Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Help Me Pick Up the Pieces.

Your time is valuable. I understand this.

But I need your advice regarding something that happened today. Seriously, I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t need you to unleash your hounds of wisdom upon my tender pink meat of ineptitude. 

Here’s what happened: 

Every morning, I drive my fourteen-year-old daughter to middle school. Usually, by the time we've come within a couple blocks of our destination, the roads have already become clogged with cranky chauffeurs and their pubescent offspring. 

You know how school zones are supposed to work, where the speed limit is twenty when children are present? We’re implored to gingerly maneuver our vehicles through the clouds of Axe body spray and foggy-eyed adolescence as America’s future shuffles into the building with neon Cheeto fingers and the raw funk of pituitary promise. 

Yeah, not at this school. It’s an all-out “I’ve-got-six-minutes-to-get-to-work-if-you-get-out-while-we’re-moving” mentality. Cars stop in the middle of the street; kids dart in front of you, brushing your hood with scuffed clarinet cases. This three-minute taste of the Apocalypse is overwhelmingly the most dangerous part of my day. 

This morning, we’d just entered the hot zone and had elevated to alert level Orange, similar to the Bush-era system, yet not stupid and ineffective. 

I wasn’t driving fast, which is probably why we didn’t collide. The Honda minivan was pulled over, its front wheels pointing toward the street. As I juked slightly to the left to pass, the vehicle abruptly accelerated into my path. 

I leaned on the horn and stomped the brakes, our rusty minivans jerking to a stop and forming a “V” in the middle of the street. The driver’s eyes locked onto me. She scowled and pulled away, exhibiting a gesture possibly only recognizable to the indigenous herders of Lapland.

Oh yeah, plus we knew this person.

“Oh, my God, Dad. That was Chrysanthemum (not her actual name).”

“Sure is,” I said. “Chrysanthemum needs to look before she pulls out.”

I wasn't sure how to feel. I was embarrassed yet certain the mishap was her creation. My daughter and I have known her and her daughter for five or six years, yet until this morning hadn’t been on the viewing end of her axe murdering face. Regrettably, that one wasn't on the old bucket list.

So what the hell do I do now, get her a freaking Starbucks card? Nah. 

After pondering my choices, after jotting out T-charts and crunching numerous cost/benefit analyses, I’ve whittled my options down to the following:

1) Apologize. Maybe I was driving a tad bit aggressively, and therefore am partly responsible for the near miss (Or, as George Carlin once said: “That’s not a f—-ing near miss. That’s a f—-ing near hit.”).

2) Do nothing. Act as if it never happened and distract Chrysanthemum with a smothering bear hug next time I see her. People love my hugs, you know.

3) Egg her house.

I’m leaning toward a combination of 1) and 3), but I’ll hold off until I hear your suggestions.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Get Over Yourself, Ponytail Boy.

My older daughter turned nineteen yesterday.

It was her first birthday away from home and the beginning of her last year as a teenager. 

Holy shit.

Lately I’ve been trying to hoard my “holy shit”s a little…

…but since this is about me and not her—holy shit, next year, a twenty-year-old will call me Dad. 

But you know, not the same way Johnny Depp’s twenty-year-old does.

Last night, we Facetimed as she rode back from dinner. Her face, illuminated in the iLight, glowed in the darkness as she and a friend sped up I-5 back to campus. Gazing at us were those beautiful, big brown eyes she inherited from her mom.

My wife spoke first. "Hi Honey. Happy birthday! How was Olive Garden?”

“Great, like always. But we missed the exit so the next one wasn’t until Tullalip.”

At this point, my wife asked the question so obvious to everyone in the world except her and apparently, her friend: “Why didn’t you turn around?” 

“I don’t know. Dad, I tried to call you today. Russell Wilson is getting a divorce.”

“Yeah, I heard.” 

“Best birthday present ever.”

Nice. Her infatuation the Seahawk quarterback is about as subtle as a ball peen to the shin bone. She’s got a couple of “Russ” posters up in her dorm room, plus a phone case and “Hustle like Russell” t-shirt. 

“You don’t need to be happy when someone gets divorced,” said my wife.

“I’m not happy for his wife at all, but I’m happy for me.” Touching. 

Her head whipped back. “Oh, no.”

“What?” we both said. 

“I left my keys at Olive Garden. Aaagh! And we’re almost back at school.”

“How long have you been driving?” I asked her.

“I don’t know, about an hour.”

Silence. My wife and I looked at each other, our faces tilted at similar "not my problem" angles.

“You should call Olive Garden to make sure they’ve got them,” said  my wife.

“Yeah, I guess so. Okay, well, bye, I guess.”

“Happy birthday!” we said. “We love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.”

You know, you can only do so much to supply the tools. When she was an infant, due to earthquake risk, we avoided driving on the rickety Alaska Way Viaduct to and from her daycare. During the forty-five-minute trip, only classical music soothed the confines of our ’95 Kia. I’d read that classical scales stimulate the synapses in a baby’s rapidly forming brain, thereby enhancing math and musical prowess. 

Hey, for all I knew, the future inventor of corn dog trees sat back there, her damp fingers grinding goldfish into the stained seat of her Fisher Price.

Yeah, get over yourself, ponytail boy.

Nineteen years later, It’s a little painful to watch others pay the price for her miscues. Last year, we would have accompanied her on the two-hour detour back to Olive Garden. Fortunately at least, kids tend to suffer one another’s discombobulation with a socialist bent.

And definitely some money for gas.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Now I Can't Stop Thinking About Milkshakes.

I chugged on the elliptical trainer this morning, wearing the last clean gym shirt in the rotation. It’s a red, white and blue soccer jersey with “coach” on the back. Not only do I look goofy in it, but how are you supposed to sweat in one of those things? The perspiration on my torso ran around like a champion basketball coach looking for someone to hug.

Thankfully, my shorts performed admirably, soaking up the downward flowing burden of the ugly and nonabsorbent Eurogeek wear.

On the machine next to me was an elderly woman I’d never seen before. I'd entered the Y parking lot this morning just as she climbed out of her Prius. She hadn’t pulled forward far enough into her space, and her car stuck out about six feet into the driving area. By the time I’d gotten out of the minivan, she’d slowly hobbled halfway up the stairs. Thus began my dilemma:

Should I:

A) tell her that her car is sticking out and then watch her gingerly go down the stairs and stagger back to her vehicle, risking a broken hip and ensuing death from pulmonary edema? 

Seemed prickish.

B) ask her for her keys and offer to move her car?

Little too Ted Bundy. And I'll bet she remembers when he was on the loose.

I chose C) do nothing—overwhelmingly the most common answer in these personal character quizzes.

Anyway, back at the elliptical, as usual I was listening to sports radio and a commercial came on for a new beer, “Miller Fortune,” with 6.9 percent alcohol content. It's aimed at Millennials and its slogan is “You might choose a regular beer. But then you might get a regular night. Try Miller Fortune, now with ecstasy.” That third sentence is actually not part of the ad, just a little marketing nugget for the folks at Miller, free of charge.

I started thinking about the barrage of products the fiercely competitive beverage industry has doused us with, finally realizing that since I was old enough to pop the top on a Squirt, I've drizzled nearly every make and model of liquid refreshment down the old gorge. 

As Julio Iglesias once crooned into the craggy glower of Willie Nelson, “Dude, I have loved them all.”

Regrettably, many I’ll never again sample, due either to discontinuation or the clammy, Schick-Shadle-type aversion I've acquired for them over the years. 

Among the drinks I've grown to abhor are:

The Graveyard—Next time you’re at Shakey’s, take a pitcher over to the pop machine and mix together Sprite, Coke, root beer and orange pop. You’ll realize how they came up with Mr. Pibb and then you'll get a scorching gut ache.

California Cooler—Remember the two-liter bottles filled with bright orange and red and purple poison? The neon glow of your lips and tongue betrayed your toxic choice for the evening.

Shasta Chocolate Soda—Around for just a couple shallow gags back in the Seventies. No big mystery, though, since it tasted of fizzy pork bullion.

Budweiser or Bud Light or Bud with Lime or even “Meat Bud,” a satisfying Pilsner with a hearty slab of jerky cleverly attached to the can—Nothing personal against Anheuser Busch; actually it’s quite personal. Let’s just say Bud's products tend to launch a blitzkrieg on my lower intestinal London.

Still reading? Thanks.

Finally, Olde English 800—As if the “e” on the end of “old” makes this swill any more chokedownable. This beverage, when fresh from the frosty confines of the AM/PM cooler, is tolerable at best. But that last tepid half-inch of a forty is like sucking on Tuesday's roadkill through a green Starbucks straw.

Gross, sorry. I don’t want to end on a down note, so here’s a quick list of my five favorite drinks:

Chocolate malt
Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine
Coppola Merlot
Mug Root beer float 

Looks like I’ve got my lunches lined up for next week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Baseball's Sartorial Serendipity.

I work in the fashion industry. There, I had to mention it one more time to make it an even 150.

Am I a fashionable person? If you asked either of my daughters, they’d say I dress somewhere between a tired old man and a seven-year-old boy.

When they put it that way, it sounds like I'm behaving inappropriately with myself.

No, I’m not a fashionable person. But I do pay attention to what people wear, since I’ve worked with pictures of people wearing clothes for the past 24 years.

I entered the fashion world in 1991, just in time to witness the whole Nirvana flannel Doc Marten thing hitting the mainstream. The Yupsters took over quickly, driving a javelin into music's grungy soul and filling the void with bands like Bush and Creed. Contrary to what you might think, these two people are models, not a couple hanging out behind the Lolapalooza beer tent.

On the other end of the early Nineties fashion spectrum, tapered lines and large shoulder pads dictated the look,

especially when contrasted with the smaller shoulder pads of today.

But with the opening of baseball season at hand, I couldn’t help but ponder how, while popular fashion trends evolve, repurpose and recycle themselves, baseball uniform styles haven’t veered off into weeds all that often. 

For a while, the process was a bit more organic. 

This is the New York Knickerbockers, the first baseball team to adopt uniforms in 1849. They wore blue wool pants, white flannel shirts and straw hats. 

Must have hurt diving face first into second, your vest feeble protection for the pocket watch that just pierced your sternum.

By 1882, most uniforms included stockings, which covered the leg from foot to knee, and were used to differentiate one club from another. 

The uniforms themselves had different colors and patterns that reflected the different baseball positions. This is a team from the 1870s, which, if I'm not mistaken, appears to be integrated. Go figure.

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, teams began the practice of wearing different home and road uniforms and things really haven’t changed a heck of a lot since.

Major League baseball briefly attempted the “bring your guns to the park” promotion:

And a little “Devo-meets-Jethro” experiment in the Seventies:

Even youth baseball teams flirted with the avant garde, opting for t-shirts and long soggy denim.

Incidentally, this is one of the few championship teams I’ve ever played on, the 1974 Auburn Kiwanis Club Bronco League champs. We didn’t have a name—just Kiwanis Club, but let me tell you something—I learned a lot that season. A team is a family, and these guys were my brothers—brothers who hit me in the kidneys a lot. 

To demonstrate their dedication that magical season, a lot of the guys gave up smoking until the playoffs.

Over the ensuing forty years, the uniforms got a little tighter:

And a whole lot looser:

Yet one attribute remains a common denominator throughout baseball’s illustrious antiquity:

It still don’t feel right.

Monday, April 7, 2014

We Both Like the Same Band from Iceland.

She’s fourteen today. 

My baby is fourteen. How did this happen? It seems like a few days ago she was asking me when she had to give her shoes back because they were “Mary Jane’s.” 

It feels like yesterday that a wigged, wacky Hannah Montana ruled the house, Billy Ray cracking wise in his soul patch and hair helmet. Did you see the one where a smoothie got spilled on his head? It stuck to his face but it was like his hair had been treated with Rainex. Rolled raught oufff.

Can my younger kid be a little mouthy? Does she provide a daily, unsolicited “state-of-Dad’s-eyebrows” briefing? Can she get a little frosty when I cop a couple of her Lindt chocolates? 

I don't know, does Bruce Jenner have a special closet for his Jimmy Choos?

Sometimes it’s like she’s the coach and we’re the refs and we’re T’ing her up continuously for insolent remarks to the officials. And in this game, the coach doesn’t get ejected after the second technical—she loses her phone. 

The rest of the time, she’s kind, funny, creative and…let’s just say she inherited her dad’s OCDNA. Most evenings, while I stand in the kitchen making dinner, she sits at the computer doing her homework and listening to music and watching videos and texting and talking to me, in that order. She’ll call out a song if she thinks I might like it. Not a lot of conversation but a nice daily appointment nonetheless.

She had a bowling party and sleep(?)over Saturday with nine of her friends and one of these satanic cakes from Costco:

They ate half at the bowling alley and the remainder sometime between one and two in the morning. I'll tell you, nothing pushes control alt delete on a party like that fudgy prince of dark chocolateness. I’m not proud to admit that the next morning I scraped clean the cardboard plate it came on, like a buzzard pecking the bleached pelvis of a wildebeest.

Anyway, I’m not going to blather on. I love this girl.