Friday, December 30, 2011

How Rock Stars' Bad Behavior Makes Us Into Rock Stars.

We've been sitting at the railroad crossing for nearly a year now, fiddling with the car radio. Finally, the candy cane colored arms hoist themselves, and the caboose materializes out of the haze, signaling an end to the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eleven.

I'm not going to sum up an entire year in one post. Two many tangents exist to avoid droning ad nauseum regarding all of the year's significant events, so I've decided to focus on the most important happenings—

Celebrity scandals.

I'm doing this for me, and I'm doing this for you, because I guarantee you'll feel better about yourself after reviewing some of the activities which made headlines during 2011, as tabulated by the most trusted name in journalism this side of NPR:

10) Reality star Kim Kardashian announces the end of her seventy-two-day marriage to Kris "I make the scarecrow look like Steven Hawking" Humphries, after a star-studded multimillion-dollar television wedding.

Be happy for these kids, folks. And let them keep all the wedding gifts as tokens of our gratitude for not having children.

9) A highly motivated hacker releases nude photos obtained from Scarlett Johansson's cell phone.

Definitely an invasion of privacy, but a scandal? For Pete's sake, I'd trade in my forty-nine-year-old male body for her younger, female version tomorrow, accepting all ridicule and gender confusion for the opportunity to explore its wonders on evenings and weekends.

8) In another matrimonial shocker,  Playboy Playmate Crystal Harris called off her nuptials to ancient mogul Hugh Hefner just five days prior to their planned event, but keeping her engagement ring and placing it up for auction.

If I were Hef, I'd turn right around and post to EBay that bedazzled hemorrhoid donut she knitted me for my one-hundred-and-eighth birthday.

7) Demi Moore splits with her husband of six years, Ashton Kutcher, after learning that he engaged in unprotected sex with another woman...on the couple's anniversary, to boot!

Of all the lowdown, scumbag moves. According to Moore, Kutcher could have saved the marriage simply by using the custom-printed condoms she bought him which magically transform upon arousal from "I'm a bass" to "I'm a cheating dumbass."

6) Maria Shriver dumps hubby Arnold Shwarzenegger after discovering that his un-American activities have resulted in a prolonged dalliance and subsequent son with their long-time housekeeper.

Come on, Mr. Olympia. I realize you've spent countless thousands of hours in the gym honing that physique, but you should have devoted a little more time to the clean and jerk, if you know what I mean.

5) Charlie Sheen flips out and slaughters his sitcom cash cow, "Two and a Half Men," inventing a few new terms along the way.

I've taken some time to translate. "Winning" means "smoking a fist-sized rock. "Warlock" is a guy who smokes fist-sized rocks. "Tiger blood" is blood containing the contents of a fist-sized rock.

4) Miley Cyrus is photographed sucking a large bong toke.

Miley, your father is Billy Ray Cyrus. Brain cells should be as precious to you as a quaff of Pellegrino in the freaking Sahara.

3) Teeny bop pop star Justin Bieber is accused of fathering a child with a twenty-year-old fan.

Isn't testing for Bieber's paternity ability sort of like asking for the tattoo department of a Mormon bookstore?

2) Chris Brown, hip hopper extraordinaire, goes ballistic in his "Good Morning America" dressing room after being questioned about punching out girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, breaking glass and generally trashing the premises.

Classy move, Chris. What better way to show that you've changed your violent ways.

1) Lindsay Lohan, in between jail and rehab stints, manages to find time to pose for "Playboy," not once, but twice, due to a reshoot.

You go, Lin Lin. Always ahead of the curve, I've heard that you've made pasty, toothless and strung out the new healthy, organic look for 2012.

I guess that's it. Feel better about yourself now? I know I do.

I wish I could have presented this list to my wife a while back after asking her co-worker when the baby was due.

She wasn't pregnant.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Purging yourself of those post-Christmas doldrums.

Wow...okay...I'm back. Good to be back.

How would you describe what's been going on in your world for the past week? I've been rattling my oxidizing grey matter to describe the sequence of events which follows Christmas, and the best description is what I'll call the "Alfredo Analogy."

Have you ever dined on a nice seafood fettuccine smothered in a succulent cream sauce? As is common with most American restaurants, we're served enough to fill Kenny Chesney's hat, so naturally we box it up and take it home in anticipation of later microwavable awesomeness.

So, yeah, that's how I'd describe the lead-up to Christmas—piping hot Fettuccine Alfredo.

We crack the lid on our December 26 pasta to discover a petrified, softball-sized rubber band noodle ball. And regardless of what method we employ to heat it back to its original form, it's forever assumed the identity of its own weaker, less attractive twin.

Sure, all the ingredients are present; it's just that all molecular activity has halted and your fabulous dish from the previous evening has now permanently morphed into Fettuccine Afraido.

Christmas has ended.

The day after Christmas dawns like those countless mornings when we've awoken in a strange place without a toothbrush. Our head pounds as we stagger to button the now wrinkled shirt we wore to the club last night. At length, everything is finally accounted for except our dignity...and a sock. We flee into the chill of another shameful morning.

Actually, that's never happened to me. I've just dated women who've had lots of those experiences.

I'm obviously being too dramatic here, but let's face it—the first few days following Christmas are a bit of a letdown. The tree still stands, the cookies and candy and fudge still line our counters, but it all looks just a little warmed over.

Today, rather than wallowing in my sluggishness, I asked my eleven-year-old daughter if she'd like to go to the mall—just the two of us—to exchange and return some gifts she'd received.

"Dad, do you even have to ask?" Apparently I hadn't needed to ask.

"Why do you love the mall so much?" I felt pangs of regret as the words spewed out. "All it is is a whole bunch of overpriced crap."

"It is not crap. The mall is amazing. Are you saying my stuff is crap, Dad?"

"No. I just think there are a lot of punks who cruise around looking for trouble because they're bored." I knew this to be gospel as I was one of those punks thirty-five years ago. Take away those saggy pants and peel on some wedgie-inducing moose knuckle flair legs and we're one in the same teen tool.

Here's where things got sort of weird.

I've worked in the fashion industry for the past twenty years, and even though I haven't kept aggressively in touch with the latest clothing trends for young women, it's kind of soaked into my DNA, anyway.

Thirty minutes following our mall discussion, I found myself seated on a bench in a store called Delia's, consulting with my daughter about how best to assemble a sassy outfit with her seventy-five-dollar gift card. Parents lined the long seating area, assessing their daughters as they poked their heads out the dressing cubicle doors.

Actually, using the term "parents" implies that dads were in attendence. They were not. It was a bunch of moms

And I could tell they didn't know quite what to make of me, especially when my daughter opened the door, I looked at her in some jeans and a top, and proclaimed, "Oh, that is so cute."

Heads turned, but I'm not sure if they were looking at my daughter or the dude who had just channeled Tyra Banks.

I felt the hot pinkness of embarrassment seep into my cheeks and armpits. Oh, my God. Did I just say that? I've always tried to stick to androgynous words like "cool" and "nice." "Cute" had yet to breach the levee.

But it was too late.

I made sure every mom in that dressing area got a glimpse of my masculine three-day beard growth as I knocked over three camisoles on my way out.

Boom. Post Christmas doldrums—gone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Time for the 2011 Pondie Awards.

Hello, and welcome to the First Annual Pondie Awards.

Our staff has worked tirelessly in compiling this year's winners, and similarly to Pondie's wealthy yet emasculated second cousin Oscar, we believe that everyone deserves a trophy—you know, like T-ball.

Unfortunately, however, while many will stumble home from the after party, their pockets stuffed with mashed up pigs in a blanket, only one fortunate soul in each of our categories will claim this coveted award for his or her mantel or TV tray.

Without further ado, let's get to the victors, shall we?

In the category of "Politician Whose Pantsuit Makes Her Butt Look the Most Psychotic," the Pondie goes to Michele Bachmann, for asserting that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, global warming is fictitious and Jesus hates all gays except for her husband, Marcus. Congratulations, Michele.

Runners up in our next category include Scott Peterson, Charles Manson and Susan Smith, but this year's Pondie goes to O.J. Simpson in the category of "Oh, Cool. That's Right, You're Still in Prison."

The 2011 "Nastiest Way of Recycling a Nasty Thing to Try to Make it Less Nasty" Pondie is awarded to that thing McDonald's sells that has all the Big Mac ingredients inside a tortilla instead of a bun. Congrats on such forward thinking, McD's, and we can't wait for next year and the introduction of the Mango McRib Smoothie.

In the category of "Most Adept at Seizing a Moment of Silent Prayer in Front of 60,000 People to Thank Jesus For the Touchdown He Just Scored and Also His Awesomely Ripped Arms," the Pondie goes to Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. Kudos, Timbo. Thanks to your public displays of piety, those Muslims trying to tackle you don't stand a chance.

We actually have a three-way tie for our next prize. The Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian people win the Pondie Award for "While the Rest of the World Watched Kim Kardashian's Ridiculous Nuptials, We Chose to Risk Our Lives So That Our Children Might Grow Up Free."

Justin Bieber wins in a close battle with the cast of Barnie and Rupert Murdoch to take home the trophy for "Least Likely to Be Able to Impregnate Someone." Who'd a thunk, Biebs!

Nominated for "Person Most of Us Would Like to Set on Fire, Starting at His Offending Area," the Pondie goes to Jerry Sandusky, who deserves to be free on bail about as much as a Strawberry Frosted Pop Tart deserves to be a fruit.

And finally, 2011 Pondie for "Stop Complaining About Your Stupid Problems—I Was Shot Through the Brain and Look at the Progress I'm Making" is awarded to Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Congresswoman, you inspire us all.

It looks like our show has run a bit long. We apologize and promise that next year, we'll nix FOX News on Ice.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas. War is Over.

It is, is it?

So let me get this straight. The Iraq war is officially over.

Just like that.

Did someone simply walk around one last time to make sure the oven was turned off and the iron was unplugged, tilted the blinds, turned on the porch light, slammed the door and cranked the dead bolt?

I guess so.

Apparently, it was that easy. At a cost of nine years, nearly 4,500 American and 100,000 Iraqi lives and a trillion dollars, the world's largest and most expensive fork exposed its tines and on Friday signaled that this thing is done, done and done.

Make no mistake, however—we're leaving a lot of parting gifts to this fragile mishmash of tribal alliances, including an embassy larger than anything this side of the Dugger's house.

Still unaccounted for are $6.6 billion earmarked for Iraqi reconstruction projects and one billion dollars in missing tractor trailers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades provided to local security forces.

Such a comforting statistic.

For all of the soldiers and families who've finally gotten an opportunity to put this nightmare behind them, Friday was a landmark day, and wouldn't you have thought our print media would concur? I definitely believed as much.

But here's the front page of the Detroit Free Press (end of war article framed in green):

 And one of my local papers, The Tacoma News Tribune:

When the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II, it received this treatment in the New York Times:

And another of my neighborhood publications, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Judging from the prominence of first two headlines, the end of hostilities in Iraq barely justified the front page.

How do you feel about that?

Granted, Iraq wasn't a popular undertaking from the get-go. America was more polarized over the decision to engage in these actions than any era since Vietnam, and after having two anti-war signs stolen out of my front yard in liberal West Seattle, I experienced little difficulty in drawing such a conclusion.

Many of us believed that our President and his cronies were selling us a bill of goods, fabricating evidence to associate Saddam Hussein with the organization responsible for September 11. Heeding the warning of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a lot of us felt that America's current military industrial complex was fabricating evidence in order to profit from a nation's patriotism, paranoia...and ignorance.

So many American lives were wagered to safeguard and install Pizza Huts and Baskin Robbins, Subways and Burger Kings. KBR, a former Halliburton division, supplied $20 billion dollars in food, fuel and housing.

I wonder what KBR's gross margin was on a Double Whopper or foot long Meatball with pepper jack and no onions.

Here's what sticks in my craw, and I'll try to be concise, here:

Our troops, at minimum, deserved a headline with the day's largest typeface, preferably thirty-six point Futura Bold. Many participated in two, three or even four tours over there, and by God, they warrant a large freaking announcement in the freaking newspaper.

America needs to care, but it seems like nobody really does. This war has been predominantly fought on the backs of working class and poor kids who are looking for a way out of their situations. People took to the streets during Vietnam because they or their child risked being drafted into a hellish situation, and now it just doesn't hit home for a lot of us since we don't have many dogs in the this fight.

I know we're all busy right now with holiday preparations, but please, do me a favor.

Wherever you are, take five minutes. I'm not asking you to stand up or look around or do anything. Just take five minutes and think about what a lot of people have been doing for the past ten years, and what many are still doing in distant, hostile lands.

Then think about what we can do to bring more of them home.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Time to crank it to eleven.

T minus one week to go—this is when things get serious.

Up until now, Christmas preparations have jogged along, with a three-quarter sprint a couple of weeks ago for tree procuring and hall decking. Since then, a few online presents ordered here, some gift cards purchased there, but no huge dealio.

As of today, however, the figurative holiday oven has heated up our entire household, and many of those miscellaneous tasks have embedded their tentacles into my consciousness with greater urgency than that constant beckoning by my leathery man bladder.

Christmas cards, still not completed, are always a multi-step process, one in which I never allow myself enough time to accomplish. Choosethefamilyphotoorderthecardsbuythestampsaddresstheenvelopesandmail. Each letter of the preceding word represents roughly one minute of the chore, and I always seem to break the delicate chain at "buythestamps," thereby adding "drivetothestoretobuymorestampsandahugekitkatbar" to the end of the original word.

Another obligation which has leaped forward on this Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve is my role as the official procurer of holiday baking raw materials. Thanks to my family's gluttonous needs, Safeway is now lighter two large packages of chocolate chips, four jars of marshmallow cream, ten bars of baking chocolate and two huge bags of peppermint candy.

While it may seem like an average Friday movie night for Rush Limbaugh, that's enough sugar to choke a woolly mammoth, and by the end of tonight, the kitchen counters will be lined with fudge, bon bons, sugar cookies and peppermint bark. Hot damn.

I've decided that my my wife and daughters should consider themselves quite fortunate to have someone—well, to have me—as their support staff, their shopping Sherpa. After reading this morning's paper, I've discovered that a lot of dudes were a little too predisposed this time of year to run down to Safeway and home, and back to Safeway, and home again, to contribute to their friends' and family's sugar comas.

For example, here's what happened on this day, December 18, in history:

1865—The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

Wow. That's a big one. Free pass for Mr. Seward from doing holiday errands for his family. And if there were any way I could thank him today, I'd regale him with an entire nation's gratitude and some Crest Breath Strips.

1940—Adolph Hitler ordered secret preparations for Nazi Germany to invade the Soviet Union.

Yeah. How'd that work out for you, Dolph? You probably should have run to the store for some strudel mix and refilled your Thorazine prescription, like Eva asked you.

1972—The United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War.

Nixon should never be mentioned in the same sentence as Hitler, but each committed some serious military blunders on days where they would have been better off just stuffing their Haggar slacks with rocks and slowly shuffling into the Atlantic.

2010—The United States Senate approved repeal of the military's seventeen-year "don't ask, don't tell' ban on openly gay troops in a 65-31 vote.

Okay, so two useful moves and two bonehead ones on this day in history. The ironic aspect of the 2010 event is this: Can you think of anything positive our Congress has accomplished besides the don't ask, don't tell repeal? I can't.

They must've been pressured to adjourn and get some shredded coconut before the store ran out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How the Gingrich Stole Christmas.

"Hey, Newt! Put on your helmet! You're going in for Cain!"

"Really? Really, Coach? Can I? Yes! Don't you remember, though? I'm not very athletic. I just help you think up plays. And I don't have a helmet because we couldn't find one big enough to fit my recess-ball-sized head."

"I don't care, Gingrich. We're out of subs, so get in there!"

Okay, enough with analogies originating from my football-soaked brain stem. Hard to believe, isn't it? It's finally Newt's turn as the leading Republican for the 2012 Presidential nomination. Wow.

First, Michele Bachmann tapped herself out of the running by confusing the potentially life-saving HPV vaccine as a sinister gateway drug to mental retardation. that I've really pondered this fact, I'm surprised that bug-eyed Stepford Wife didn't wholeheartedly support the vaccine.

After all, it could increase her voting base.

I know, I know. Cheap and insensitive. Couldn't resist.

Shortly after Bachmann stumbled through the political sliding glass door, Rick Perry rose to the top, but quickly shat himself by proving incapable of naming the three cabinet-level departments he'd vowed to eliminate. Oops.

What's the deal, Texas? Out of all the available talent in your expansive state, why do you only elect governors who, while vehemently opposing reproductive rights, believe that back in 1973, Roe vs. Wade fought just before Ali and Frazier?

It's painful to watch Perry attempt to drum up facts and figures. It's like his thoughts are Pong balls knocking around in his cavernous head while his eyes follow behind. Nice hair, though.

And then it was time for the former Chief Executive Officer of Godfather's Pizza, a product which actually broke my mom's tooth back in 1978, to bear the standard for the Grand Old Party.

Unfortunately, Herman Cain also choked on his chances by denying, despite daunting evidence to the contrary, how much extra pepperoni he'd personally delivered over the past twenty years.

I wonder if Herman was a thirty minutes or less guy.

Enter Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich, that terrier-faced, twice-adulterous, Muppet who just doesn't know when to say when. After losing key staffers and nearly imploding back in May, Gingrich has wrestled front-runner status from Mitt Romney, whose hat has been in the ring so long it's covered with John McCain's dandruff.

Newt's a different animal, however. He's an idea guy and he's not into tempering his thoughts prior to verbalizing them in his gurgling, pre-pubescent tenor.

Since he's got so much experience working with poor, non-white children, he's proposed a plan which could compel even Geoffrey Chaucer's rotting corpse to stand and applaud:

Gingrich, who firmly believes, in all his Caucasian splendor, that we each possess an equal shot at economic success and wealth, has proposed allowing under-aged minors to work as school custodians.

Since these kids obviously suffer in poverty due to their single mothers' lazy work ethics, what better way to teach the value of a buck than to hire twelve-year-old black kids to replace union janitors and throw scented cat litter over vomit at a fraction of the cost?

Win. Win.

More recently, Newt branded the Palestinians an "invented people." Before you feel sliced by sharp pudding lids of outrage, remember that Gingrich knows the definition of an invented person, since he's one himself.

His philandering past has been dumped into the compost bin and he's  re-invented himself as a humble, monogamous public servant. He has sought the Lord's forgiveness, the ultimate Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for cheating on two wives, even discussing divorce with his first wife as she lay in a hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery.

Anyway, yeah, Newt Gingrich is your guy right now, Republicans. What do you think? Are you going to support this schmuck?

Or will you wait to hear if God's going to vote for Obama again?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My non-encounter with a total bastard.

She shuffled into our small, galley kitchen as I concluded a ritual which has burned itself into my muscle memory after hundreds of times preparing her same on-the-go breakfast.

I noted that she had dressed herself for the day in her "baller" outfit: ponytail with a hair band to pull any strays back from the forehead, a sweatshirt, basketball shorts, black, midcalf-length socks and Adidas slides.

As I stuffed two pieces of bacon into a toasted English muffin and handed it over, she addressed me in her usual morning monotone. "Hey, Dad."

"Morning. Hey, I've been thinking about something lately. When are you and I going to play each other one-on-one again? Last time I beat you really easily."

"Dad, I was in fifth grade. That was six years ago. Just name the time and place and I'm so in."

"What's your point? I'm still taller than you."

"Umm, no. Actually you're not. Hey, Mom! Can you come here a second?"

My wife, having been dwarfed by our woman-child at least three years ago, entered the kitchen, thereby filling it to its maximum human capacity.

"Who's taller, me or Dad?"

"Stand back to back." Our heads butted and slid against one another as they competed for supremacy beneath my bride's steadying hand.

A brief moment of quiet and stillness. "She's got you by about a quarter of an inch," my wife chortled as she left the room.

"Ha! I knew it!" Her teenage smugness nearly fogged up the small window above the sink.

"No big deal," I lamely retorted. "I'm probably not done growing yet anyway, because my knees and ankles have been hurting lately. I think the growth plates are active and I could still top off at six-three or so."

Her familiar monotone returned. "Ha, ha, Dad. You're forty-nine."

Okay, so what if my sixteen-year-old daughter is taller than I am? I'm still her dad— probably. She's still my baby—just a really tall baby.

Those who've read even a few of my postings are aware that the my wife, younger daughter and I have spent countless hours in bleachers, folding camp chairs (with cup holders) and glitchy, sloppy mud, watching this kid play.

And I'm not complaining. It's a joy to witness this terrific young woman as she joyfully pursues her lifelong passion on a high school basketball court. Intellectually, I'm aware that these are fleeting moments, that they'll be no more than vapor in a few years.

But here's the thing: When that ball tips off, I become an unsheathed, inflamed nerve, a hypersensitive human father unit whose only function is preventing harm to my offspring or her teammates.

If my fervor somehow could embody a liquefied right-wing Christian theocratic tyrant, I would be stewing in Michele Bachmann juice.

The perfect storm of potential over-the-top fatherly fan behavior occurred last Wednesday, when my daughter's team traveled across town for a non-league contest against a storied opponent, one whose multiple championship banners hovered over the hardwood.

I arrived non-filtered—on my own—los lobos solo. Sitting halfway up in the middle of the stands, I maintained a decent decorum as the opponent surgically dismantled my daughter's squad. Hey, I surmised, it's not meant to be tonight. Such is life, so I'll sit back and enjoy watching my girl play, despite the bitter defeat at hand.

By halftime, the deficit was twenty-four points, and in my opinion, it was time for the opposing coach to call off the dogs.

Unfortunately, he believed otherwise, as the third quarter commenced with the same highly athletic line-up, the same full-court press, the same assault of three-point salvos.

The lead had ballooned to forty points by the end of the third, as had my spleen, slowly searing like a nice Ahi tuna. The opponents convened in a huddle, the coach joking and laughing with his dominators before sending, that's right, the same group out to continue the onslaught for the game's final quarter.

I was pissed. As my daughter's team struggled to push the ball even beyond the mid-court line, their slumped shoulders betrayed total defeat and complete humiliation. My eyes maintained a constant lock on the enemy coach.

And that's when he said it.

With a gluttonous grin still plastering his face, he barked to his players:

"Come on, you guys can play better than that. These guys are bums."

Huh? Seriously? Had he, a high school basketball coach, representing his school and its unparalleled record of academic and athletic esteem, actually just vocally branded his opponents as bums?

Red wasn't the color that filled my vision; it was more of a brownish maroon.

I wanted to hurt this man.

This bastard, in all his misplaced hubris, had just mortally disrespected my daughter's team and school. And I wanted to visit physical damage upon him.

My wife wasn't there. No one could stop me. Scenarios cascaded through my consciousness as my eyes maintained adhesion to the back of his head:

I could charge the court and get one good shot in before I'm pummeled by his assistants and arrested. Sure, my daughter would never speak to me again and I'd be banned from entering public schools for at least five years, but it may still be worth it.

I could confront him after the game, possibly leading to a physical altercation in which I would not be the beneficiary. Still possibly worthwhile to make my feelings known.

Finally, finally, the contest had mercifully ended, a forty-five point shellacking. Okay, I murmured. If you're going to do something awesome, you've got to do it now. Come on. Do it. Now!

Knock it off, I told myself. Pull yourself together. You're not going to perform either of those stunts. If this guy wants to be a punk, he's definitely been a punk before and he'll probably always be a punk regardless of any immature act you may try, so get over it and move on.

And I did get over it and move on...

...after returning home and emailing the school's athletic director and principal.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's butt crack time.

It wasn't just any weekend.

It was that weekend.

Tape, very small nails, electricity, butt heard me, but I'll get to that later.

After flirting last year with the notion of a prosthetic tree, my family and I opted to go the unnatural natural route, because, even though we wouldn't be purchasing our green friend from inside the hardware store, we'd decided to buy one out in the parking lot.

We also made the collective decision to nix one of those tree farm scams thirty miles outside of town, where you're compelled to drop fifty bucks for the five-minute privilege of sawing your own pre-sheered tree, loading it in the car and choking down a complimentary, yet chunky, cup of Swiss Miss and a broken sugar cookie prior to heading back to the city in a cramped, overheated Ford Ranger.

Nope. Not this time. The kids and I were finally on the same page. We unanimously agreed that the tree farm route was synonymous to vetoing the frozen turkey from Safeway for the honor of driving to the sticks, paying three times as much and killing the poor beast ourselves.

In other words, why mess with the gobbler when you can go right for the breast.

This time around, for as long as it takes to sing "Oh, Tannenbaum" between six and seven times, Dougie Fur, in all his deadness, had traveled to his final resting place.

Anyone who tells you that wedging a tree into its little green stand is easy, is either lying or reasonably competent, because by the time that tree stood upright in a water-filled basin, the only man sweating around his wife more than I was on Saturday was Herman Cain.

My daughters like to enter the picture after most of the heavy lifting has been completed; sort of like the dentist who cruises in after the hygienist has ruptured her S5 disk trying to chip the filth off your teeth, and pokes around for thirty seconds before slapping off his rubber gloves and charging you a couple of Benjamins.

Sorting quickly through everything with which they hadn't either held a personal connection or made, the kids decorated feverishly, until no space existed to place another ornament or pillow, snow globe or angel.

Once fully decorated, the living room assumed a festive, yet slightly disturbing ambiance. A delicate nativity scene, one in which stepfather Joseph was conspicuously absent, was dwarfed by its bookend neighbors, a giant Christmas penguin and a chillingly lifelike Saint Nick doll in a baseball outfit.

A large Santa head fabricated from half a Clorox bottle stared out from the wall, giving the house the feel of a home which had bagged itself a Christmas elf and proudly displayed the trophy.

Finally, after having completed the day's garnishments, the family relaxed together in a room lit solely by little white, green, red and blue lights while Dean Martin crooned a slurry verse of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on the old CD player.

"Hey, Dad, can you help me put up some lights in my room?" asked my sixteen year-old. I knew what she actually meant was, "Hey Dad, can you single-handedly put up lights in my room?"


"Thanks, Daddy." She knows I melt when she calls me that.

We rose from our seats, trailed by my eleven-year-old, and entered the minefield, the floor strewn with shoes and hairbands and hooded sweatshirts. I proceeded immediately to the task, as this would be the day's last demand upon my talents. Standing on a stool, my teenager handed up pieces of strapping tape, which we soon surmised would not affix the light string to her plaster walls.

I exited and returned with a hammer and nails. Quickly stringing the lights along the ceiling line, I hit a snag at the corner, as the string continually slipped out of its anchorage.

With each failure, I struggled against the urge to mutter profanities. After all, come on, it's Christmas, damnit.

After the fifth attempt, the string again slipped. "Shit!" Oops.

"Hey, Dad, I can see your butt crack," offered the teenager.

"Okay, do you want me to put down this hammer and this really small nail and this huge string of lights which is teetering on collapse and get down from this stool and pull up my pants? Huh? Is that what you want?"

No answer.

"Just look the other way or something."

I pounded. I taped. I failed. I pounded some more. I swore some more. I pounded. Finally, success.

"Dad, guess what?" This time it was my younger kid who had been steadily giggling while sitting on the bed.


The older one chimed in. "We filmed you on my phone."

"You filmed me? Are you serious?"


"You filmed the whole butt crack conversation, too?"


They erupted into throes of purple-faced hysterics, high fiving and rolling on the bed.

"That's pretty funny," I deadpanned. "That's clever. Nice work. Well, I'll tell you what. You might want to leave these lights up after Christmas...because I'm never doing this again!"

I gathered up my stool and tools and stumbled out of the room.

"Don't you want to watch it?" The laughter hadn't ebbed.

"It's okay. I'll save it for when you guys are grown up and not around to decorate anymore. It'll keep me from missing you."

Actually, I'm not sure it will.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Saudi Arabia Allows Women to Compete? You Guys Are the Best!

I'll just get to the point on this one, since it's so insulting on so many levels.

After never having allowed women membership on its country's Olympic team, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee has decided to finally allow females to compete.

Good news, no?

Well, not really. It's not like the Saudis woke up yesterday with a new found estrogen sensitivity. The kingdom was threatened with an International Olympic Committee ban if they proved unwilling to provide at least one woman athlete to this year's London summer games.

And that's precisely how many will be attending: one. Oh, and only if she trains outside the country's borders.

I'm telling you, if those guys weren't sitting on top of all that petroleum, they wouldn't be the cool kids and we wouldn't keep trying to sit at their lunch table.

It seems almost worse to allow a single woman to take part on the Saudi Olympic Team than none at all, simply because she then adopts the "token" label, which is rarely perceived favorably in our society.

Tokens are symbols of patronization; they're bones thrown to mollify the underthinking masses and offer up a least-common denominator.

Mitt Romney is the Republican Party's token handsome, commander-in-chief-looking candidate (who also just happens to believe that after Jesus died, he arose and road-tripped across North America. I'll believe that when someone digs up a black and red "JC '01 Fishers of Men Tour" t-shirt).

Besides Mitt, that GOP slate of candidates is stuffed with more tokens than a Donkey Kong machine at a Battlestar Gallactica convention, but let's not pry open that cat food can of crazy.

In some forums, tokens are necessary, and often welcome, like in sitcoms,  cartoons and politics where characters like Gilligan, Shaggy and Rick Perry portray token idiots. They're predictably unpredictable; their characters contribute tension and drama to any storyline.

Who can forget Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn's constantly high surfer dude in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? He's what made the film a classic, at least among my generation, through his stereotypical role as a token stoner (or, should we say "tokin'" stoner?) portrayal. Spicoli's relationship with Mr. Hand, the representative hard-ass teacher, drove the movie.

Other Hollywood small-screen tokens appear merely absurd when viewed through our contemporary prism of tolerance and social awareness. Otis, the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show, made audiences howl as he voluntarily stumbled into the city jail and passed out in the cell as Andy and Barney shook their heads.

Come on, what's funnier than a ruddy-nosed, stumbling alcoholic? Hello, Emmy Awards.

Linc, the only black guy on the 1970s hip cop show, The Mod Squad, muttered maybe one or two lines per show, but for the most part, the talking was left to the white folks. His job was to kick ass.

Pat Boone and the Osmonds were white people's safe, far less talented token answers to Little Richard and The Jackson 5. Hey, Michael Bolton and Kenny G, Pat and Donny called and they want some credit next time you crank out another awesome album.

Make no mistake, however. Saudi Arabia's lame gesture doesn't stand alone in contemporary society's recent history, either.

John Kerry, during his failed 2004 Presidential run, committed a cardinal sin, which I'm sure contributed to his eventual demise among East Coast voters and sandwich lovers.

During a campaign stop in Philadelphia, Kerry was handed a famous Pat's cheesesteak. Rather than biting into it as I would, by making it disappear into my gullet with more gusto than a Linda Lovelace movie, Kerry took a small nibble, barely encroaching on the cheesesteak's magical ingredients.

John Kerry, while running for our land's highest political office, had taken a token bite of a Pat's Cheesesteak.

I was appalled.

McDonald's offers salads as a token attempt at healthy food alternatives. I read somewhere that they've sold six of them since 2007.

Budweiser advises us to drink responsibly. In my opinion, drinking Budweiser is irresponsible.

And my final example is probably the most ill-advised token of all. It's the perfect example of an afterthought, of a stupid, pointless gimmick meant to pander to an entire gender:

The Trojan Condom: Ribbed, for her pleasure.