Monday, February 25, 2013

All You Can Eat at the Home Show.

If someone had slammed the twelve-year-old me against a locker, balled my pointy collar into his fist  and demanded  "Hey, man ('Dude' wasn't really around yet. We said it sometimes but never when addressing someone like 'Dude, I know, right?'), name a few things that are fun for your parents but bore you out of your conk?"

I'd probably have wondered why some kid was backing me up against a locker to ask me such a weird question, but let's face it, junior high is weird.

Pellets of sweat would drip down the armpits of my nonabsorbent shirt, yet I'd hopefully maintain the presence of mind to stammer out these five activities in which I abhor engaging with my parents:

The fabric store—Holy mother of patterns, time stood still at this place. Oh, how I wanted to bolt from the bolts.

Church—Just being honest, here. This excludes the donuts afterward.

The fair—With fun and food permeating my being, they always dragged us kids through the arts and crafts area for at least the first hour. Excruciating.

Visiting some elderly relative or acquaintance I'd never seen before—Chances were that their house smelled like soup and there would be no kid stuff, since children hadn't lived in the house since the forties. Stale Nilla Wafers out of a faded yellow box come to mind. Old folks—bless their hearts.

The Home Show.

What a difference thirty-eight years and home ownership have made, The times, they've a-changed, apparently, because my wife and I attended the Seattle Home Show on Saturday.

It's kitchen remodeling time, and as parenting icon Joan Crawford once proclaimed, "Now tear down this bitch of a bearing wall and put a window where it ought to be!"

Well, it's actually going to be a bar instead of a window. Like a billion other postwar ramblers, ours contains a small galley kitchen, and we're going to knock out the wall separating it from the living room. I'm pretty excited, but anyone who's ever done this knows there's a pretty big checklist to conquer before the first sledgehammer is fired in anger.

Checking out the Home Show made a lot of sense; everything is one place so we can decide on a bunch of stuff right there, especially the single most vexing challenge: tile for the backsplash.

Individually, the words "home" and "show" invoke pleasant thoughts (Ahhh, it feels good to be home. Hey, lets' go see a show!) but the two placed together dredge up a monotone flashback of profound childhood boredom. Even now, in the midst of a major home project, I instantly Kegel at the mention of the words "Home Show."

After the cramping and spasms subsided, I agreed to spend the afternoon with my lovely bride at the Centuryllink Field Convention Center in search of "The Tile."

The show cost twelve bucks each. While twelve dollars isn't too obnoxious, it still can elicit a case of "All You Can Eat Syndrome." Know what I'm saying? Whether you're in Vegas at the Bellagio unlimited seafood buffet or free pudding Tuesday at The Hungry Fork, consarnit, you're going to get your money's worth.

It's the same with dropping twenty-four for a Home Show. By God, you're going to look at everything. You're going to peruse and linger, to discuss and learn, while constantly avoiding eye contact with anyone in a polo shirt, khakis with a cellphone on his or her belt.

After about an hour and a half, we'd established a nice rhythm but started fading a bit. Kitchens started looking the same and I began feeling sorry for workers in booths no one was visiting.

And that's when she saw it. My wife wordlessly peeled off our path and veered into a decorative tile display.  She zeroed in on it like a father penguin.  "This is it. This is what I want." She pointed to a twelve by four inch swatch of the look and colors we'd been searching for.

"Wow," I said. "There it is. I'll get the rep."

I approached the young woman and gestured back toward our choice. "Hi," I said, "Just a couple of questions."

"Sure, I'm here to help."

"Great. So, we're just wondering how much that tile is and how long it takes to get it."

She slid sideways and scooped up a brochure. "I don't really know. Here's a brochure. Our store is about a mile from here, so you can ask them."

"Um, okay, do you know what size sheets it comes in?"

"No. But I'm sure they could tell you at the store." She turned to address another customer.

"Okay, I guess she's done with me," I said, returning to my wife. "She doesn't know anything. She gave me this brochure and said to go to the store."

"Really, you would think they'd at least know about the stuff they're showing." I followed my wife as she took a turn at the rep. "Hi, is there a way to look this up so we can get some information about this tile?"

"No, actually there isn't." With the stealth of a side-stepping Ninja, the woman scooped up a brochure and waved it  like a magical cure for ringworm. It was the one I'd just thrown back on the pile. "But you can go to our store."

I watched my wife's face. While initially proffering a scowl of discontent, it rapidly melded quickly into her fifth grade teacher mask of resignation and acceptance. "Okay, thanks."

We retreated down the carpeted runway. "That was helpful," I said.

My bride shook her head. "Great customer service."

"Can you believe that?" I asked."Are you about ready to go? We can go to the tile place she's talking about and talk to somebody who knows something."

"Yeah, I think I'm done here."

We declined a hand stamp from a lady in a blue cardigan on our way out and walked into the breezy Saturday afternoon. "Well, at least we found what we're looking for."

"Yeah, that's true." She cradled her iPad under her arm and hiked up her handbag. "I guess that's worth twenty-four bucks right there.  I can just show them the pictures I took."

And that's just what we did. Ten minutes later, we stood at the store ready to order,  my wife poking at her iPad screen until her eyes brightened. She rotated the device and presented our holy grail, our dream tile pattern, to the guy behind the counter.

He squinted. He cocked his head.

He spoke. "Hmm, doesn’t look familiar."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why I Heart Thrift Shopping.

"I’m gonna pop some tags, 
Only got twenty dollars in my pocket, 
I’m, I’m, I’m hunting, 
Looking for a come up, 
This is f#@*ing awesome."

That's the hook from the number one song in the land this week, as sung(?) by Seattle's own Macklemore.

Why would I post these questionable lyrics to such an otherwise conservative weblog? Is it nothing more than the feeble attempt by a rapidly decomposing Baby Boomer to maintain just a sliver of relevance?

Yes. But there's more to it than that, my friend.

This song is about thrift store shopping. Let me quickly translate this man's brilliant lyrics, if I may:

"I'm gonna pop some tags,"—I fully intend to purchase some previously owned clothing or accessories, at which time I will sever the plastic tie which binds the tag to said merchandise, either with a pair of scissors or my freakishly honed canine incisors.

"Only got twenty dollars in my pocket"—Usually I use my debit card, but this time I happen to have a twenty because a co-worker paid me back after I fronted him a beef brisket hoagie and some chipotle kale chips at Whole Foods on Friday.

"I'm, I'm, I'm hunting,"—I am, I am, I am looking around a bit.

"Looking for a come up,"—Searching for an item which might strike my fancy.

"This is f#@*ing awesome."—This is fucking super.

Does that help a bit? Good, because this is something you should know about. You see, thrift store shopping truly is awesome.

Let me back up a little. Ever since I've known my bride, which, let's see, began during the Ronald Reagan/Wham era, she has displayed a proficiency for unearthing bargains comparable to a pox-purging shaman. She's that good.

Using a baseball analogy, she's what you'd call a three-tool player—she possesses patience, discipline and an intangible skill in editing the racks and racks of dusty rabble to root out the pristine. Once home with her booty, her favorite exercise is asking the kids and me to guess how much she spent as she drapes sweaters and dresses and tops over the furniture.

"Nope, less!" she'll say after one of us lobs a number. Someone else will blurt out a lower amount. "Nope, less!" Finally, we'll totally lowball her and zero in on the total.

It's like The Price is Right where my wife is both Bob Barker and the contestant.

Yesterday, the master dragged a few neophytes along. Value Village was hosting a special President's Day sale, with fifty percent off everything, and since she's a "preferred shopper" (She filled out a form like the Safeway Club Card. I know, scary. Now Value Village can track our family's spending habits on used water bottles and frayed camping towels), we were allowed to use the savings a day early.

Hells to the yeah.

My wife, younger daughter and her friend were out of the car and six steps ahead of me by the time I chirped the lock on our filthy Hyundai, and by the time I'd entered the store, they'd vanished into the musty abyss.

Okay, let's do this, I encouraged myself. The few instances I've ventured to VV have involved Halloween costumes or just time killing, and once I've perused the t-shirts, sweatshirts, books and DVDs, I'm usually ready to roll over and go to sleep.

But since I knew that the tugboats had just released the rest of my entourage into deeper bargain waters,  I had to gird my loins for the long haul. I faced the rack at men's large t--shirts, cracked my knuckles and started the Value Village Two-Step, also known as "The Click and Slide."

These shirts are already cheap, and taking another half off tempts me like a perfect storm of Jagermeister and an old girlfriend's phone number. Every prospect must be thoroughly inspected. The tag will say three bucks, and I'll tell myself I can never own too many black t-shirts. Then, as I place it face-down into the basket the back will reveal the words, "Honey Bucket Employee Appreciation Softball Picnic, 2008—No Shit."

Got to be careful.

The final toll rang up around a hundred and twenty-eight dollars. But don't be fooled by the high price point; we looted that place like freaking Vikings. My daughter procured a red leather jacket, a lighted makeup mirror and a bunch of jewelry.

Her friend, while not able to take advantage of the additional savings reserved for clothing, purchased Bigmouth Billy Bass, a delightful, wall mounted talking fish with which she was reunited after her mother cast it to the scrap heap five years ago.

I found a Harvard zipped hoodie for my older girl and a Yale sweatshirt for me (Only at the Double V can two bucks plus two bucks equal Ivy League snobbery).

And again, my life mate, the Jedi bargain warrior, torpedoed the discount death star. Toting bags of tops, sweaters, jeans, sweatpants, a dress and a coat, she was compelled to suspend her quest for shoes and accessories based on humanitarian concerns for the tired and cranky.

Thrift stores have historically been looked down upon. People get a bit grossed out about wearing previously worn items, but come on. We live in a recycling, repurposing, composting and reusing society, right?

Before you judge, before you yuck yuck my yum yum, try popping some tags at your local thrift store. I guarantee you'll come home with some nuggets.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We All Do It, So Why Get Rid of It?

How can they do this?

How the hell can these folks eliminate one of the few activities in which every human being and many in our animal kingdom joyfully partake?

I'm not kidding here; if somehow I were able to list each person I either currently know or with whom I've been even faintly familiar throughout my fifty-year run, I would feel cockily confident in jotting a solid check mark next to each moniker with a fragrant black Sharpie.

Because everyone has done this.

Before delving much further, let me clarify a bit. This activity does not derive its inspiration from the smudged pages of Titanic Teats Monthly or the 2007 Shirtless Sheriffs of Shreveport Fundraising Calendar. I'm also not referring to any act which demands that your free hand choose either the mouse or keyboard.

So, yeah, shuffle on out of that dark theater in your mind and wipe away those filthy thoughts with a moist, flushable towelette, mmkay there, PeeWee?

Because I'm talking about wrestling. It's been nixed from the 2020 Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee. Can you freaking believe this?

Holy ears of cauliflower, how can the most fundamental contest of physical domination be so callously hurled onto the Olympic scrap heap, joining croquet, tug-of-war, some game called mushu and, get this—solo synchronized swimming.

Solo synchronized swimming? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't you consider anything you do alone synchronized?

From the moment that fleshy cord is cut and the post partum goo is squeegeed from our pink little bodies, our wrestling days commence. Our mothers and fathers bury their faces in our warm, soft bellies, inciting cackles and coos.

Everyone grapples, from humans to rodents to single-celled protoplasma. So why would a cold cadre of silver haired killjoys slam down the kibosh on such a universal practice?

Of all the accolades bestowed upon our planet's athletes, I can think of none more coveted than winning an Olympic Gold Medal in Wrestling, an opportunity to stand atop the winner's podium, squinting tearfully as our national anthem belts out its familiar refrains, flush with the knowledge that I can drive the scapulae of any bastard who comes my way into the MRSA-soaked mat.

It would heal so many wounds, so very many.

As a child, I wrestled involuntarily. It's not like my big brother ever requested my presence on the mats for a fair and square scrap. Nope, by the time he'd thrown me down and pinned my arms to the floor with his knees, I usually had it figured out. Until I witnessed more organized meets, I'd always believed that painful tickling, poking, slapping and hovering stringy globs of saliva just above my sun-bleached donkey teeth were rules sanctioned by wrestling's official governing body.

After a substantial growth spurt, I joined the wrestling team in the eighth grade. I actually hated it. It was a rough, stinky sport, one in which I was pinned by every opponent.

On one rare occasion against a guy from Meeker Junior High, however, I was doing well and victory actually seemed within reach.

And reach I did. I shot my open hand between my adversary's legs and filled my palm with nothing but his delicately forming scrotum and testicles. He got sort of angry at that point.

I felt like I'd just taken part in the Scared Straight-San Quentin Shower Day unit. All energy instantly leeched out of my grasp and my opponent soon pressed my back to the mat like he'd narrowly escaped being shanked by the new transfer.

Fortunately, accidental twig and berry palpation aside, I learned some wonderful and highly painful joint manipulation skills to exact the revenge on my brother I'd been longing for with a Charles-Bronson-like passion.

I patiently awaited his preemptive strike, which I knew he'd attempt when I was most vulnerable. He attacked me right in the middle of The Bob Newhart Show one Saturday night, but  I know he immediately regretted it when I flipped him, grating his elbow in the shallow pile of our shag carpet.

Within seconds, my sibling lay prone with his pristine underbelly and face exposed. At that point, his only defenses were impotent head butts and name calling.

Ah, the sweet nectar of a lifelong foe forever vanquished.

Most of us just love wrestling with each other, men and women alike. Just to to make sure the fairer sex are also on board, however, I'm going to see what I can find on Youtube in a second. 

I hope it's not too late to reverse this ridiculous and rash decision by the International Olympic Committee. You guys had better be careful.

The Pope has already resigned in protest.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Some Call It Grumpy. I Call It Righteous.

5:30 AM.

I awakened feeling slightly indignant about the premature jolt into consciousness, yet somewhere deep within my aging sack of meat, grateful for another day spent above earth's mossy peat pile.

And while a lot of us roll out of the sack with our senses muted and dormant, still numb from the Sandman's double-wrapped sleep condom, I swung my toasty toes onto the cold hardwoods, again feeling instantly vulnerable to the slightest sensory assault.

Which is why my gym and me may not be such a compatible match.

I slammed the locker and glanced at myself in the mirror before heading to the aerobic area. Not good. During the night, my hair had wadded into swirly little islands, as if the remaining strands had gathered to seek comfort among the others who'd been left behind during these follicular End Times.

Doing my best to even out my unsightly pate, I shuffled into the cardio room, a cramped bandbox which formerly served as a church basement. Ample headroom surely existed when the structure was originally built for hosting five-foot people who sat on folding chairs and ate macaroni salad, but the strapping athletes who currently inhabited the space commanded a significantly higher ceiling to accommodate their frothy exhalations of carbon dioxide.

Since only two exercisers are required to thicken the air and cloud the windows, the three treadmill runners and one rower gave the room the bouquet of a dorm room the morning after Taco Bell Garlic Gordita Value Meal Night.

Seriously, when I walked into that sweaty cave at the Y this morning, I swear the pH balance matched the atmosphere of Uranus and one of the joggers was actually a streptococcus bacterium that had grown legs.

Overcome with the moist essence of human exertion, I strode over to a window to release some of the greenhouse gasses into the Seattle ozone before commencing my workout. I cracked the window, felt the relief of a cool draft against my cheek, and retreated to an unoccupied elliptical trainer.

"Excuse me!"

I turned. Scowling down at me from his Stairmaster stood a man roughly my age. "Would you mind closing that? It's very chilly in here."

Holy shit, I thought. Since when was eighty degrees and one hundred percent humidity considered chilly? What is this guy, my grandma? "Um, can I leave it open just a little? See how the windows are fogged up?"

"I suppose," he crabbily barked. He may or may not have realized he was scratching his crotch as he said this.

I returned to the window and decreased its opening from two inches to one. Our eyes met once more, and although he still appeared unsatisfied, I ignored it. Whatever, I surmised. Apparently, this dude hasn't had his Cap'n Crunch, Now With Xanax Berries yet. Crabby old bastard.

Mounting the elliptical, I breathed deeply and set the machine for thirty minutes. I balanced myself and cleared my head. Then I realized what had just happened:

The encounter which had just transpired was not just with a grumpy old man. It was an exchange between two grumpy old men.

Sweet Jehovah, when did this happen? As a younger guy, I'd always told myself that as I aged, my burgeoning wisdom would cultivate tolerance and understanding; I'd grow in my zen-like patience and acceptance of others. My flexibility would carve out a dwelling as deep as the wrinkly lines on my sagging bottom.

Um yeah, obviously not.

Last week, a woman sat in front of me on the bus, digging at something so deeply on the back of her scalp, I thought that any minute her middle finger might emerge from her eye socket. I watched her with laser focus, burning slowly with a blue ire.  Her behavior consumed me whole. Finally, I snapped out of my trance long enough to tell myself, Dude, just ignore it. You won't acquire HIV from some lady scratching her head. Just read your damn book.

I couldn't let it go. I maniacally fantasized of things I wanted to say, like, "You know what? Whatever it is you're trying to accomplish with your fingernail obviously isn't working. But it's your lucky day, because Safeway is having a sale on cheese graters so take my club card, stop spreading your toxic dander to everyone here and get the hell off this freaking motor coach!" The crowd would erupt as I lobbed my parting shot, "Come back when you're ready to never come back, Typhoid Mary!"

Didn't say any of it, though. At least there's still a little filter there.

It just seems like I used to be so much more patient with things like kids and restaurants and other drivers. And I suppose acknowledging it is the first step toward recovery, right?

Now please stop sniffing and blow your nose, already.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Groundhog Day.

February 2.

Unless it's your birthday or wedding anniversary or maybe the day back in '97 that you coughed up something with a crew cut and its own spleen and decided it was time to stop sucking down Lucky Strikes, it's really a fairly inconsequential date in a fairly inconsequential month.

Oh, yeah, and no disrespect to all those of African descent who've been bestowed the year's shortest month to celebrate their history. From what I understand, during negotiations with the Republican party, the GOP agreed to give the black people February, but continue to hold out for a thirty-two day White History Month.

I think it was John Boehner who tearfully whimpered on the House floor, "Goddammit, we earned it!"

Anyway, a lot of other really amazing stuff has happened on this day in history, or as my twelve-year-old daughter would say, "February second has had some flossy sessions, Pops."

In 1847, the first woman of a group of pioneers commonly known as the Donner Party died during the group's journey through a Sierra Nevada mountain pass. The disastrous trip west ended up killing forty-two people and turned many of the survivors into cannibals.

I always wondered if Dr. Atkins included the Donner Party in the acknowledgments section.

John Simon Ritchie, better known as Sid Vicious, succumbed to a heroin overdose on February 2, 1979. According to the coroner's report, the drug concentration in the Sex Pistols bassist's bloodstream was eighty percent pure.

Holy shit. My flora and fauna reach terminal toxicity after a second double stuff Oreo.

February 2, 1971 was the infamous day when Idi Amin seized power in Uganda. For a more in depth examination of his culinary preferences, please see Donner Party above.

The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, later known simply as the National League, was founded on this date in 1876. Teams took the field under monikers such as Cincinnati Redlegs, Hartford Dark Blues and St. Louis Brown Stockings.

Obviously, baseball has always been a thinking man's game.

February 2, 1946 marks the day when President Harry Truman rejected Josef Stalin's proposal for a get-together in the Soviet Union.

I can't verify this, but I've heard the deal breaker was Stalin's refusal to accommodate Truman's backstage requests of various fine cheeses, high quality chocolate, top of the line champagne (Cristal, Moet) and two bottles of Absinthe along with Haribo gummi bears, Doritos and cereal with two percent milk.

Harry T. also requested a bald-headed, toothless hooker, with no mention of a preferred gender, and that's where Joe drew the line.

Talk about an inflexible, mustachioed mass murdering diva.

Happy Groundhog Day.