball at Mike Piazza during a moment of confusion at the 2000 World Series. Clemens actually was hurling a splintered bat toward the mulleted Met's carotid artery.

Chumps, all.

Yesterday, Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers etched his name among the best of the worst when he decided to imitate a low freeway overpass to JJ Barea's unsecured load. With the game and the playoff series already locked up for the Dallas Mavericks, Bynum concluded that the Mavs' tiny Barea wasn't limboing far enough under the Laker's meaty forearm and elbow. Barea slammed to the floor after appearing to reach the end of an invisible leash.

Immediately ejected, Mr. Bynum peeled off his jersey at half court and sauntered to the locker room amid a chorus of boos. I'm not sure why he felt the need to remove any clothing; In fact, I may have asked for a few towels to catch the snot oysters raining down from the Mavricks' fan base/mob.

Plus, taking off my shirt at work is no good for anyone.

No one likes these guys, even their own supporters.

I coach eleven-year-old girls soccer, and they play with fire and intensity. No longer at the age when the goalie makes mud pies with the fullbacks while the ball is down at the other end, these kids knock each other around.

They play clean. When someone is bumped to the ground, she's helped up and asked if she's okay. When the game's over, everyone high fives and goes back to discussing cats who throw up in sister's bedrooms or the possibilities of securing a Slurpee. No revenge, no hard feelings, no cheap shots.

When is sportsmanlike behavior jettisoned in favor of tantrums and acting out? High school? College? And make no mistake; chump moves aren't confined to the sporting arena.

Politicians proposing cuts to Medicare and Medicaid while simultaneously proposing tax breaks for oil companies: chump move.

The Soviet giant who killed Apollo Creed during a seemingly harmless exhibition: chump move.

People who decide, while sitting on a standing-room-only bus, to occupy the adjacent seat with half a box of Low Salt Wheat Thins and some fingerless gloves: chump move.

"Mission Accomplished": Bush League.

Microsoft claiming that Windows had nothing to do with the Macintosh desktop: chump move.

Using a riding lawn mower on a lawn the size of a Cheescake Factory plate: chump move, in a green sense.

Cats who kill lame baby birds: chump move.

Going for the Karate Kid's leg, which obviously has a bone sticking out of it: seriously chump move.

That's a few, but please share; what are some chump moves that boil your blood? It's fine if you want to talk about Danny Ainge a little more.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Are you a trusting person? I'm not sure I believe you.

In the words of any nineteenth century gold prospector, "Cinnamon and gravy, it's been an outlandish week!"

It has indeed. To top things off with a hearty dollop of bizarre, this headline graced the home page of Friday morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Al-Qaida Confirms Osama Bin Laden's Death.

Let me get this straight—our government, although opting not to release images of Bin Laden's body, nonetheless provided concrete proof of his deadness to Al-Qaida?

What did the Americans do, swing by a cave to pick up a couple of AQ higher-ups, climb into a bathysphere with a good flashlight and motor down to the bottom of the North Arabian Sea to check out Osama's new status as a Red Lobster for red lobsters?

Probably not, which makes a headline like that so much stranger and so ironic. Here's Al-Qaida, an organization which prides itself on misdirection and propaganda, yet buys off on its enemy's account of the truth.

Meanwhile, a large contingent of the non-suicide-bombing public remains skeptical of anything portrayed by anyone with a "White House" logo perched on the wall behind them. Since, in my last post, I also blathered about our mistrust in the veracity of government news releases, I won't go much further here.

Let's just say, after the Bush administration's bait and switch tactics about WMDs and Iraq's involvement in September 11, we've become one huge state of Missouri. Trust has been lacking and trust must be earned back.

As the week approaches its close, I'm left contemplating what an important role this concept of trust holds in our lives. We must either trust others or live a life of isolation.

I've decided it might help to separate trust by degrees, starting with the lowest degree and working toward the highest. Since I've so frequently mentioned the government, they'll be excluded from this exercise, so here goes:

Anyone with the word "dealer" in his or her job description—For example, used car dealers, drug dealers or unaccounted for nuclear weapons dealers aren't trustworthy at all, yet we've all dealt with at least one of these. By the way, remind me to call that guy about that plutonium he shorted me on.

Complete stranger trust—It really is amazing how often we trust someone whom we've never seen nor spoken to.

"Can you watch my beer? I'm here by myself and I really have to pee," or

"Will you take our picture after we get to the top of that forty foot rock wall? It's for our Christmas card and this new camera is really good at zooming in. Thanks."

Friend trust—This can go either way.

It can be anything from, "Dude, I'm here for you. You know I'll bail you out. Just give me until Monday because I'm bonding with a cutie over an X Files marathon," to

"Dude, I'm here for you. You know I'll bail you out if you help my Grandpa deliver calves this summer while I go to Spain."

Medical/Dental trust—We really have no choice here.

We can only pray that our doctor doesn't employ an alternative form of medicine. "Your mole tastes benign, but I'll have to perform more tests after I get over this cold." No thanks.

We also don't want a dentist who giggles and whispers his mother's name to himself while drilling.

Family trust—Ultimately, we must place unconditional trust in our families.

With children, it's always a slippery slope: "Dad, I didn't tell you about my secret hamster because I know you're scared of corn dog-sized mammals. Mom's not, and she says she's never been more unattracted to you than when you did that man scream. Can I keep him, anyway?"

Spouses must be held to the highest standard; nothing can supersede the sanctity of marital trustworthiness. And so, when she comes home as the clock glows 3:46, smelling of Old Spice, pipe tobacco and hummus, believe her when she tells you she was working the snack table at the Senior Center Easter Sock Hop. Do not let your imagination take you to her practicing the Kama Sutra with a Turkish hookah magnate.

Now that our week is at an end, let's resolve to trust each other a little more next week, and a little more the week after.

If not, the terrorists have won.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How lucky was the man who shot Bin Laden?

Do you believe in "luck?"

Is being lucky nothing more than a kiss on the cheek by the cosmic breeze of fortune, an act of blind, random chance?

Or, do you believe that we contribute to our own lucky ways, that we position ourselves, through our choices and decisions, for outcomes which may be perceived by others as simply lucky?

Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon's surface and into history on July 20, 1969. He was pegged to be first based upon his calm demeanor, his exemplary piloting skills...and his status as a civilian. Bowing to pressure to ease American-Soviet relations at the close of a tumultuous decade, NASA  penciled in Armstrong as a gesture of non-militaristic goodwill.

Was Neil Armstrong lucky?

Although Morris Jeppson had worked for months on the electronic fusing of the atomic bomb which would detonate over Hiroshima, he was chosen as a member of the Enola Gay's thirteen-man crew over a coin flip, thereby punching his timecard in history.

Was Morris Jeppson lucky?

And now, somewhere this morning, whether on a ship or military base or at home with his family, a man has awakened, risen out of bed and looked into a mirror. As he shaves for the day ahead, he pauses. His hand drops to the sink, clanging the metal razor on the clean porcelain.

He leans forward and stares into his half-shaved face.

 "I'm the one.

I put a bullet in him.

I ended the life of Earth's most wanted criminal.

I killed Osama Bin Laden."


Our politicians are notorious for embellishing or even fabricating acts of valor to further their station among the public. Their exploitations of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch have jaded Americans to the point where we'll withhold our judgment until we can compile the facts for six months to a year. Only then will many of us decide whether or not to brush aside our cynicism.

And such a difficult exercise that is, when we occupy a society which thirsts for heroes. We manufacture American Idols and Biggest Losers because we love these stories and we can believe in the people. It's right there in front of us; no spin, no backtracking, no double talk.

And now, more than ever, America wants her hero, front and center.

I dearly  hope, in this age of Twitter, TMZ and Wikileaks, that this Navy SEAL's name never bubbles to the surface. If it does, this man's life will irrevocably, profoundly, change.

Sure, he'll never have to buy another drink; he'll be wined and dined and prodded and poked and thrown so far out of his realm, he'll wonder what his life was like when he was "nothing more" than a courageous soldier.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Trump: "I woulda brung him back alive."

After this past weekend, I think we know who the grownups are.

We also know whom should be sitting at the kids' table.

I'll give Donald Trump one thing: at least he had, in his vernacular, the "bwalls" to show his ruddy face at Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. After spending years causing a ruckus with his cacophonous pie hole, he concluded last week at the top of his game, declaring himself in a dead heat with Barack Obama in the race for the 2012 Presidency.

Sure you are, Donald, and if I could drop eighty pounds and do a little waxing, I'd be Eva Freaking Longoria.

I realize that the human ego, especially male, can be blinding. But the fact that this guy considers himself to be a short-lister for leader of the free world (countries with at least five Wal-Marts) cranks the needle up past "insane" and "megalomaniacal" to "umm...security?"

But if it wasn't difficult enough for Trump to be mercilessly skewered by our President and a few others at the dinner, he was permanently demoted to the minors Sunday night, when Mr. Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Hey Don, next time you comb your hair, just go a little further forward and all the way down your face, mmmkay? Thanks.

During the past several days, President Obama has displayed the moxie and cool that I only hoped for upon casting my ballot. Throughout that red herring expedition sponsored by the birthers and championed by Don, the President calmly tucked the issue into bed while planning the take down of the most prolific mass murderer of our lifetimes.

Talk about a poker face.

How does he do it? How does perform the every day duties of Commander-In-Chief, let alone shoulder the heavy burdens of war, health care, the economy and racist snipe hunts by people like Trump?

I have no idea how that job doesn't completely break a person. If I try to boil pasta while unloading the dishwasher, the stress causes acid reflux and acne on my inner thighs. And that's after lying in a dark room thinking only of a Pop Tart forest.

In addition to Obama, what about his family? I'm sure they're forced to endure many unwelcome obligations. I can just hear Michelle Obama saying, "Seriously, Barack, take the Prime Minister of Luxembourg to Ruth's Chris tonight and tell his wife I've got a migraine. I know you like him, but I'd be stuck with her. Remember, she has that condition where her eyes don't blink and she smells like bacon."

And what about the Obama kids? I'm sure he's been faced with, "Come on, Dad. No way are we spending three hours with the Sarcozy kids. They say mean stuff about us in French and all they want to do is play Lite Brite."

Naturally, every President since number one, the original George W., has weathered severe emotional storms. Some handled the pressure gracefully, while others sought outlets of distraction. I've heard that our President occasionally sneaks a smoke out on the veranda. Hey, do what you must, Mr. President.

I wonder if the Presidential Seal is affixed to the rusty coffee can he uses for an ashtray.

All I know is, Barack Obama has my vote in 2012. And to all you contenders, you can go through the buffet line first.

The kids' table is back in the rec room.