Monday, May 28, 2012

One Hero's Story.

I take so much for granted. I think we all do.

We can get so put out, so upset, about bad cell reception or waiting too long for a mondo burrito or having to stand the entire duration of a twenty-minute bus ride.

At least we Americans have returned to thanking our men and women who wear the uniform to defend our right to complain about trivial matters. At least our teenage soldiers no longer must face further trauma at home after surviving the ambiguity and terror of an unnecessary war in southeast Asia.

But I still don't think most of us really comprehend how different our lives would be--right this minute--if a lot of people hadn't performed acts which defied reason and even sanity to protect not just a nation but the very idea of freedom.

Perhaps I would still author this blog, but each post would require submission to the Cultural Media Commission of the German Democratic Republic of America prior to publication. Maybe past pieces were rejected due to provocative political content, where either I was required to redact the part about Mitt Romney's magical underwear or risk a visit from some men in stylish yet sinister long leather jackets and fedoras.

Of course, I'd only be permitted to publicly share my writing upon fulfilling genetic purity standards which require a European descent minimum of ninety percent. Thank God my membership in the master race pays dividends despite my country's second place finish in World War II.

My uncle, John Conway, was one of the folks who made sure the preceding scenario never materialized. He was a young Marine lieutenant assigned to the Pacific theater during the War. I've always thought the term "theater" was an ill-fitting moniker for war. Theaters are often-ornate venues designed for viewing highly produced, well-rehearsed performances. I'm not so sure a series of heavily fortified volcanic islands which offer less than a fifty percent chance of returning home safely would even qualify as off-Broadway.

My Uncle John never talked about the horrors he saw, the friends he lost or the innumerable brushes with death he faced while storming the beaches of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. And I didn't ask him.

He passed away in 1995. After having survived not only the Second World War, but also the Korean and Vietnam wars, he was finally enjoying the fruits of his sacrifices. A retired Marine Corps colonel, he and his wife, my Aunt Iris, lived an active lifestyle, traveling the country in their recreational vehicle.

In October of 1995, while preparing the RV for another adventure, my Uncle John fell off a ladder and hit his head. In a twist of cruel, brutal irony, he died the following day.

A few years later, I asked my Aunt Iris if Uncle John had ever spoken of any of his war ordeals. She replied that yes, he had, but only one. As tears welled up in her eyes, she related his experience during the Marine Corps' initial assault on Iwo Jima in 1945 while approaching the island aboard an amphibious assault craft. With the only sound provided by the enemy fire between the crash of the waves, a single human voice broke through the din.

It was the company chaplain:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Huddled in a corner of my parent's living room, we wept silently together as the refrain of the twenty-third Psalm burned itself forever into my memory.

Words can't describe my gratitude to all who serve.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Beat on the Brat: How Not to Deal with Mouthy Kids.

Most folks who opt to sacrifice a few moments of life's rich pageant to read my blatherings have already roamed the highways and byways of this big blue marble for a few years.

And I'd be willing to bet that most of you have encountered a situation or two similar to the scenario I'm about to illustrate:

You've been highly anticipating Hollywood's latest and greatest blockbuster. Granted, it won't have Hitchcockian plot twists and it won't be layered more richly than even a small Peanut Buster Parfait, but it does promise enough action to scratch that testosterone itch.

On top of that, this film features a certain thespian who can make your Johansson turn scarlet.

You decide to go all in—3D, prime time, Friday night—a small fortune, but as a pre-Scientologist Tom Cruise once pointed out in Risky Business, "Sometimes you just have to say, 'What the f*ck.'"

Arriving early for optimal seat selection, you unfold the stained burlappy seat, descend into its comfort and plant your feet firmly at nine and three o'clock, forming a bond with the sticky floor strong enough to adhere heat tiles to the space shuttle.

An experienced movie goer, you've attempted various crossed-leg positions in the past, only to become hopelessly distracted by the loss of circulation and subsequent foot and leg comas. After years of trial and error, you decide that movie watching and bathroom going should both be performed with a balanced center of gravity.

Risks of profound systemic breakdowns run considerably higher when sitting on the toilet with crossed legs, however.

You still haven't completely reconciled your value system to the pre-preview barrage of adverts for soft drinks, cars and TV cop shows, so by the time the actual movie trailers begin, you're coated with a light varnish of crabbiness.

And then they come in. You hear them before you see them. It's a group of kids talking loudly, running up and down the aisles...and settling into the seats directly behind you. They're throwing popcorn, constantly brushing up against you and growing progressively louder.

Desperately flailing for the door knob to your happy place, you convince yourself that they'll shut up and sit down once their attention is consumed by superheroes and explosions. You gently scold yourself for being unprepared to congregate with this film genre's demographic.

The movie starts, and the horrific sample of America's future seated behind you hasn't settled down in the least. Enough is enough. Time to act. This disrespectful pack of evil gerbils will douse your buzz no more.

You crane your neck and stare at the de facto leader of the spoiled crow murder. You wait for a second to allow your glare to break through his monkey brain stem and into his frontal lobes. No dice.

"You know," you say calmly, "I paid a lot of money to see this movie."

Laughter. Flying popcorn. More noise. Snap.

The scene I've just narrated could have happened to any of us, wouldn't you say? But a guy from Kent, Washington, opted to use a different tool than most of us probably would when confronting obnoxious tweens.

Twenty-one-year-old Yong Hyun Kim used the hammer. He climbed over a row of seats and punched one of the kids in the face, bloodying his nose and knocking out a tooth.

The kid was ten years old.

Yong is now facing a felony assault charge, and claims that he thought the boy was an adult and didn't realize he'd struck a minor until the police told him.


I'm thinking even LeBron James looked ever so slightly like a kid when he was ten. Sure, Ed Asner probably had more hair on his ten-year-old back than his head, but even in a dark theater, I doubt I would've mistaken him for an elder Lou Grant and clobbered him in the squash.

Look, nothing hits that sweet spot in an adult's temper like a mouthy kid. We've all been tempted to perform painful, yet non-bruising acts upon little ones who don't understand that we have the power to remove their heads with a sharp Hershey's Syrup lid if we so desire.

But we don't. That's why we're called grown-ups.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Empty Nesting: A Dress Rehearsal

It's prom night. Anyone remember it?

My daughter is attending, yet in an administrative capacity. She's gone ahead and donned her "I'm-going-to-make-you-sorry-that-you-didn't-ask-me-to-this dance, you-immature senior bastard" outfit, as she and a friend have assumed tonight's duties of checking handbags, coats and boda bags filled with Mountain Dew and Red Bull (right?).

She and her friend have also been given the task of crowning the Wills and Kate of the 2012 Chief Sealth International High School Senior Prom, so I felt compelled to fill them each in on, while highly tempting and hilarious, not to try that stunt like they did with Carrie with the pig's blood. Apparently, it's only available at the Metropolitan Market, and she'd be spending two weeks allowance for thirty seconds of prom queen traumatization followed by supernatural vengeance. Hardly worth it.

So here I am, los lobo solo, sitting here in an empty house. My younger daughter traveled yesterday to Idaho to participate in a middle school music competition, accompanied by her unflappable chaperon for a mother. The only way I'd have volunteered for such a mission would have been stops in both Moses Lake and Colfax for some six-packs of Five Hour Valium.

For those of you who haven't experienced today's youth rituals visa a vis these annual high school spring galas, I'd like to let you know that it's absolutely ridiculous. Guys no longer just ask girls between classes and consummate the arrangement with high fives and side hugs. Nope.

These man-children often sacrifice their first quarter tuition at the University of I Haven't Got a Clue Yet for elaborate propositions which would irritate Mickey Rourke's character from Nine-and-a-Half Weeks. Seventeen-year-old gents, after confirming with their prospective dates' parents, will regale the girls' bedrooms with streamers, signs and balloons (at least I think they're balloons, but they're all beige colored with reservoir tips) or create massive scenes in hallways and lunch rooms.

Sure, I'm all cocky because my teenager isn't technically attending. She won't have the opportunity to participate in any after parties, since, as part of the support staff, she'll be whisked to IHOP to dine with the highly adult activities director.

A math equation comes to mind, one which Hawking and I have traded a few emails, but finally solved:
Crappy Belgian Waffles + Adult Supervision = Paternal Peace of Mind

It's nice to put off for three-hundred-sixty-five days and event which is so very pressure packed. These kids have put so much money and effort into the lead-up that their expectation of a magical night becomes a tall order.

I can only hope no one gets lost finding the restaurant afterwards and misses their reservation so they get seated by the kitchen and order champagne from the waiter since they feel so old in their white tuxedo and get completely laughed at by both the waiter and a few patrons, including Dave Winfield of the New York Yankees, who's sitting next to this hypothetical couple..

And then I sincerely hope no one shakes the valet's hand, rather than tipping them.

Yeah, that's something that only some idiot would've tried thirty years ago.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why I Haven't Given Up On Infomercials.

It's been a big news week already.

But you may be pleased to learn that I won't be delving into Mitt Romney's high school internship at the Cranbrook Preparatory Hairmasters Beauty School, where he coined the phrase, "Listen, Sheila, lie down because it's time for a trim."

I also won't touch upon Rush Limbaugh's induction into the the Hall of Famous Missourians, where the unveiling of his sizable bronze bust actually included a sizable bronze bust.

Instead, I'd like to explore some of this week's developments in the health arena, because really, what's more important than our health?

If our brains weren't capable of summoning the complex firing of synapses which can heft our girth from a futon, we'd have no means of climbing into the Nissan for the quarter mile trip for a Quarter Pounder.

How could we harbor any hope for witnessing our grandchildren's graduation and wedding processions if we hadn't made necessary lifestyle modifications, like shifting to reduced-calorie Oreos and yogurt-based pork rinds?

That's why, in the tradition of Lance Armstrong's blood doping guru, I'm here to help keep you at least two meters beyond the swoop of the grim reaper's rusted scythe.

The first story emerged from the seductive world of the coffee bean, where researchers have discovered, after analyzing nearly four hundred thousand test subjects, that coffee consumption can increase our life spans, up to six percent for men and five for women.

How about that, all you java jive turkeys? Experts aren't exactly sure of the reason, but does it really matter? I'm seriously considering cashing in my six percent for the pleasure of lighting up a nice Marlboro Red or two each morning to form a perfect love triangle between newspaper, nicotine and the sports section.

My tea-sipping spouse and children will surely stare in repulsed disbelief, but this time I've got science on my side.

Unfortunately, another development emerged this week in the world of fitness, and I'm not going to sugar coat it because it's yet another chilled serving of caveat emptor.

Kim Kardashian, whom I've known since being introduced through our mutual friend, Adobe Photoshop, will no longer sing the praises of Shape-ups, the butt-toning shoes by Skechers which she claimed allowed her to ditch her personal trainer.

On Wednesday, the southern California shoe maker agreed to pay fifty million dollars to settle false-advertising allegations by the Federal Trade Commission.

Ms. Dash, who'd previously claimed she owed her notorious derriere's prominence to the shoe's "rocker-bottom" technology but has been informed otherwise, must now await lab results believed to reveal the existence of an unborn twin protruding from her backside. Wisdom teeth nubs and dark, wiry whiskers led to wide-scale speculation of a profound misdiagnosis.

If anything can be learned from this week's developments, it's that we, the consumers, must practice eternal vigilance to discern the magical elixirs from the snake oils.

I've been suckered before.

Suzanne Somers' Thigh Master had me calling the toll free number faster than you could say "leg warmers," but after a couple weeks of torture, my groin was so tight that I couldn't pee without some prescription muscle relaxants and the Kenny G box set.

And I didn't end up purchasing the Bowflex, but its commercials made me waver about my sexual identity for the first time since watching the Top Gun volleyball scene in '86.

But I haven't given up. For every ten exercise lemons, one beacon of light shines on the consumer, and I think I've finally found it.

That shake weight is already paying some serious dividends.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some Unsolicited Advice for Sun Worshippers.

It's no news flash that Seattle is a cold and rainy place.

Oh, and speaking of news flashes, according to, Seattle only gets fifty-eight sunny days per year.

By the way, why do TV stations want us to leave our couches to access their websites? Usually I feel so ashamed for even watching local news that I strap on a self-abusive spiked rope belt like the crazy monk in The DaVinci Code, so any excuse to extricate myself from the elevator talk between the news anchor and weather guy is as welcome as spotting a fresh toilet paper roll without getting up.

Sorry about that really long sentence.

Anyway, yeah, Seattle—we don't see a lot of sun here. And when we do, people act really odd.

My wife awakened me this morning, Mother's Day, by staring at me until I woke up. It's weird how someone's eyes can actually burn through your slumber to jar you into consciousness. Then again, I suspect it's a genetic female trait which can be traced to ancient cave dwelling women who just really had something on their minds.

The second my lids pried themselves open, she began speaking. Again, since it's Mother's Day, I held no political capital. "Hi. It's so nice out, why don't we go for a nice walk on Alki, get some Starbucks and maybe read the paper?"

Sure, it was phrased like a question, but it wasn't a question.

Opting for a top shelf experience from the get-go, I suggested taking the Hyndai sedan rather than the Kia minivan. I felt that my lady deserved the unbridled luxury of our Elantra to celebrate those two days her body contorted so profoundly and bloodily to usher forth new life.

We drove the ten minutes to Alki Beach, the original settlement of Seattle's honky pioneers. Naturally, the natives had already been there for a few hundred or thousand years before Whitie arrived, but they didn't seem to mind relocating to some nice real estate in south King County where they could quietly enjoy a little touch of whopping cough courtesy of those parting high fives.

Okay, tangenting. Must stick to the story.

So we got to Alki, parked the car and started walking. It's kind of a Venice Beach type situation, where roller bladers, cyclists, two-on-two volleyball games and various and sundry rental vehicles litter the concourse.

But here's the thing: these are people who aren't used to this, like southern Californians. We don't get sunshine in Seattle...ever. And that's why, while I don't like to give unsolicited advice, I feel a straining necessity to talk to my people right now.

Citizens of Seattle, here's some food for thought next time a beautiful day lures you to the beach:

1) You don't have to take your shirt off on the first sunny day, guys. In fact, you shouldn't. I saw some dudes who were so white they were teal. Like you could see the veins under their skin, similar to the "Bodies" exhibit . Guys, do some pre-tanning in your back yard, or go to one of those booths like that insane tan mom, just don't take enough time to finish a Sudoku book and a Lunchable like she does.

2) Hey you, the middle-aged guy with the girlfriend who is twenty years younger and you've been waiting all winter to display her on a nice stroll down the promenade—you look like a tool and you creep me out because she could be your daughter and I'm visualizing you and her doing it. Go to Vegas instead, where everyone looks like you.

3) Don't attach your dogs' leash to your bike's handlebars. I wouldn't really mind seeing you weeded from the human gene pool this way, but you do put us all at risk with this behavior.

4) If you want to play whiffle ball with your kids in the sand because it seems like a nice family activity, absolutely go for it. But don't make your six-year-old son pitch to you so you can show him how far you can hit the ball and then almost take your four-year-old daughter's head off. This is no way to show Seattle that you've still got it.

Okay, I now realize that all my beach advice has been aimed at the men of the Puget Sound area, but I'm not just giving the women a pass because it's Mother's Day. Really.

I'm thinking it's probably just a bunch of liberated guys who said to themselves, "Screw it. This is one Sunday I'm taking a break from working at Microsoft."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Carolina Needs Gay Marriage Like the Taliban Needs Speedos.

Welcome to the club, Tar Heel State.

Congratulations to the newest member of the Dinosaur Coalition, North Carolina, which joined twenty-nine other states in approving a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

While they were at it, they may as well have voted on bringing back the VCR, Pepsi Clear and Dairy Queen Beef Nuggets, since these folks are apparently still residing in an era where even the family basset hound wore a mulleted perm.

The origin of the name "tar heel" is unknown, but one theory holds that it's a moniker given to Civil-War-Era Confederate troops who stuck to their ranks like they had "tar on their heels."

Sounds accurate. The amendment passed resoundingly, securing sixty-one percent of the vote.

I'd like to break this down a bit, so please bear with me. Proponents of this measure claim that our nation was built on Judeo-Christian principles, that, while our forefathers penned the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, each document was inspired by a God himself. Apparently, he used one of the really early versions of PowerPoint to convince a skeptical Thomas Jefferson.

They contend, therefore, that since the Bible dictates the bond of marriage to exist exclusively between one man and one woman, so should proscribe the law of our land.

Okay, whatever. Let's cut to the chase. This stance on same-sex marriage has nothing to do with Christianity or the Bible. If our elected officials truly believed in an "All Jesus, all the time" philosophy, they'd devote themselves completely to heeling the sick, feeding the poor and in between, hanging out with a prostitute or two.

Okay, is it turns out, they're nice and biblical on one of the three.

While it may seem like it, this isn't about two dudes or chicks raising a child who'd rather visit Copenhagen than stick it between his cheek and gum, a kid who's been infused with so much gay from his parents that his genetic makeup can be used as a nice foundation prior to applying the bronzer.

It doesn't concern the ethical high ground which can only be achieved via male/female matrimony. After all it's not like one of North Carolina's most renowned married heterosexuals didn't visit a little damage on his cancer-stricken wife and kids.

And finally, this fight isn't about opening the door to "abominations," like state-sanctioned polygamist or bestial bonds. If that were the case, at least eight of that sixty-one percent in Carolina would have favored experiencing the musky, yet legal, delights of the barnyard.

This is about power, and it's about control.

Egalitarian marriages are mortal threats to the American patriarchy, which struggles to maintain its grip. Just as emancipation freed slave from master, just as suffrage elevated women from property to person, same-sex marriage liberates another eleven percent of the population from its oppressor.

Make no mistake; this train isn't stopping. The tracks have been laid out all the way to the coast on what is truly the last civil rights frontier.

This will happen. And when it does, some may pull out the Sharpie and mark out another box on the end of days checklist, while others will embrace marriage equality as the last act to ultimately align the nation's laws with a framework established nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago.

Only then will the Civil War truly end.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Enough Already: Let's Legalize It.

Today I'd like to begin with a couple of battle-worn bromides which capitulate my platform:

Fish or cut bait.

Speak now or forever hold your peace.

Poo or get off the porcelain (but wash your hands first, and you know who I'm talking to, dude at work).

Aren't you just a little tired of this dance?

It's time to be blunt about the blunt. Time to okay the tokay. Time to stop considering the chronic a demonic tonic.

Enough already; let's legalize marijuana.

Paving the way with other controversial issues such as same sex marriage and men's ass implants, the state of California has also blazed the trail when it comes to lawfully blazing the reefer.

But nearly sixteen years after the passage of Proposition 215 which provided California's chronically ill citizens with a means to possess or cultivate marijuana for medicinal use, our federal government has decided to issue a fatwa on the fat one.

The feds have decided to bogart licensing programs on medical pot cultivation and shut down hundreds of marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. As a result, massive quantities of the sticky icky have been harvested but can't find a market.

Thus, an entire industry is regressing to its formerly sketchy underground distribution networks, spewing stale bong water on the golden state's multi-billion-dollar  freshy fresh economy.

I live in Seattle, a city which shares California's attitude about the weed. People here don't view it as a hard, gateway drug. We've all known someone who smokes way too much of it, but they're not staying up for twelve days straight, gouging their skin to a pulp and talking to trash compactor.

Their eyes aren't yellow, their noses aren't streaked with gin blossoms and they aren't breaking into your house to steal leftover painkillers from your dachshund's ACL surgery.

Additionally, the medical marijuana permit, or "green card," is a freaking joke. Certain doctors will issue six-month prescriptions in exchange for a couple hundred bucks and a good brownie recipe. Only Starbucks can claim a numerical advantage over Seattle's ganja dispensaries, which is why Howard Schultz may want to start offering video games, burritos and staying open until one.

Why not cut to the damn chase and legalize this stuff? Assess penalties as severe as alcohol-related punishments for driving under the influence of THC, which can easily be spotted. It's the car driving twenty miles per hour and stopping at green lights.

Reroute law enforcement's resources toward curbing stuff that kills us rather than the stuff which makes us crave hot fudge sundaes and Wheat Thins with salmon-infused cream cheese.

And tax, tax, tax the hell out of a pack of legalized spliffs. After a couple of years, the federal budget shortfall will vaporize into nothing worse than a slightly different type of deficit.

What was I just talking about?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Tan Kid is a Healthy Kid.

I understand that the law is the law, but come on.

Please try to follow me, here, because I think my logic is pretty gull durned sound. Okay, what's more important to America's future than healthy children? Nothing, right?

And how do we know our little angels are healthy?

I'll answer that for you, and you're welcome in advance. The best sign of a healthy, prosperous child is a deep, fudgy tan.

Sometimes our legislative mechanisms can be so fickle. Medicinal marijuana can be as legal as Skittles in some state and municipal jurisdictions, yet strictly verboten at the federal level. Waiting periods are necessary to purchase firearms, with the exception of gun shows, where you can trade a pouch of Red Man and an vinyl copy of Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever for a nice used Glock.

And in the state of New Jersey, Patricia Krentcil has been charged with child endangerment for allowing her six-year-old daughter to use a tanning booth. Apparently, New Jersey's puritan statutes forbid anyone under fourteen from entering a sun casket.

Holy sweet mother of George Hamilton! It's early May. How is this kid supposed to get a nice bronze base when it's fifty-five degrees and cloudy? What is little Ultra Violet Krentcil or Carcie Noma Krentcil or whatever her name is, going to do in the absence of a eighty degrees and SPV Number Three cocoa butter?

Here's mommy.

How old do you think she is? Before I knew, I guessed that, with a six-year-old daughter, she'd have to be at least twenty-two, but twenty-five, tops.

Are you ready? She's forty-four, which is why this law is so freaking ridiculous. Free Patty Krentcil!

We parents, while faithfully maintaining no agenda but our children's best interests, are frequently misunderstood, so why is everyone so quick to judge this woman?

When my older daughter was six and acquired head lice at school, she witnessed an event which some, including my wife, may assess to be traumatic and ill-advised, yet quite well-intended. Rather than performing the deed out of her sight, I placed every one of her stuffed companions into a large garbage bag to suffocate any parasites, sealed it and hefted it down to the basement.

Upon witnessing this CSI Sesame Street, my girl flew into a panic stricken hysteria, and prompted my bride to look at me like a huge yeast infection in a Seattle Mariners cap.

I'm a guy who, if I hadn't entered the graphic design field, could have easily been a Navy SEAL, so I'm always thinking on my feet, and this episode was no exception. I bolted down to Target and bought my cherub a stuffed Hello Kitty doll as compensation for making her watch Raggedy Ann and Andy Go to Jonestown.

My wife's face displayed a new look this time, one which said, "Just when I thought you'd earned your masters degree in stupid, you fast tracked to a PhD. by buying her another stuffed freaking animal!"

Her eyes congratulated me as Hello Kitty said goodbye on her way to the polypropylene penitentiary in the basement.

Oh, I've done other things which have met the gross misunderstanding of my partner, like opening up a gash on the back of my baby daughter's leg by playing "Who's Daddy's pancake?" with a sharp, plastic spatula, or instructing the hair dresser to keep taking more off the of her hair until we both realized she had a mullet.

Yes, it was picture day.

But just like Tom and Katy's seemingly crazy practice of dressing five-year-old daughter Suri in seven-hundred-fifty dollar gowns or Ryan O'Neal's bonding with son Redmond over a little methamphetamine, I think we need to know all the facts before rushing to judgment about Ms. Krentcil and her intentions.

After all, six is the new fourteen.