Monday, July 29, 2013

Where's Gloria Gaynor When a Guy Needs a Hug?

Have you ever watched a movie, one that's based on a true story, and before it's even ended, thought, "Egads, I wonder what happened to those characters. What happened to all those actual dudes from the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team who were portrayed in Miracle?"

Thankfully, films about real-life events can't be followed by sequels, since people's lives don't work that way. It's not like that same hockey team could regroup twenty years later and stage a stunning defeat over the Hungarians in water polo.

Most of these movies get us up to date before the credits roll  plastering information across the screen like, "After scoring the winning goal against the Soviets and then defeating Sweden for the gold medal, Mike Eruzione settled in Duluth, Minnesota. He and his wife currently raise emus for pets and/or food. Believing that nothing could ever exceed the bliss he experienced in Lake Placid that winter, Eruzione lifts his hockey stick only once every year to bludgeon his prized emu for the Eruzione family Thanksgiving feast.

"Don't judge until you've savored the wonder of emu giblets."

Wow, how did I arrive there?

Anyway, I'd like to get you caught up on the events of a day I wrote about about six weeks ago. Presuming that you must be aching to know what happened with the same intensity as your concern for the Von Trapps as they scaled the Alps packing along nothing but a couple of acoustic guitars and a foxy new step mom, I'm here to ease your mind.

On June 12, about six weeks ago, three milestones transpired in our household:

My daughter graduated from high school.

Update: Her summer is going quite well, thanks. She's only got  fifty-eight days, eighteen hours and thirteen minutes left to play beach volleyball, admire her abs and guzzle massive goblets of Jamba Juice before starting college. I feel so bad for her, don't you? By the way, she still hates the words "moist" and "ointment," even after becoming an adult.

Our kitchen remodel was completed.

Update: Since then, we've painted a lot and slightly lamented our dark counter tops. Those things show more dirty rings than a Prince Albert piercing kiosk. We've sprinkled the rest of the house with sparkly new accouterments from Pier 1, IKEA, Target and maybe even a smidge of Craigslistishness.

I received an email from a literary agent asking for the full manuscript of my middle grade novel.

Update: I'd heard stories of writers persevering for years before getting an agent to fly into their empty mayo jar of hope, so I was really excited. Last Saturday night as I checked my email shortly before going to bed, this message sat into the old in-basket:

Dear Mr. Haywood:

Thank you for the opportunity to consider your work.

I read the pages you sent with interest. Unfortunately, after careful consideration, I have concluded that Ben's Fall is not a great fit for my list. Fiction, as I’m sure you know, is just about the toughest thing to sell in this very difficult market, and I am signing up projects very selectively in this category as a result. While the premise was intriguing, I'm afraid I didn't fall in love with the novel, so I wouldn't be the appropriate agent to represent it.

Best of luck in your search to find an agent and publisher.

(Name redacted, but we'll call her "Agent-who-just-burst-my-dreams-like-bubble-wrap"—the kind with the larger bubbles).

Crap. I'd assumed, obviously incorrectly, that once she'd feasted her eyeballs on my masterpiece in its entirety, it was all over but the spell check. After she'd writhed on my roller coaster of joy, humor, angst and grief, I figured she'd say something like, "We're thinking we want to get you on a book tour as soon as possible. You don't get car sick in limos, right? It's funny, because Roald Dahl hurled all over my go-go boots once and after that I rode up with the driver."

Yeah, nope.

Oh, well. We don't write for fame and fortune, do we? Writing should be a passion, an itch that demands scratching on a daily basis, one that doesn't require validation from anyone but us.

I'm going to say that's somewhere around sixty percent true.

Really, it's totally cool. I've faced rejection more often than Kenny Rogers' face has been pulled with a sterile metal instrument. I've been broken up with, picked last at recess—hell, I once had a roommate whose girlfriend loved every rejection letter I received while looking for a job after college. She'd often walk into the living room, glance down at the torn letterhead and say, "Aw, did you get another rejection letter? That's too bad."

Schadenfreude much, you heinous she-wolf?

Here's a shot of me taken back in 1967. It was my sophomore year at Syracuse and my girlfriend happened to have her camera with her right after I was cut from the ultimate Frisbee team.

I held it together pretty well for this photo, but it was indeed a dark day in clammy upstate New York.

I will rise again. Like Nixon. Wait, not like Nixon, like Anthony Weiner. Wait, not like Anthony Weiner. Wait, I know...

I will rise Brittany Spears. Yep, her.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Real Iron Lady.

After dubbing him in an interview as "the worst president in all of American history," it was the first time she'd been called upon in three years. The ninety-year-old grand dame of Washington journalism had already been ostracized and marginalized, no longer representing a major news bureau and relegated to the back row of the cramped press room. Nodding in her direction, George W. Bush timidly waved his meaty hand, allowing Helen Thomas her first query of the Rhinestone Cowboy since 2003.

Had she learned her lesson? Had she finally been knocked to the canvas enough to understand who she was dealing with? The president had confiscated her voice, and by God she wouldn't be getting it back for long unless this question had something to do with his dog or Laura's newest passion of starting a First Lady Petticoat and Corset Museum next to the Lincoln Bedroom.

She needed to throw him a softball...or else.

"I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, [about] your decision to invade Iraq ... It has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis and every justification for the attack proved false. Why did you really want to go to war?"

Oh, man. Ouch. So much for heeding the old Bush family meat sword of intimidation.

Beginning in 1961, Helen Thomas sat front row center, staring down the slickest, most powerful men on the planet. From JFK to GWB and all nine in between, her five-decade career blazed a path for any female reporter whose boat isn't floated on a sea of sassy first lady hairdos or where LBJ and Ladybird plan on summering this June. Nope, in a world measured by gonad mass, Ms. Thomas cultivated herself one substantial pair.

"I don't believe there are any rude questions," she once said. "If you want to be loved, go into something else."

Let's step back for a second and take a gander at the concrete interstate this woman paved. A pioneer in gaining equal footing with men in covering hard news, Ms. Thomas became the first female officer at the National Press Club and the first woman to serve as White House Bureau Chief for a major wire service in 1974. In 1972, at the President's request, she accompanied Richard Nixon as the sole female reporter on his historic trip to the People's Republic of China.

Credentials aside, the woman was a pistol. And yeah, while among his peers, Bush was the mental equivalent of that really small, brownish grape that falls to the bottom of the plastic bag, the dude was still the president. And heavens to Betsy Ross, the guy usually stood about four feet away from her behind that podium with that eagle and all the arrows and shit. 

I used to fantasize about what I'd say to Bush if given the opportunity, but I'm sure I would have just stammered, drooled and drizzled a fine rivulet of urine down the leg of my new Costco gaberdine slacks.

She was a staunch foe of executive secrecy and intrigue. It's easy for me to pop off here while stretched out on my cyber foam mattress, but if I had to gaze into Bill Clinton's puffy red eyeballs and point out that he could have avoided a lot of embarrassment and handled things internally with a little invention called Spray-n-Wash, I may have balked.

If I had to stare down a young and foxy Jack Kennedy and ask him why he so easily grounded Cuba's missiles, yet couldn't keep his own minute man in its silo, I quite possibly would have dry-heaved and fainted.

And while I may have been highly tempted, I don't think I could have managed to advise Ronald Reagan what a complete wanker he looks like in this get-up. 

It's like he'd just discovered his uncle's old merchant marine foot locker up in the attic.

Okay, maybe I'm making a few of these up, but I have no doubt Helen Thomas could have executed each and every one of them with a smile on her face. To her colleagues, she was the unofficial but undisputed head of the press corps, her status legitimized by her signature line at the end of every White House news conference: “Thank you, Mr. President.”

No, thank you, Helen Thomas.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Meet Me at the Best Western. Bring Wine Coolers.

Am I just too uptight? 

There's a slim chance I just can't fathom this level of tolerance and trust, this selfless and pragmatic attitude which flies in the face of my traditional yet hypocritical self-righteousness.

Or just maybe, I'm a light, misty aquamarine shade of envious. 

You see, Russian pop star Masha Lopatova, married for the past six years to fellow countryman and Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, has allowed her husband one night per year with another woman of his choosing.

Wow, as Jan Brady might whine, "Masha, Masha, Masha!"  

In an interview with ESPN The Magazine, Lopatova stated that "it's the same way raising children—if I tell my child, 'No pizza, no pizza, no pizza,' what does he want more than anything? Pizza."

Okay, a couple of things here. First, her husband is a grown man—not some kid begging his mom to take him to Shakey's for a large double pepperoni and some Space Invaders afterwards. Sure, he's a dude and everyone knows that men are frequently weaker than Taylor Swift's voice, but he shouldn't be treated like a child by his own bride.

Secondly, mmm, pizza.

Ms. Lopatova purported to understand the temptations NBA players face while traveling the country seven months per year. She joked in the interview that "girls will be lining up outside his hotel door," and I tend to agree. Look at him:

Any red-blooded female roaming the earth back in the Eighties is probably still warm for his form after seeing what he did to Apollo Creed in Rocky IV:

I've heard rumors that a couple of years back, one lucky lady left his hotel in the morning with a nice memento which recently surfaced on eBay:

Although I've no idea who originally coined this phrase, it nonetheless enters into my consciousness with great regularity: 

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

You know, that last glass of wine right before bed that leads to a nice little wakey wakey morning headachey, that extra half hour in the sun that transforms your shoulder blade skin from a smooth crimson to a bubbly purple?

Or this ultimate of slippery slopes that Andrei Kirilenko is navigating in his size twenty Air Jordans.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Four Tickets to Paradise.

Wow, it's been a while. Good to see you.

My family and I just got back from Cancun. It's a little hard to say that without sounding all Thurston Howell the Third-ish, like "Lovie and I simply adored summering on the Yucatan Peninsula," but yep, Charlie and his three angels did in fact spend the past eight days in the land where Corona flows from the Caribbean and Pacifico from the... Pacific, I suppose.

Cuervo is also available.

Some people like to post vacation pictures while still vacationing. That's cool—go ahead and show me that photo you just took of your polished toenails against a backdrop of azure tropical splendor:

I'm not going to lie; I'm just too paranoid. How do I know that just one of my two-hundred-ninety-one FB BFFs won't decide to bust into Casa de Nardwood and abscond with my dusty baggie of Berlin Wall chunks and my rare collection of Bobby Sherman B-sides?

Too tempting with eBay and all.

The flight over was exhausting, as you can see:

When you're used to sleeping more hours per day than a roofied cat, arising at 2:00AM for a ride to the airport seems unattainable. But they dug deep.

We met up with my sister, her husband and their daughter at the Cancun airport and the bacchanalia began. After a couple of days spent on the beach emerging from the profound fog of the two-hour time difference, it was time to sample the charms of this Latin American Eden.

Our first major excursion was on the outskirts of Cancun for a twelve-part, two-mile zip lining adventure. The driver swung the van door shut on our seven sticky, white bodies and motored quickly out of town toward the thick jungle above which we'd be zooming on a thin cable. What could possibly go wrong?

We were given stickers on which to write our names. Scratching the ever-present itch to be someone I'm not, I scrawled the name "Jzeert" on my name tag, in honor of all the IKEA furniture I've assembled.  Unfortunately, my wife dubbed it merely another of my attention-seeking ploys and called me "Jeerk" for the remainder of the trip.

No waiver? No problem. Only then did I realize how uptight our country is about safety, all that paperwork just to have a little fun. Just makes the lawyers richer, right?

We climbed a wooden stairway that would have made M.C. Escher gargle his Oreos. Finally above the tree line, one-at-a-time we clipped in and launched into the sultry abyss.

What a freaking rush. It was one of those experiences where you want to freeze time just to allow your senses to absorb everything around you—the sounds, the smells...the sights. On the third leg we were given the option of repelling upside down, accompanied by a guide. Although we don't have photos, this is what it looks like:

Holy shit. Not since I'd been allowed to slide down the pole at the Sumner Fire Station on my third birthday had I felt that kind of visceral jolt to my monkey brain stem.

By the time we'd reached the sixth segment, I noticed water dripping down the stairs behind me. Wait, that's not water, that's me! I looked down and the kid behind me had given himself about a six-stair cushion in order to dodge the onslaught of perspiration from the panting Rush Limbaugh above him.

My t-shirt was soaked like it had just been pulled from a washing machine. I had no choice but to purchase another shirt from the gift shop afterwords. For no additional charge, they offered to print my name on the front, and half and hour later, I peeled on a fresh dry t-shirt with the name "Jzeert" in bold green letters.

We stuck closer to our home base for the rest of the time. While most of us engaged in traditional, healthy activities like boogie boarding:

My sister chose to explore her darker side and capitalize on Mexico's more permissive, laissez-faire attitudes:

We ate. And ate. And then ate some more, with my daughter falling just shy of the twenty-taco milestone. Here we are in a Mexican restaurant eating Mexican food, but down there it's just called being in a restaurant eating food.

I'd like to close this post with an image my daughter photographed from our table at our favorite establishment, a place called "Captain's Cove," and a poignant observation from my favorite philosopher, Jack Handey:

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

Via con Dios.