Wednesday, July 27, 2011


What's the good word?

Today marks the second installment of an exploration into the power of words, for better or worse.

And as of today, unfortunately, there will be a few less good words to go around. Rick Kaminski, also known to generations of Seattle Mariner fans as "Rick, the Peanut Man," has died. Mr. Kaminski, after debuting during the Mariners' inaugural 1977 baseball season, quickly achieved legendary status. His laser guided peanut bag throws from several rows away formed a deadly combination with his comedy one-liners to distract even the most stalwart of baseball fans from the field's happenings.

After firing a behind-the-back peanut missile to a supposedly ready fan, Rick would traverse the steps to collect his money and offer a good-natured ribbing to the fan who had just watched a bag of hot nuts ricochet off his or her sternum.

"Now I see why you're watching the game and not playing it."

"Was someone just up here selling Butterfingers?"

He had million of them...and they were all good.

I've been thinking about how often we just toss words out there, how we're trained from toddlerhood to control our bladders and bowels, and although I can't remember having a diaper pinned over my mouth, I've certainly had times when a compulsive outburst could have been well served by the muffled silence of an oral nappy.

It's understandable that people, especially when nervous, will say just about anything to avoid silence; they use more fillers than the folks at Veggie Burger. But let's face it, even though no one really cares what you're doing this weekend, or what you did last weekend, what else is there to say to someone you barely know while waiting for the elevator?

How about nothing?

"Any big plans for the weekend?"

I love the term "big plans." From now on, I'll just volunteer the information prior to being asked. My dentist loves to ask this question, so I think next time, I'll just break the ice by saying, "Guess what? I've got big plans this weekend. But they're secret. Do you mind if I quickly use your cool sucking tube? My cat sat on this sweater earlier and all the fur is a little, you know, embarrassing. Ha."

Have you ever arrived a couple of minutes early for a meeting and there's one person, with whom you're vaguely familiar, sitting alone at a conference table? I have.

In the future, I'm going to spare that person the discomfort of sparking a mundane discussion. I will begin with, "Wow, I left fifteen minutes early just to use the restroom. Sure, I was bankin' on a rough go, but fifteen minutes worth? How are you?"

Or maybe, "Looks like we're both early. Hope it's not affecting your marriage the way it is mine. How's it going?"

Parties, picnics and barbecues are also breeding grounds for melancholy discussion, as we often discover ourselves penned into a corner with a heretofore utter stranger. I've occasionally excused myself from these situations by refreshing my drink or finding my children, but next time I might try, "What do you say we get out of here and grab some Cambodian takeout? Where are you going? I thought you didn't have children."

Words are so powerful, yet so cheap, so I'm challenging you...and avoid the small talk. It won't be easy, but let's either serve up a hearty platter of substance or nothing at all.

And rest in peace, Rick Kaminski.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

That time the Governor met me.

I've got to tell you about my infatuation.

Are my waking thoughts monopolized by a particular movie star, majestic farm animal or yoga temperature?

Negative to all three. I'm obsessed with words.

I love words. I love twisting and crunching and abbreviating them; I love making new words up. I love working with words and plays on words,  I love spotting the perfect word as it cautiously peeks from behind a mental tree trunk after an hour's worth of staring a blank screen.

And that's why, while I find moments of speechlessness to be disquieting, blurting out nonsensical, insensitive or complete gibberish strikes an even greater blow to my Old-Navy-t-shirt-fabric-thin psyche.

Like most of us, I have good days and bad, periods where I wake up, gently yet intensely spooning with my wordsmith muse, and other days where I can't seem to get out of the way of my own uvula.

On Monday,  I may think of something inspirational and nudge my co-worker while saying, "Wow, I just had and epiphany which could very well prove serendipitous."

Tuesday, the same thought could trigger, "Dude, I"

Natural biorhythms aren't alone in determining my verbal literacy when responding to a situation. I maintain a firm belief that emotions, especially anger and intimidation, drive the elocution train and frequently, after it speeds by, I'm lucky to grab a couple words off the caboose.

My daughters have often rendered me incapacitated. I've experienced levels of anger and frustration with each of them which can only be measured using a huge space telescope. Conversely, my wife's pulse slows to that of a yogi contortionist about to stuff her entire body into a refrigerator crisper.

When addressing a highly offensive minor, my spouse's words materialize slowly, in perfectly enunciated syllables: "You need to turn off your phone. Now listen. You are being extremely rude. If you don't stop, you will be taking the bus to the mall rather than driving. Is that clear?"

Here's how I would have worded this teaching moment: "If you don't...stop...that...thing you're doing...I'm something...or take something...or something."

Anger reduces my vocabulary to that of a really smart camel.

Intimidation is even worse, because, unlike the speechlessness caused by anger, I can readily summon the words—just the wrong ones.

Not long ago, I visited my doctor for a physical. I've always felt intimidated by doctors. Whether it's due to their vast knowledge of the human body, their hallowed position as healers, or their heroics in E.R. and St. Elsewhere, I'm not sure, but on this occasion, I came prepared.

"Do you ever use duct tape in a medical setting?" I asked, planning on at least a courtesy chuckle.

No response, other than, "Nope."

Feeling the need to rally, I opted to dazzle my doctor with my  knowledge of medieval surgical techniques. Centuries ago, physicians believed that heated glass cups, when placed onto the skin, could create vacuums to isolate infections, which would then be lanced and bled to suck out the body's toxins.

"I suppose you'll need to cup me now," I proclaimed. Well put, Hemingway.

Another case of gross intimidation drew similar results. Back in college, I'm not really sure why, but our state's Governor visited my fraternity. Maybe he was lobbying the young Republican vote or he wanted to finally learn to use a beer bong, but he came up from Olympia and hung out with us for a couple hours one Monday night.

I'm not sure how this happened, but a crowd of people which had stood between him and me spontaneously cleared away, and there we were, the Governor and I, looking into each other's eyes. I knew I had to say something, but what? Should I go with straight small talk or be a bit more clever? I opted for the latter.

"Hello, Mr. Spellman. Nice to meet you. I'm just curious, do you prefer crunchy peanut butter or creamy?" Oh, my god. Did I really just say that? I just gave the governor a line I wouldn't even use on a freshman sorority pledge. 

My disembodied soul looked down upon my sad, quivering body mass.

"You know, I'm a crunchy guy," he replied. "I still enjoy a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, especially with raspberry Smuckers. How about you?"

"Crunchy all the way!" Oh, shit. It just continues. I just said, "Crunchy all the way" to the Governor."

Seconds later, other fraternity brothers had converged upon our conversation, and the subject of peanut butter quickly dissolved into other mundane topics as everyone competed for some face time with the Governor. I backed slowly out of the group, vowing that if I were ever again thrust into a similar position, jogging away would prove far less embarrassing in the long run.

I obviously haven't kept that promise. The words keep flowing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maybe you're not gay on paper, but...

Hmm...I guess next time I donate blood, I should give myself one last once-over in the mirror.

Got to make sure there's no gay on me before I leave the house.

According to a piece which ran in Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a Chicago-area man was rejected from volunteering a pint because "he looked gay."

Homosexual men have been banned from giving blood since 1983, an era when reliable HIV testing procedures had not yet been developed. Although this policy still applies, it's believed by many to be outdated due to the significant screening advancements over the past thirty years.

So, what exactly does "gay" look like, and why should it matter when you're given such a lengthy questionnaire prior to donating blood?

Last time I offered up a vein, I was asked every query imaginable to ascertain that I wasn't concealing my gayness. Have I had sex with a man since 1977? No, I'm pretty sure I had outgrown that around '75.

And by the way, I've got some straight friends who have been such freak daddies over the course of their existences, their bloodstreams could host an MTV spring break special for single, eligible pathogens.

I may sound preachy, here, but I'm one of the worst offenders, and it's time for all of us to stop making snap judgments based on appearances. I can think of so many examples, but here are just a few:

When I initially laid my eyes upon that enchantress from the Northland, Sarah Palin, I thought, "Wow, she's a relatively young, intelligent, attractive choice. She's got executive experience and she's not a Washington insider. Well played, Mr. McCain."

Forty-five seconds later, she opened her mouth and her conjunction-slathered crow squawks quickly communicated that I had indeed misjudged her.

When I first screened Top Gun, I exited the theater, pleased with having seen a tale of male camaraderie, bravery and redemption.

After watching it again twenty-five years later, my only takeaways were that Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer are the biggest douche bags ever, and I doubt they'd be allowed to donate blood due to what probably happened in the shower after that volleyball scene.

How about those CD-of-the month clubs that, at the time, seemed like such a good idea?

I finally stopped getting them in the mail a couple of years ago after embarking on a Harry Potterish quest for a secret cancellation website and painstakingly altering my DNA with a turkey baster and a Magic Bullet.

Initial impressions can also be distorted through the prism of sloth or desperation. How often I've foolishly estimated that the seven remaining squares of toilet paper would suffice for the job at hand, only to ultimately be faced with two options, each equally undesirable, after the final glued-on strand had ripped away from the cardboard tubing.

Let's just take a little extra time, shall we? Let's evaluate the information we have, ask a few questions, maybe even wait a day or two before assessing a situation or casting judgment. To those of you who work in the blood collection field, I know many of you volunteer your time, and I appreciate that.

But even if someone looks gay, just play along and let them fill out the questionnaire.

After all, you don't look ignorant.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reunited, and it feels so good...until the next day.

It was a good time, a really good time.

I knew it would be, mostly because we've had three of them now, but the excitement still couldn't mask those groundless pangs of anxiety and apprehension.

My thirty-year reunion.

I tried to hedge as many uncertainties as possible:

The hair was cut three weeks ago. Any sooner and it wouldn't have grown out enough to ensure strategic comb-overs. Any earlier than three weeks prior would have assured a halo of platinum neck fuzz poking its eaglet talons from below the back collar into the sensitive skin below the back neckline, forming a distracting silver and red constellation of dermal abrasion.

I bought a new shirt. It matched my sideburns, which wasn't planned, it just worked out that way. The black shirt with thin silver stripes was embarking on its maiden voyage, which, in retrospect, wasn't a good idea. I felt like the kid who shows up back from spring break in white Chuck Taylors right out of the box. Opting to wear a t-shirt underneath to avoid looking like Phyllis Diller's head was bursting out of my chest Alien-style was a solid choice.

New earrings. Good idea, but again, too sparkly. Unfortunately, I had to choose between some brand new bling and some blackened old hoops with more embedded dead skin tissue than Ted Bundy's Volkswagen.

Enough is enough, I thought. These are people with whom I share angst- and humor-filled memories of growing up together during the Sixties and Seventies, and accordingly that puts them at roughly my age. Wow, go figure. Stop stressing about a little less hair and considerably more belly fat and prostate tissue and enjoy yourself.

During the months leading to this soiree, the location had endured endless, light-hearted ribbings. It wouldn't be held at a Casino, a racetrack or a hotel banquet facility—it took place at the Auburn Senior Center.

Electric scooter and nap jokes abounded, but I didn't hear many complaints about saving enough money by staging the event at the former Auburn Public Library to sap the local Costco of its entire supply butterscotch pudding and Ensure.

It was a little strange sipping an ESB in the former children's book section, but, whatever.

Upon arriving, any nervousness evaporated as soon as I hugged someone, and then someone else, and then someone else. The evening's essence quickly materialized in the form of warm, lasting squeezes as opposed to the more accepted and distancing "pat-pat" hugs.

I was further comforted that some things haven't changed at all between once-a-decade encounters. Here's an example of a guy with whom I've spoken at each reunion:

1991—Male classmate, extracting his wallet from his back pocket and flipping it open to reveal a photograph of his son—"Yeah, that's him. He's a year old and he's totally kicking my ass."

2001—Male classmate, extracting his cell phone from his back pocket and flipping it open to reveal a photograph of his son—"Yeah, that's him. He's eleven and he's totally kicking my ass."

2011—Male classmate, extracting his iPhone from his back pocket and displaying a photograph of his son—"Yeah, that's him. He's twenty-one and he's totally kicking my ass."

Early in the evening, I had volunteered to share my hotel room with a good friend so he wouldn't have to drive back to Seattle. Much later in the evening, I caught myself saying to him, "So, when do you think would be a good time to head back to our room?"

"Our room?" he asked.

Yeah, that was a weird way of putting it. We laughed pretty hard at that one, and the next time I just said, "Ready to head back?"

Events like this tend to move at warp speed. They're so fun that they commence in inverse proportion to happenings like accounting classes and root canals. Before I knew it, the sky was lightening and I had been hanging with my classmates for eleven hours.

I realize a lot of people would actually rather go to the dentist than attend a reunion. But give it a shot, and here's why:

A small group of folks exists which saw you leave for the summer sounding like Bobby Brady only to return two months later, an inch taller and sounding like Greg.

This tiny assembly of people contains human beings who were the first to make your heart bounce out of its ribcage. You couldn't yet label these feelings; you could merely chase that person to the swing set and after catching her, stand dumbfounded and glazy-eyed.

Most of us live our lives immersed in other generations' cultures—our children's, our co-workers, sometimes even our grandchildren's.

Well, this was our night. This pod of individuals who originally met as boys and girls and graduated as teenagers assembled as middle-aged men and women on Friday night.

And quite a bit of Saturday morning.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to fend off blogger's block.

Like most human beings, my life is overwhelmingly segmented into a matrix of predictable behaviors and routines. Does spinning this silken web of familiarity around ourselves make unforeseen events easier to withstand?


I won't further muddy the already murky shallows of my mundane daily schedule by expounding on each act, but for the purposes of this entry, please humor me while I lay out my blogging cycle. I knew you'd be excited.

Spinning tales of profound insignificance every two or three days typically begins with an appetizer of warm desperation served on an empty platter of insecurity. After I've posted a piece, I usually allow about a twelve-hour grace period before conjuring up and silently chanting this well-worn mantra:

"There's nothing left to discuss. You've covered every topic, sometimes even twice, and it's time to give it up and get back to building a scale model of downtown Pittsburgh out of oxidized tricycle spokes. And enough with skewering Michele Bachmann. She's hot, evil, divinely chosen and crazy. Deal with it."

Inevitably, a little dashboard light in my frontal lobe flickers with the spark of an idea, and inspiration can invade my soul like a subterranean ear zit, or lurk in the shadows a la Dick Cheney behind a White House hibiscus tree.

And while I try to maintain a strategic idea reserve for the leaner days, it's usually a paycheck to paycheck existence.

This morning was such a case of creative bankruptcy. As I peeled on my disgusting bike shorts, mounted my two-wheeler and set out, I ruminated and drifted and wondered, what inspires others? Whose work do I admire and what motivated them to create? Where did they discover their muses?

What drove the ancient tribes of the British Isles to construct Stonehenge? Was it a majestic alter for worshipping their dieties, was it a primitive calendar system or was it an eerie foretelling of the average Londoner's dental structure?

Who could ever dispute that the Holy Bible isn't an inspired document? And what bigger muse than the big guy(s) himself? It just seems like God or J.C., or both, could have edited it down to something you could read cover to cover, like Harry Potter, and maybe Jesus could have written a little epilogue saying that everyone was really tired and they were up against a deadline when they got to Revelation, so they pounded out a cool ending over mozzarella sticks and a half rack of Icehouse.

I've always heard that Led Zeppelin's epic sonata, "Stairway to Heaven" was penned by none other than Beelzebub himself, as Jimmy Paige simply held a pen to paper and allowed his hand to be guided by an invisible force. As an impartial listener, I'm afraid I've got to give the nod to the devil-inspired music, especially after hearing what Pat Boone and Stryper had to offer.

And last but not least, how about the condom? I understand that necessity certainly inspired this invention, but what kind of trial-and-error process could this have entailed?

"Okay, we've ruled out tin foil and baby socks. All we have left is that sheep bladder drying out on the fence. Who wants to try that? Yes, I can see you're still bleeding, but we have to figure this out before our funding gets cut."

Don't worry. I'll eventually figure out something to write about.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pain goes with the territory: A life lived on the edge.

It's getting ridiculous.

And although I'm not quite knocking on the door to the Half-Century Club, I'm definitely perched on the step where the yellow pages are dropped off, and the way things have been going, I hope the door is automatic.

You see, I've been getting injured.

But this isn't stuff like suffering a high ankle sprain trying to box out a man half my age for a rebound. It's not even like tweaking an Achilles while performing the sprinkler dance in celebration of a new hard lemonade flavor.

Nope. In the past two weeks, I've sustained bodily trauma playing ping pong—and bowling.

Though I'm not proud of these occurrences, I'm also a pragmatist; I'm getting old and I'm certainly not an ageless beef man like Hasselhoff or Seacrest. Shit happens.

The table tennis mishap hurt like a Satanic paper cut and proved to be quite entertaining for those present. I suppose I'd have laughed, too, if I'd watched someone sell out for some John McEnroe backspin and get nothing in return but a thumbnail full of table bottom and the sound of a pork chop spanking plywood.

Fortunately, the joy on my friends' tear-streaked faces made lancing the subsequent blood dome all the more worthwhile.

Then on Sunday, my eleven-year-old daughter, her friend and I strolled into Roxbury Lanes for a little afternoon bowl-o-rama. It's nice that a lot of today's bowling alleys have added casinos, since what other way can slightly desperate-looking, single, male blackjack players be united with children under under one roof?

Cheers to you, capitalist ingenuity.

With the addition of those newfangled, computerized scoring systems, we were off and bowling faster than you could say, "Cool, this one isn't sticky inside."

The injury occurred during the inaugural frame when I awkwardly bent my finger, the middle one, while serving up my best dose of Earl Anthony. I'm not sure how or why a finger can be damaged while tossing a ball straight ahead, and thanks to the bumpers, I salvaged the frame nicely with a spare.

Sadly, the damage had been done, and at that point, I actually considered informing the kids that Dad had hurt his business finger and would have to sit out the final nineteen frames. Mike Ditka's threatening soprano voice instantly invaded my senses:

"Play through the pain, you toddler. I went an entire game after having my scalp ripped off and re-attached at halftime. That's why my hairline is below my eyebrows. Now toughen up, Nancy!"

I heeded the great Ditka's advice and powered through the afternoon's activities, but after returning home, the finger had begun to swell. Rationalizing that the appendage would feel better by morning, I retired that night without the benefit of ice or ibuprofen.

A throbbing sensation jolted me awake at four a.m., but it wasn't the type that can also be caused by bumpy bus rides or watching Scarlett Johansson drink from a garden hose. It was my finger. And it ached like crazy.

I rose from bed and popped a couple of Advil, visualizing a world where board games and other, more forgiving forms of amusement, lined up to greet me. It's fine, I told myself, you don't need to re-affirm your manhood through macho pastimes like ping pong and bowling. You've nothing left to prove, sir, so move forth with peace of mind.

And maybe some kind of cool helmet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pinch me. Ow, not that hard.

"It's a pinch-me moment."

Such apt words were spoken by Flight Commander Christopher Ferguson, when commenting on the one-hundred-thirty-fifth and final space shuttle launch on Friday. Atlantis will hoist its four-person crew of veteran astronauts one last time, drop off a massive shipment of supplies at the International Space Station and stick a weightless fork in the thirty-year history of the Shuttle program.

Commander Ferguson and his mates must feel significantly god smacked by their good fortune at receiving front row seats to an historical event. It's a little like winning a lottery, except when you present your ticket, someone tells you, "We don't have a three-foot long cardboard check for you, but here's a cool orange suit, some Tang packets and a fancy little machine to make your pee into drinking water. You'll find it tastes similar to a Red Bull. Enjoy!"

The term, "pinch-me moment" floated around my subconscious after reading the article. I need more of those, I surmised, and not just for the big stuff like graduations, marriage, births and brand new Glee episodes.

I realized how much of my life is spent mulling over past and future events, completely skirting the present moment. For instance:

I awakened this morning at 5:06, extremely relieved after having occupied an indeterminate amount of time during 1983. I exhaled deeply upon realizing that I hadn't actually shown up naked to a Geology 101 final and that I didn't really have a vagina on my right calf.

Hopping on my bike at 5:49 for a brisk morning of anaerobic meditation, my brain chose not to register the magenta sunrise over the Olympic Mountains and its beautiful reflection on Puget Sound.

Nope, why do that when instead, I could stare ahead at the gravel trail and ponder what I should have said to that guy at work who said that thing to me and I didn't say anything but boy do I know what I could say now?

Last night, my daughter embarked on a movie date with a boy (I call him a boy, but he actually tips the scale closer to Burt Reynolds than Ryan Reynolds).

During the eternity she was away, I alternated between living ten years ago, at which time I'd be making up a bedtime story for her about a princess who had eaten too much Raisin Bran, and four hours into the future, when she would walk safely through the front door, and I would realize that I had made the right choice in sacrificing that rooster.

See what I'm saying? I think we can all use more "pinch-me moments." How often do we see a champion athlete, sweat and champagne streaming off his head and soaking his uniform, proclaim, "It feels great to win this trophy, but you know what? We're gonna do it again next year, too!"

Come on, man. maybe you can at least enjoy it until your shin stops bleeding.

We constantly say and hear, "Where did the time go?"

The time didn't go anywhere. We're the ones who weren't around.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is it just me, or do they look like muppets?

God bless America.

And while we're at it, let's throw in Buddha and Vishnu and Tom Cruise and anyone else who can provide a little home field advantage, because I'm afraid we need all the help we can get.

You see, a lot of us just aren't very bright.

You're still here? Cool, thank you. I was afraid you may become offended and click over to that hilarious chimp wedding site.

Look, I really don't want to come across as your stereotypical, Seattle-living, Birkenstock-and-gray-socks-wearing liberal who's blissfully ignorant that his sideburns and neck fuzz haven't been thatched since the organic barber stopped showing up at the farmer's market.

But I just may in this instance.

According to a Marist Poll released in honor of our nation's birthday, only fifty-eight percent of our country's residents were aware that America declared its independence on July 4, 1776. Twenty-six percent were unsure and sixteen percent named an incorrect date. In addition, one in four of those surveyed didn't know that country from which the United States seceded.

As appalling as these statistics are, and, mmm...boy, they are, they're certainly not shocking. Twenty-five percent of our voters support either Michele Bachmann (11%), Sara Palin (11%) or Rick Santorum (3%).

And since twenty-five percent also don't know which nation we smacked down to gain our freedom, I'd be willing to bet my gun rack that those folks are one in the same.

Bachmann stubbornly maintained that our founding fathers rallied against slavery. Umm, wrong again, Crazy Barbie with Titanium Hair®; most actually owned slaves.

Palin spun a delusional yarn about Paul Revere when she claimed that he was also warning the British that "uh, they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms..." I'll stop there, because it rambles. Wouldn't it be great to have a president who warns the enemy—

"Okay, I just want to let you guys and gals in North Korea know that we're gonna wee-wee you up a little next Thursday with a little limited nuclear strike. Take care now, folks, and back to Wipeout."

And then there's former Republican Senator and Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, who in 2003 said,  "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

Sweet. Does that mean we can also bring back candy cigarettes and those dangerous lawn darts?

So what about the rest of the voting populace? I'm referring to those fifty-eight percent of us who actually know the date America sprung out of the British womb without the benefit of an epidural. Who do we support?

Although Gingrich only accounts for three percent, the guy isn't ignorant of American history. He may be quite repulsive and hypocritical, but at least he knows the difference between a musket and a muskrat.

Romney? I can't really tell how smart he is, since he's too busy twisting in the winds of public opinion to  take a stand on historical and constitutional events. I'm guessing that behind that sultry baritone and glistening smile, crickets chirp.

Ron Paul is a smart man, but he wants to abolish the IRS, saw the United States off at its southern and northern borders (like Bugs Bunny actually did once) and let our new island continent float away in a state of isolationist Utopian nirvana.

Intelligent, yes, but also paranoid and insanish. And as a side note, I don't want another President named Ron.

I can't remember who comprises the remainder of the Republican candidates, but I think the list begins and ends with the word, "yada."

America, what do you say we study up a little before the next election? How about if we educate ourselves to know the difference between facts and the baseless ramblings of the lunatic fringe? Do you understand that these people actually believe they're qualified to be your President?

Remember, we've misunderestimated before.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Take a moment, America. Then light that thing.

Happy birthday, America.

Now get me a switch from that old maple behind the tool shed and drape yourself over Papa's knee for two-hundred-and-thirty-five birthday spankins. And a pinch to grow an inch.

Wow, we're one old country, aren't we? I'm pretty sure we've finally been around longer than M*A*S*H was.

All the wars, all the economic catastrophes, all the heart-seizing moments staring into the icy abyss of annihilation.

But enough about the Kardashians.

As we approach the Fourth of July, how many of us will actually ponder the true spirit of the holiday? Who among us will reflect upon the sacrifices performed by so many to win and maintain our freedom for nearly two-and-a-half centuries?

I'm really going to try this time. I'm going to give my full effort to not plunging my ever-sagging, soft bodily tissue into twenty-four-hour, Pabst-fueled orgy of piccolo pete pyromania. And since the "p" words are flowing, I'll add "penis" to the mix, since most of this day's ordnance experts are also owners of that dangling participle between our legs.

What do you say guys? How about we just light a couple of bottle rockets, pound down some strawberry shortcake and call it a day before something of which we're extremely fond gets blown off, placed in a plastic bag and duct taped to our stomach for that jostling airlift to Harborview?

Oh, yeah, and maybe we can spend thirty seconds or so thinking about the true significance of July 4.

Not that we're any better with other holidays. Do many of us spend oodles of time contemplating the true meaning of Christ's birth on December 25, 0000? Hopefully, after we've ripped the wrapping off our Magic Bullets and bodyscapers, we take some time to appreciate JC's humble beginnings.

It is nice to know that, although our Lord was born in a rustic setting at best, at least Joe and Mary could take advantage of that full week between the Messiah's birthday and New Year's Day, hopefully having received enough gold to convert that sowing room into a nursery.

Joseph would also have a chance to return that foul-smelling myrrh to the MAC counter at Neiman's before walking into the office on January 2 with some light-hearted birthing stories.

"I tried to comfort her and help her breathe," Joseph would say, while sipping his morning java, "but she pushed me away, yelling 'You did this to me!' All I could do was turn to Wise Man Frankie and whisper, 'I don't think so, Babe.'"

On Saint Patrick's Day, most don't observe the death of a man who introduced Christianity to Ireland. Nope, they're more concerned with what they've regurgitated on the morning of March 18, and whether the green color is from the beer or an alarming imbalance of their body's flora and fauna.

Easter rolls around, and it's more about how many Whoppers and Reese's Pieces we can scarf down by ten in the morning than it is about celebrating the day Jesus came back to life because of a freakishly human-sized bunny.

So, again, here's my challenge to you, to me, to all who consider themselves able to wade through the commercial muck of modern holidays: On the next big day, take five minutes.

All I ask is five.

My birthday is August 28.