Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how about dads?

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

Does human paternal instinct really exist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adolescent lion cubs.

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

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

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

He gives birth to his young.

Monday, November 28, 2011

More wine? But of course.

Ahhhh...the old weekend getaway.

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

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

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

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

Pretty decent, no?

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

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

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

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

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

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

My bride and I fared well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Best friends forever.

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

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

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

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


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

"Yes? Hello. Hi."

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"I never would have noticed."

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

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

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

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

"A cat door?"


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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Becoming your best you: another gym story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yeah, none of that stuff happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll settle for underwear and socks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You people disgust me. Any good deals?

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

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

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

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

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

But we know where Mark really went.

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

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

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

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

And this is where my hypocritical nature enters the scene.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

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

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

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

Just making sure you’re paying attention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’m not taking off my shirt.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cain and Perry rise again.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where's the party?

I think I must be missing something.

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

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

Okay, that was weird and annoying. Sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some thoughts on the worst act imaginable.

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

This is not one of those posts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, no and no. He walked away.

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

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

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

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

Yet zero times four continues to equal zero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the right thing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Delusions of fandeur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's how fans talk sometimes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gambling advice for the inexperienced.

There's no debate; times are tough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's a cold morning in America.

November 1—it's a cold morning for most of us.

And downright frosty for others.

It's a day of transition, a day burdened by the half-filled waterbed mattress of reality which some are compelled to bend over and hoist.

For a man named Herman Cain, an ill-advised, new campaign slogan has latched onto his Cinderella run at the Presidency: "It's November first...and the bubble has burst."

Following a Rocky-esque surge in the Republican polls, nutty America's love affair with the former Gandhi of Grease is regrettably waning. Allegations have surfaced that during the 1990s, Citizen Cain employed the old "9-9-9 technique" in attempt to seduce two employees while serving as president of the National Restaurant Association.

Apparently, he suggested that they meet on the ninth of every month at nine o'clock...and it would only take nine minutes.

They each responded that he should stuff his calzone and promptly reported his behavior to the association, subsequently reaching and undisclosed settlement.

When recently pressed on these allegations, Cain provided nothing but denials and non-answers. Each refusal to come clean has driven another nail into his pine pizza box, and Herman now appears to be foundering in the same rough political seas of which his rivals have long ago grown accustomed.

Another embattled icon arises this November morn, resolute to rub some dirt on her wounds and yank herself up by her nine-hundred and seventy dollar Prada stretch leather tall bootstraps.

Kim Kardashian awakens today to face life in the six foot, nine inch vacuum of her departed soul mate. Undoubtedly, she has by now exhausted every arrow in her shivering quiver to save a doomed love, lying panting in a pool of mascara after a seventy-two day ordeal. All that remains is a charred Tiffany box of a passion which burned white-hot like a...really hot sparkler, or something.

My thoughts extend to each of them; I know they're hurting.

As for the rest of us, we've been dealt a perennial challenge on this day. The two-month holiday season has officially commenced, and it kicks off with a massive supply of leftover Halloween candy, both at home and brought to the workplace. While the cache will rapidly ebb, we—okay, I—must summon the discipline to avoid grabbing, unwrapping and consuming everything in my path.

I cannot repeat last November's defining incident. I absentmindedly scooped up a Kit Kat on the way to the men's room and came to my senses too late: I was simultaneously chewing, swallowing and urinating.

Rock bottom.

With Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's looming ahead like a smoked gouda storm cloud, I am resolved to acknowledge everything that enters my pie hole; I don't care if it's a Dixie Cup of water. If I decide to slather half a cheese log on one Chicken in a Biskit, so be it, but I'm going to cognizantly process the entire sodium- and fat-laden event.

A famous Zen tenet is "when you are eating, you are eating."

Let's eat, then.