Monday, December 19, 2016

Don't Turn the Page Just Yet.

What the hell, 2016? Why'd you have to go and be such a lowlife bastard?

Seriously, if years were body parts, you'd be Donald Trump's ass. If they were colored body parts, you'd be Donald Trump's grey, vein-marbled ass, and if they were textured, colored body parts, you'd be Donald Trump's saggy, grey, vein-marbled ass.

A year ago, so many giants still lived among us as we entered 2016—Prince, Harper Lee, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali—only to dissolve from our presence one by one, as we made our way through one of the most discouraging years I can remember.

Our planet was ravaged by cataclysms both natural and otherwise. Unprecedented flooding, drought and blizzards racked North America. Iraq and Syria's war-torn populaces fled for somewhere, anywhere, and were received with little more than fear and suspicion. Simultaneously, the the western world retreated to levels of xenophobia and nationalism not witnessed since the advent of the Cold War 70 years ago.

Wow, okay, I'll just stop there. Obviously I wasn't the only mortal beast left reeling from Shitstorm '16—you were, too, for Pete's sake. How about if we try and take a little of the edge off, eh? Since gratitude is a quality I've never been exactly stellar in recognizing in myself, maybe it's time I celebrated some of humanity's accomplishments over the past year rather than constantly dwelling on the worst we have to offer.

Here's just a sampling of the positive events that helped shape our year:

On May 10, an Indian fertility clinic announced that a 70-year-old woman had given birth to a baby boy. I'm not sure why this needed to happen, but how awesome is it that now we can wait until Social Security kicks in to start a family. Plus, thank God people can finally lay off elderly new parents like Steve Martin, Mick Jagger and the spry Scotsman himself, Rod Stewart:

Apparently, a few of those British are still invading.

On February 17, the oldest known case of human-Neanderthal sex (100,000 years ago) was revealed by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Using complicated computer modeling, the humanoid's appearance has now been simulated to a reliability level of 99.9%:

It's never easy to act completely human when deep down, you know you're only half.

And finally, December of this year saw the wedding of my nephew, Andrew. Here's a shot of me with my sister and foster grandpa, obviously still thrilled about his recent murder acquittal:

While it's no secret that attending a friend or relative's nuptials accounts for some of life's most joyous events, this one packed a little extra oomph. You see, here's what Andrew looked like when he entered the scene in the autumn of 1984:

The little guy was smaller than a freaking crusty pup. He was delivered ten weeks premature, weighing two pounds, twelve-and-a half-ounces. Even now, neonatal care is a dicey proposition, and you can imagine how much more so it was thirty-two years ago.

Necessary that he remain at the hospital through his full-term date, Andrew's lungs were so underdeveloped those first weeks that his brain forgot to make them breathe a few times. Thankfully, the University Washington isn't merely one of the best football schools in the earth's history, it's also home to a world-class neonatal facility, and the amazing doctors and nurses at UW Medical Center proved adept at meeting the multitude of challenges inherent in a lad this tiny.

I'll never forget when he finally came home and eventually learned to rock any type of cable knit sweater thrown his way.

When Andrew married Jen earlier this month, I'm sure his parents had a moment, because I sure did. Here he is with his cousins:

And new bride:

He's grown into one of my favorite, 100% human beings...

... I guess 2016 wasn't such a bad year after all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hang in There, Friends.

It happened. Yep, really did.

And still today, a week removed from one of the biggest political shocks in modern history, much of the world hasn’t fidgeted even an inch, still staring numbly into a future that looks a damn sight murkier than it had prior to November 8.

Even as the clock approached eight o'clock Pacific Time and the results began trickling in, things didn't feel all that ominous; the math still favored Hillary… and then it didn’t anymore.

One swing state after another—first Florida and North Carolina, then Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania—gradually bloomed into tints so red they began glowing orange. It was a flavor of dread I can’t recall tasting before.

As the evening wore on, the boulder that loomed high above us began its slow descent, its shadow darkening our surroundings. Did it drop suddenly, shattering our bodies in one crushing wallop? Of course not. The huge stone pushed patiently and steadily into our chests, ultimately smothering our diaphragms and milking our few last shallow breaths. Stars filled our eyes and engulfed our vision; wouldn’t be long now.

But then, in the most deliciously sadistic of mercies, the giant stone slowly lifted from our bodies, the air rushing to our lungs and our vision returning to focus. Still alive we are, yet reborn into a new world of pain and disbelief.

As I write this, most of us are still scared shitless, so I’m sure you’ve found your own methods for coping with Trump’s ridiculous victory. Maybe you’ve cried or screamed or cried and screamed and thrown a cat or two. Still others may have inquired into residency in another, more tolerant sovereignty with an affable pressed leaf as its national symbol. We’ve all got our coping mechanisms, so do what you have to. Here, however, are some of my personal techniques, should you run out of spray paint and places to decorate with anti-fascist messaging:

5) Do something that makes you feel good. Whether it’s volunteering, scheduling a mani-pedi or engulfing a complete stranger in a wonderfully startling back hug, take some time for you.

4) Swear more. Curse, cuss, take the Donald’s name in vain. Profanity (and F-bombs in particular) is such an underutilized venting mechanism, and lately, few things have hit the spot like stepping out onto the front porch, staring at the super moon and shouting, “Donald Trump is the biggest motherf*^%ing d*&chebag ever conceived by a pair of g%^damn human f*&^%ing beings! The only reason his f*^%ing red ties are is so long is to hang down over his f*&^%ing crotch and cover a g%^damn pair of f*^%ing testicles that still haven’t f*^%ing dropped!” Then go back in the house and tell the kids that Daddy is better.

3) Go to Las Vegas, sit on a piano and be serenaded by lots of women. Kind of hard to pull off but hey, this guy did it:

By the way, happy 21st birthday, Jesse!

2) Get back to nature. Do some yard work, go for a nice hike or simply spend a little extra time in the produce section to appreciate the cantaloupe-sized watermelons and watermelon-sized apples. You’ll walk away feeling refreshed and confused.

1) Don’t read or watch the news and cut back on social media. I know this might sound hypocritical since most of my readership is generated through Facebook and other platforms, but I really did feel better after going dark for a week. Prior to the election I was so out of control with my news and meme consumption that my anxiety was causing a constant weakness in my knees and joints. Even the words, “Trump presidency,” made my bottom Kegel itself into a cramped tennis ball of flesh and veins. Since then, sports and Kardashians are the only two electronic pleasures I’ve allowed back into my life.

It’s going to be a long four years, but I’m going to try with all my being to not let this man’s face or the mugs of his gargoyle sons seep into my daily consciousness. 

I hope we all can. God bless America, indeed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Finding Some Common Ground in This Age of Divisiveness.

This past weekend, I went to Las Vegas to do a thing with some people. So much fun, but as they say, what happens there stays there unless it's a blood-borne pathogen, so here are a just couple of highlights:

1) My friend Pete and I wore the same shirt to the Events and Adventures 2016 Seasoned Stallions Grub Tolo at New York, New York:

Can you tell the theme was Fifty Years of Hasselhof?

2) I had Eggs Benedict twice:

Okay, yes, I ate it twice, but it was spread out over seventeen hours.

3) And Air Force One taxied by as we waited to board our plane back to the PNW:

At the time I was so preoccupied elbowing the sick and elderly out of the way in search of the perfect grainy iPhone shot, I wasn't bothering to ponder the significance of the occasion.

Regrettably, it wasn't until the Boeing VC-25 disappeared around the corner and I'd settled back into my cracked vinyl seat to re-dedicate myself to my hangover that I wondered: How many opportunities are we afforded to see our commander-in-chief's flying command center in the process of ferrying said commander-in-chief? I'd say most of us get less than one.

So much history—the tragedy of LBJ's onboard inauguration, the triumph of Nixon's China visit, George W. Bush's seemingly callous Katrina flyover on his return trip from vacation—is packed into this symbol that's so much more than a steel tube with swivel chairs and good coffee.

Waves of nostalgia washed over me, nearly equaling the spasms of intestinal regret I'd acquired from my hollandaise-blazed malaise. I realized, though, as awesome a vision as that grand jetliner is, the pangs of sentiment I felt were actually initiated by the man inside the plane. His time is almost up, for God's sake!

If connections are formed by shared experiences, I've not bonded with any president more than with Barack Obama. It's not even close. The only thing I'd ever had in common with Gerald Ford was a love of football and the agility of a liquored-up kitten. Richard Nixon seemed more like my Uncle Monty, lifelong confirmed bachelor who sat in the corner at Thanksgiving quietly sipping a bourbon and smiling while snapping mental Polaroids of the female kin.

And holy shit, Reagan? Forget about it; he'd lost his keys five times before I was even born.

President Obama is less than a year older than I am. He's got two daughters and a fiercely independent wife. I wouldn't even be surprised if we've both owned Styx albums, so there's no way either candidate in this election will approach the feelings of simpatico I share with Mr. Obama.

So, to attempt a little damage control and to strive for some common ground with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I've formulated a list of life events, nothing too drastic, that seeks to establish some of the common childhood denominators I share with the president. Let's see how this goes.

1) Who cleared the docket every Tuesday night for ABC's juggernaut tandem of Three's Company and Charlie's Angels?
Um, yeah that one's easy. Edge: Trump

2) Who grew up eating more Pop Tarts?

I'm guessing that Trump wasn't allowed Pop Tarts unless they were left behind in apartments where people were evicted by his dad, in which case he scarfed entire boxes.
But overall, edge: Clinton.  

3) Who played Battleship?

Probably both, but chances are, Trump never finished unless he cheated in time to win before he was bored and irritated.
Edge: Clinton.  

4) Who swore more as a child?

Trump looks like he's swearing even when he isn't, and I'm sure that's been going on since he emerged from the womb.
Edge: Trump.

5) And finally for tiebreaker, who enjoyed reading books as a child?

Trump still only reads shampoo bottles and anything in Hustler written in skintones.
Edge: Clinton.  

Hey, what do you know! Looks like I'm voting for Hillary!

Friday, September 30, 2016

From Tricky Dick to Slippery Don: 50 Years of Presidential Hubbub

Turn up the ruckus.

Monday's inaugural presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drew 84 million viewers, which is nearly a third of every male, female and undecided from sea to shining sea. Turns out it was the largest debate audience in history to boot, besting the 1980 Jimmy Carter/Ronald Reagan showdown which drew 81 mil.

What makes the Clinton/Trump number even more impressive is that it was watched—get this—on TV! Seriously, television is a medium losing its mojo faster than a hornless billy goat in a toddler-plunking tourney. Back in '80 when the B-actor squared off against the peanut farmer, the only entertainment alternatives were a 700 Club rerun and a two-hour, CHiPs in Tijuana special. Conversely, these days I could binge-watch the entire, ten-year run of The Waltons on my iPencil.

So yes, apparently we'd been pining for this prime-time slime sling since 2015, when The Orange One descended a Trump Tower escalator, permanently establishing residence in the darkest chasms of our souls. The contest didn't disappoint; Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times, he eye-rolled, he lied and he condescended on countless other occasions. When the dust settled and the huge vein receded into The Donald's sweaty red neck, most scored it a victory for Secretary Clinton and the Dems.

I'm going to assume you watched it, so I don't need to sprinkle events any further with partisan punditry. What I would like to do is see how much of a bandwagon jumper you are. Was Monday your first go-round or are you a battle-worn rodeo clown, barely smearing your makeup before leaping into the barrel? How far back does your debate prowess reach? What say you take the quiz and find out.

Who famously stated, "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

a) Marilyn Monroe, speaking to Bobby in 1962 after finally managing to compare the two brothers head to head.

b) Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, even though it's obvious he's lying. Trump's never had an actual friend.

c) Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate after Quayle claimed to have as much experience as Kennedy had when he ran for the presidency.

The answer is c, and from what I hear, Quayle is still really upset. Freaking low blow, Lloyd.

Who said, "You're likable enough, Hillary."

a) Bill Clinton, just before proposing.

b) Donald Trump, speaking with Russian beauty contestant Hillary Hrbedzgova. He went on, "Plus, it doesn't matter a goddamn lick how likable you are, okay. Trust me, sweetheart, okay? Long as I can hang my goddamn hammock on that rack of yours, we're good to go, okay? Now get out of here and see if you can't find me a twenty piece McNuggets."

c) Barack Obama interjecting the comment during a 2008 primary debate after the moderator asked Clinton whether she had the personal appeal to best her opponent.

The answer is c. Kind of a douchey remark, but alas, true.

Which presidential candidate, when asked about the United States' relationship with the Soviet Union, said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under an XXXX administration.”?

a) Michael Dukakis in 1988, followed by "Not by da time I get troo wid 'em!"

b) George W. Bush (and he was right!).

c) Gerald Ford, during the 1976 presidential debate vs. Jimmy Carter.

The answer is c. Wow, Gerry, not cool. For God's sake, what did you think KGB stood for—Keep Gargling, Betty?

And finally, who said, "... and they brought us whole binders full of women."?

a) Bill Clinton, talking about a funny prank George Stephanopoulos played one morning in the Situation Room. George had such a serious look on his face when he slid that notebook containing the national security briefing across the table. Turns out it was a year's worth of Penthouse! "Ah'll be dipped in hog jelly if it wadn't mah birthday that day!" a giggling Clinton later mused.

b) Donald Trump, followed by, "And most of them were fat, disgusting cows. Hey, were are my goddamn McNuggets?"

c) Mitt Romney, when asked during the 2012 presidential debate how, during his term as governor of Massachusetts, he went about seeking more women for top government positions.

Sorry, trick question. All three are correct!

How did you do? You know what? It doesn't matter. Just check the right box on November 8.

Friday, September 16, 2016

For the Football Fashion Fanatic.

Happy fallish! Yeah, I know, it's not quite autumn yet, but since Starbucks already released the horse from the barn September 6, I can feel no shame breaking the seal on my latest Groupon purchase: a roll of limited-edition, pumpkin spice toilet paper! I understand, it doesn't skate the gully as smoothly as the good stuff, but the kids love it and boy howdy, does it ever pair nicely with an understated chai potpourri to gussy up an otherwise lackluster water closet.

Oh, and speaking of harvest season, the other day I brushed off the old ROASP archives to investigate how many of my posts have included the label, "football." After sneezing for three straight minutes from inhaling a dusty cloud of inattention, I discovered that no less than fifteen have listed that tag.

Seems I've spoken ad nauseam of things pigskin—the players and teams I both love and despise, the sport's rituals and branding—but what I haven't explored is the history of football fashion. Kind of embarrassing too, because basketball apparel was covered over three varicose veins ago, and my baseball analysis hearkens back at least five skin tags and a wonderful new toenail.

And since football is pretty much Yertle the Turtle, lording over American professional sports like Donald Trump over stupid white guys, I'd be remiss wasting any more virtual ink on any other subject, so let's start with our beloved game's infancy.

American football evolved from a hybrid of soccer and rugby. Naturally, helmets weren't a part of the game's equipment at its onset, and nothing separated your head from your opponent's but a few inches and a concentrated cloud of sarsaparilla breath. Even back in the 1890s, football wasn't an endeavor for the weak of spirit. I mean, imagine this dude talking a little smack as you're lining up across from him on a long third and two:

"I say, old sport, you're looking a bit higgledy-piggledy. I must warn you, my good man, if you so much as poke your puffy sneezer into my vicinity, I shall be forced to mercilessly render your bone box into gullyfluff. I assure you, I will be here all the livelong day, dear fellow. All day."

You may ask, was the gridiron all those seasons ago the same wonderful ballet, the same beautiful celebration of athleticism and grace it is today?

You tell me.

Amazingly, helmets weren't mandatory in the college game until 1939, and in the pros your squash wasn't required to be protected until 1943. Conversely, knickers have adorned the gridiron since the early days. Were tweaks made? Absolutely. In fact, notice the two schools of thought regarding groin protection back in the day:

Personally, I'd be more in the Eve camp on the right than Adam's look on the left. After all, as renowned zookeeper Jack Hannah once said, why expose the prairie dog to predators when he's safer in his burrow?  But who really knows? There's a good chance this could also be the fiery beginning of that whole adidas/Puma feud.

Oh, just a couple of side notes real quick:

1) This dude looks too old to be dressing for Halloween and if he's giving out candy, we'll just get ours from the vape store at the local strip mall.

2) How amazing is it that Wisenthorpe Damon and Augustus "Web Fingers" Maguire played on the same team together in 1906!

3) Lastly, this guy appears capable of feeding you your own face:

Once helmets came onto the scene, face masks were often considered effeminate, taking fifteen years before becoming required equipment in 1955. Yet even as late as the 1960s, many players were reluctant to shield their mugs.

The guy on the left is Fred Biletnicoff, wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders. He was my first sports idol, juking across the middle with his long hair flapping out of his helmet and stickem-covered hands sucking up any ball within diving distance. Hope his face is doing okay after all those years of punishment.

Nowadays, a certain swooshy mega-marketing empire has transformed the football uniform into a virtual ATM, unveiling a different get-up each week and thrusting the latest and greatest jersey onto a fan base jonesing to purchase the freshest swag their pint-sized attention spans will allow.

Leading the way with the most color combinations rendered useless and destined for landfill is the University of Oregon, loyal minions to the greatest sports merchandising pimp of all, Phil Knight. I do have to tip my helmet to the man, taking a school whose color of urine yellow equates itself with profound renal failure and transforming it into day jobs for so many six-year-olds on the Asian continent.

Oh, hang on, before I go, let's see how Tom Brady is doing. Hey Tom, how does it feel, sitting out the first four games of the NFL season for lying and cheating worse than two toddlers playing Candyland?

Oh good, he seems fine. Such a dreamy smile.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Could Really Use a Locktail.

And finally, after a colorful two weeks in Rio de Janeiro, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad are dust in the wind. Always fun for a fortnight every four years to crank up the Motorola and watch one freakishly athletic body after another perform one freakishly athletic feat after another. Seriously, all I have in common with most Olympians is ear size and a daily need for Spandex.

As you know, these were the first games held in South America; also the first to take place in what many would consider a developing country. Thing is, Brazil is actually a member of a group known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which are all large, rapidly developing economies and potential future superpowers, and hence aren't considered Third World.

These economically ascending nations unfortunately still harbor Third World poverty. In Rio, 22 percent of its citizens reside in favelas, or shantytowns with improvised sanitation systems and rampant disease—Zika, tuberculosis, Dengue Fever—even leprosy, stalk the 6 million favela occupants in Rio alone. Add in the extraordinarily polluted waters used for sailing, rowing and distance swimming (Glurp! Argh! I swallowed some... glochkghptawwshit!"), and you realize Rio was a hot mess from the get-go.

Nonetheless, I found myself predictably enraptured for sixteen consecutive evenings. I fell into the comfortable habit of enjoying a two-hour, NBC-ified dose of world-class awesomeness from the comfort of the cracked leather davenport.

More often than not, I'd be accompanied by my favorite summertime beverage, a frosty refresher I indelicately refer to as a "Mormosa." It's a tall tumbler filled to the brim with two-thirds seltzer and one-third orange juice, so anyone from Donny Osmond to Mitt Romney to Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television, could sip on one of these beauties without placing at risk the planets they'd been guaranteed to govern upon death.

Now, as I watch these Games slowly recede into the rear horizon, I'm regretful that I didn't take that extra step, exert a bit more creativity into my beverage choices to enhance the Olympic experience. So many opportunities existed that I ignored in favor of the tried and true, so to make up for it, here are some ideas for Olympic-themed drinks:

The USA women's basketball team won their sixth consecutive gold medal, and their Rio performance was akin to a cat slowly removing the legs from a baby mouse (I saw my cat do that once). Winning each game by an average of 37 points, let's celebrate their dominance with what I call a "Brittany Grinder." Take a pound of any type of meat and put it in a blender. When the contents take on the consistency of a pink, gamy pudding, it's ready to throw back. Or up.

I truly wish I'd enjoyed a nice Pilsner, maybe a Stella Artois or Pilsner Urquell, for watching Usain Bolt's hella sick sprinting performances. It's my brother's favorite type of beer and I'm reminded of how much he and Usain have in common—they both wear yellow shirts and finish in well under ten seconds.

On the men's basketball side of the ledger, I watched Team USA play only once, in the final against Serbia. Outside of Kevin Durant, the North Americans played like possum breath and still won by 40 against a gaggle of slow but scrappy, scruffy Slavs. Performances like these call for an IPA—International Players Arekindofshitty.

Swimmer Katie Ledecky dominated her individual events, setting world records in each of her three finals. In the 800 meter freestyle, she won by so much that she could have finished the race, toweled off, hugged her family, bellied up to the concession stand and made it back in time to high five the just-arriving silver medalist. Let's have a large Dr. Pepper and Red Rope in honor of Katie and those hard-working food vendors at the Rio Olympiad.

Finally, I'm sure by now you're a little tired of all the Ryan Lochte drama, so here's a nice little cocktail to nurse while listening to him stammer and lament a situation that didn't have to happen. It's rather simple really. I call it a Lochtea:

Just a fifth of whiskey and a douchebag.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Singing the New Bathroom Blues.

The tale I tell today is of triumph and torment. It's a six-day story of pain and victory, of love, labor and a livid lumbar. Grit flowed in abundance, its source the indomitable human spirit and the bottom of a plastic bucket. Lives were changed and destinies altered, but in the end a monument had risen like the mighty avian Phoenix from a scorched Earthscape.

You may be asking, in light of America's crumbling infrastructure, what is this tremendous public work to which I'm referring? What undertaking could be worthy of establishing residence next to such man-made marvels as the Brooklyn Bridge, Hoover Dam or State Route 518 linking Tukwila to Burien?

My bathroom, that's what. Our home is a mid century rambler, and evidently during the 1940s, a single lavatory was deemed adequate for the waste abatement sensibilities of America's post-war families. None of that three-and-three quarter bathrooms bullshit with HDMI hookups and mini-fridges for the hungover toilet bogart of today's pampered homeowner.

Nope, one bathroom, one toilet and one freaking outlet, so deal with it, you freaking twenty-first-century poo mills and the rest of your over-primping broods.

Yes, this area of the house got six times the wear and tear of the next most highly-trafficked area, a three square-foot area in front of the fridge. The floor was buckling, the tiles were swelling and if something wasn't done, we'd be involuntarily relocating our toilet to the crawlspace below.

But first things first; how does one replace a bathroom floor when no alternatives exist besides aiming for a small hole in the floor? Two words:

Honey Bucket. Nothing like single-handedly driving your neighbors' home prices down by merely placing a porta-potty in the driveway and your old commode on the porch. Whatever, this is how everyone operated a few generations back. I do wish someone would've told me I didn't have to dig a pit to put the thing over, but don't most home improvement projects command an El Capitan-sized learning curve?

As you can see, once the underlayment was ripped out (resulting in injury to your obedient journalist, which I'll get into later), the dark spot by the toilet hole presented a healthy helping of sub-floor rot. Woohoo! This alone added about four to six hours to the project. Fortunately, I wasn't about to take on this pig of a task alone.

That's my brother replacing the sub-flooring. Luckily his parole officer allowed him to travel north for the weekend, as long as he kept his ankle bracelet on (which isn't visible here) and didn't allow his face to be photographed. He said he'd rather show off his impressive new ass implants anyway. Apparently they're a big status symbol in prison. He wanted me to tell you he's not even flexing here, that's all implant.

Next up was new backer board (also known as underlayment):

Then the ceramic tile and spacers for the future grout:

I'm telling you, you could bounce a freaking quarter off those fresh glutes of his. Am I a little jelly? Perhaps.

After the mortar dried, it was grouting time:

Finally, the moment to bid adieu to mi amore, the Honey Bucket—'cause there's a smooth white new sheriff in town:

Fast forward another week, and the cleaning and painting are complete:

Although the room turned out well, a dark underbelly to this story exists. While incarcerated those nine years, my mechanically-inclined brother gleaned some exemplary carpentry skills from his various "daddies." He therefore performed the lion's share of duties requiring fine motor skills while I executed tasks involving brute force and superior strength.

Three days after the grouting was complete, I rose from bed unable to point my left foot upward, which is known as "dead foot syndrome." After visiting the doctor and receiving an MRI, l learned that, probably while crowbarring out the old plywood, one of my lumbar discs decided to form an inappropriate dalliance with the nerve root extending down the back of my leg.

To add insult to injury, I severely sprained my ankle while awkwardly planting the weak foot:

Wearing this boot is sort of like how kickers wear a different shoe to kick the ball, only there are no cleats on the boot and it would really hurt my ankle to kick a ball and then the ball wouldn't go very far and then I'd fall down. Everything else is the same.

I'm scheduled to see an orthopedist next week, so hopefully before too long I can enjoy the new bathroom without snagging my pants on Velcro once I peel them past my knees. To those of you over 50, please take care of your back. And to those of you under 50, please take care of your back.

Even an historical endeavor such as this isn't worth the heartache.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Everything's Going to Be Fine-ish.

Suddenly summer.

Hard not to love this time of year. That creaky old lumbar don't pay as much mind, and the sun stays up longer than a starving cat in a tuna tree. Oh, just so you know, that's how I like to talk in the summer, like I'm back on the porch, sipping on a tall Hi-C. Matter of fact, I can still hear my old hound dog barkin', chasin' down some hoodoo there.

Born in Puyallup.

But while each season throws off its own distinct vibe, summer's mood is magnified; it's a little lazier but a lot more passionate. The quarter of all Americans who regularly attend school are abruptly handed a box of instant holiday (now with fifty percent more free time!), and we all know shit tends to happen when the kids get bored.

And aggravating our restlessness a notch further this particular solstice is a churning storm on the horizon, kicking up an angst about America's future that a lot of us can't remember previously feeling. Violence dominates our headlines and citizens are rancorously divided over whether to address it with more violence or otherwise. The president we elect in November will inherit an unprecedented hunk of disenfranchised voters from whichever side loses. Whether we like it or not, we're stuck with either a libelous Beltway lifer or a racist, peach-pallored prick. Seems pretty grim, doesn't it?

Mmm... nah. Our country has actually teetered a lot closer to the brink than we are right now (Please see World War II and Cuban Missile Crisis.). Oh, and that term "good old days"? That's about as real as those WMDs they cooked up to hornswoggle us into the Iraq boondoggle.

So, to demonstrate how our union has persevered despite taking a few shots to the pills from time to time, I'd like to highlight some of the good and bad mojo visited upon this country we love.

Summer of 1966
We move our hunting rifle from the gun rack to under the bed because of this: During August, race riots inflame much of the nation, most notably in Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois, and Lansing, Michigan. A state of emergency is declared in Cleveland, and troops are dispatched to restore order.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: On July 4, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act.

And this cool thing happened: The first Star Trek episode was broadcast on September 8, further dividing America into those who love Star Trek, and nerds.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: The Men in My Little Girl's Life, by Mike Douglas. It was the only top ten hit for the famous talk-show host, and with a title like that, I can see why.

Summer of 1976
We move our hunting rifle into the closet and buy a .38 revolver because of this: In New York City, the "Son of Sam" pulls a gun from a paper bag, killing one and seriously wounding another, in the first of a series of attacks that terrorize the city for the next year.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: We watched Bruce Jenner, Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinx brothers make quick work of their commie counterparts in the Montreal Olympics, dominating them until Apollo Creed's tragic beating in Rocky IV.

And this cool thing happened: The first woman is admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Afternoon Delight, by Starland Vocal Band. A curious thirteen-year-old at the time, by the end of that summer I'd surmised that this wasn't about the joys of a Fudgesicle at 3:30.

Summer of 1986
We move our .38 revolver under the bed and buy a new .357 for under our pillow because of this: The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to explode, and what better reason to protect you and yours from wandering bands of deathly ill homosexuals than with that little beauty of a pistol you found under the Christmas tree last year.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: Top Gun debuts, grossing $177 million and causing the firearm owners mentioned above to feel aroused and dirty. Many went on to purchase VHS players for future Top Gun screenings in the privacy of their own homes.

And this cool thing happened: During "Hands Across America," at least five million people form a human chain from New York City to Long Beach, California, to fight hunger and homelessness. Unfortunately it quickly deteriorates into a vicious game of Red Rover.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Rock Me Amadeus, by Falco. Wait, did I say top one-hit wonder?

Summer of 1996
We put our .38 in the glove box of the F-150 and move the .357 to the nightstand. For further protection, we purchase a Glock .45 because of this: The Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics kills two and injures 111, so y'all might want to listen up: no immigrant Islamist terror tool is going to make me a victim without tasting a headful of lead. Wait, what's that? He's a white American Christian? Whatever, I do love me a sweet new gun.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: President Bill Clinton signs the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty at the United Nations.

And this cool thing happened: The unemployment rate drops to 5.1%, the lowest since March 1989. House Speaker Newt Gingrich laments that five percent of the country is still slackers.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand, by Primitive Radio Gods. Sheer genius, as it was the only song ever written with its entire lyrics in the title.

Summer of 2006
We give our .357 to the wife, put the Glock in an ankle holster and buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle because of this: Spinach contaminated with E. coli kills two and poisons over 100 others in 20 states. We learn that leafy vegetable-based terrorism is real and if you don't believe it, explain the sneeze guard, tough guy.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion. Well, at least the YouTube guy must think we're great.

And this cool thing happened: The world's tallest living tree, a 379-foot tall coast redwood (sequoia) now named Hyperion, is discovered in Redwood National Park.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: You're Beautiful, by James Blunt. This song always gets my hopes up at the beginning because the guy has a plan, then leaves me feeling raw and empty. Damn you, Blunt!

Thanks for sticking with me. Hopefully we can all agree that over the past five decades, through the good but especially the sad and horrific, we Americans have shown a way of coming together when it's least expected.

I'm certainly not expecting it this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2016

More Boyfriend Drama—a short story

The table vibrated, Cynthia's quiet ring tone set to Billy Squier's In the Dark.
You're never sure if the illusion is real.
You pinch yourself but the memories are all you feel...
She rolled onto her side and grabbed the phone. Her nerves were stupidly frazzled. Is it him? It's been three days.
Damn. It's just Heather. "Hey, Heather."
"Hi, just wondering how you're doing."
"Umm...I'm okay." Cynthia drove her fist into the pillow. "Shit! I'm trying—I really am, but I can't stop thinking about him. He hasn't called since Sunday… and it’s just making me more and more obsessed." She rolled onto her back and blew out a breath. "This isn’t good."
"Come on, Cyn, keep things in perspective. You know he's into you."
"Yeah, well, that’s the thing—I don't know. Supposedly, he's really been busy with work lately. That's what he says, anyway. Then he just shows up in the middle of the night, like he lives here. Fucking asshole."
"It's just so funny," said Heather. "I could've sworn the dude was gay when I first met him. He's in such amazing shape and wears those tight clothes. Those belts, the boots. Oh, and hello? That old guy he's always hanging with. Not sayin’. Just sayin'."
Cynthia threw off the covers. "Heather, trust me, if only you knew. Not gay. And Rob says he only hangs out with the guy because he has to. If the boss says work late, you work late."
"I know, and I totally trust your instincts, Cyn. I just have a feeling that there's a lot you don't know about him."
"Well, there's a lot that he doesn't know about me either. Like that clown I just broke up with. If he ever found out about that, we're as good as over. They used to be best friends, you know."
Cynthia's call waiting buzzed. Her heart jumped as she looked at the number. Him. "Hey, Heather, I gotta go. It's Rob. Thanks for listening. Love you, call you tomorrow."
"Bye, Honey. Love you too."
Cynthia cleared her throat and blew out a quivering breath. Gently, she thumbed the green circle. “Hi, Rob... Really? Again? Right. Mm, hmm.”
Molten rage filled her stomach. Peeling off her head band, Cynthia flung it at the TV, burst out of bed and elbowed the bedside lamp against the wall. “Tell you what, Robin, this is the fourth time you've done this, not that I'm keeping track. How about if I call you next time? You never know, though, something might suddenly come up.”
She clicked off her phone and gazed out the window into the night. The Bat Signal's familiar beam pulsed brilliantly above Gotham’s twinkling skyline.
“Hmm... " Anger subsiding after her torrent, Cynthia's eyes followed a wispy cloud as it wafted across the familiar oval.

"I suppose he could be gay.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Interview—a short story

The perky admin approached Panos as he sat trying to will his sweaty forehead dry in the overstuffed lobby chair. New York summers.

She smiled and paused, unblinking. "He'll see you now. Follow me, please." Panos rose, grabbed his ornamental briefcase and watched the woman’s ass as she led him inside. Her beautiful hand opened the door to the sun-splashed corner office, then slid back and she disappeared.

The white-haired man sprung up from behind the massive mahogany desk. His eyes were intense, a little Christopher Walken bulgy, his manicured hand gracefully swooping in. "Panos, Bob. Pieasure to meet you. Please, sit."

"Thank you for seeing me, sir."

"Hey, call me Bob. Being called 'sir' makes me feel like I'm talking to--well--just about everybody."

Panos forced a chuckle, unbuttoned his jacket and sat.

The billionaire settled into the leather couch next to Panos, "I've taken the liberty of reading through your résumé. Impressive, indeed. But just so you know, we've vetted hundreds of people for this position. Matter of fact, we we're still not done."

"Oh, yes, sir," said Panos. "Par for the course. Regardless, I’m honored to be able to see you personally."

"Well yes, thank you. So, let's get started. Says here that shortly after graduating, you signed on with Monsanto. Talk about a PR challenge! What did you glean from that experience?"

"Well, sir, I suppose my biggest lesson was that an elected official's opinion can be modified far more easily than corn seed, yet either can lead to vast financial reward for the stakeholder."

"I see. And then you accepted a position with Arthur Andersen.Your largest client was a company called Enron. Tell me about that."

Panos knew this one was coming. "Sir, have you ever had an itch on your back that you couldn't reach? Arthur Andersen and Enron each had itches, and they discovered that if they embraced each other, their itches could be simultaneously scratched. A lot of people became very wealthy from this relationship, and fortunately, I got out of there before some people made some mistakes."

"And then you came on board at Halliburton?"

"Correct. Takeways there? I’d say when it comes to government contracts, 'no-bid' equals 'no lid'." Panos was hoping the old guy would at least crack a smile, but nothing. 

"From there," Goldman Sachs enlisted your services. Tell me about that."

Panos stared out the window, taking in the Chrysler Building and Empire State in the hazy distance."Let me put it this way. When your job is hiding the proverbial razor blade in the financial carameled apple, eventually some trick-or-treater’s tonsils are going to be nicked, and..."

"Okay, you know what? Just stop right there. I think I've heard enough."

Shit, thought Panos. Too graphic. Should've known with this old dude.

Mr. Kraft bounced up like a teenager, stopping inches from Panos’ still-sweating brow.

"I think we've found our man. Congratulations, Panos. Welcome to the New England Patriots."

Panos took a step backward and put out his hand. Kraft ignored the gesture and engulfed him in a suffocating hug.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Lazy Carnivore's Guide to Delicious Dinners.

Just a little announcement before we begin: Reflections of a Shallow Pond, from this point forward, will be a food blog. No more twisted fiction, no more raunchy rhymes, future posts will contain nothing but photos of my food—a bag of pretzels from the vending machine, half of a stale maple bar from two cubicles over—you'll see everything I eat accompanied by three to seven funny hash tags.

Aw, I'm just kidding. I'm actually getting started on a young adult series where our hero is a clown with rabies. Somehow he only manages to kill bad people, and you really start liking him by the end of book four.

Today, however, I really do want to discuss cooking because it can be fun, yes? In my opinion, nothing beats a leisurely Sunday afternoon spent preparing something delicious. Pot roast, salmon, maybe some grilled kabobs—most things taste terrific when we're bestowed with a relaxed timeline to really cultivate a meal.

Problem is, on those weeknights where everyone converges at home around six, a deadly tandem of low blood sugar and teen-induced, finicky entitlement can force a nice evening to break bad in a hurry.

Whether we're tapped out after riding the bus for an hour next to a guy soaked in Axe and Olde English or just can't justify going to the taco truck for the third night in a row, we need to crank something out and move on. Hit it and quit it, as the kids used to say.

I know most of you feel my pain, so I'd like to share the dishes I prepare when confronted with whiny family members, profound lack of motivation, or both. None are accompanied by fruit or vegetables, so feel free to shake out a bag of salad to ease your parental conscience. And as a typical work week essentially consists of four dinner days (Monday through Thursday), here are my top four hasty tasty dinners:

4) Pizza: Ive eaten so much of it in my life that my DNA has become indistinguishable from the genetic code of Canadian Bacon. So why not learn to make it, right? You know, teach a man to fish, yada, yada.

It's pretty straight-forward. Buy two boxes of Appian Way pizza crust and stretch out the dough on a greased cookie sheet. Try using latex gloves to reduce stickiness. Bake the crust alone at 425° for ten minutes, then remove from the oven. The Appian Way sauce is good, but take it a step further and mix another brand in with it, like Contadina or Ragu. Add your toppings and bake for an additional fifteen minutes. You'll be watching Wheel of Fortune before you can Sajak!

3) Beef stroganoff: Your brood will come a runnin' for this fun frolic of noodle and cow. It's nothing but meat and carbs, but even a tattered coyote would taste good after marinating for nine hours in the crock pot. Combine stew meat, two cups of beef bullion, a tablespoon each of ketchup and Worcestershire in a slow cooker. Go to work or your local bar for the day.

In the evening, add mushrooms and two tablespoons of flour and stir until thick. Mix in a cup of sour cream and pour over egg noodles. Hot freaking damn it's good, and the back of the recipe book makes it even better:

In this woman's world, crockery is no mockery.

2) Sloppy Joes: This is a lowest-common-denominator meal, whether you're in a crunch to get to the science fair or in front of Netflix for the season finale of Broadchurch. On the bell-shaped curve of food preparation effort, it falls somewhere between unwrapping gum and washing a fork.

Fry up a pound-and-a-half of ground beef (or a combo of beef and ground turkey), drain it and combine with the Sloppy Joe seasoning, a cup of water and tomato paste. Throw in some of that sauce from pizza night to give it an added zing. Toast hamburger buns and top them with the bubbling, saucy deliciousness. Add shredded cheddar and you'll discover there's nothing sloppy about these Joes, yo.

1) French dips: In our house, French dips continue to dwarf the other easy dinners. Why? They taste as good as the restaurant version and no one has to tip the bastard in the kitchen. You can go all Safeway on these, too, from the sandwich rolls to the frozen steak fries to the deli roast beef to the au jus.

With two minutes remaining for the fries to bake, lightly butter the rolls and broil. During that time, heat up the roast beef in the microwave. Everything comes together in a magical synergy as you top your French Dip with horseradish; grilled onions and melted provolone are optional.

Well, there you have it—a week's worth of dinners that take about the same amount of energy as scratching your tuchus. Try them and I promise you, your family will embrace their mediocrity with a watered down passion you haven't experienced since Ted Cruz picked a running mate.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

On Location—a short story

"Honest to God, that woman can be such a diva sometimes." Edward lifted the soaking paper and lowered it into the sepia tray. "Insisting that I use film for the shoot. And that I must personally process every print? Um, hello? Elton John called. He wants his bitch back."

"Ha! I like it." Edward's assistant Greg sat on a stool, trying to take notes in the amber light of the darkroom.

"But she can also be a goddamn genius, and I must admit," said Edward, "I am enjoying this whole film thing. Haven't produced sepia tones since the Nineties."

Which was also how long he'd known Mia Kirkwood, managing editor of Buzz magazine—compadres since their early days at art school, Edward now felt more like her obedient lackey than a renowned photographer in his own right. "Definitely a unique location, to boot."

"I don't know," Greg said, "Was I disappointed to leave that miserable place? Hell no." He watched Edward nimbly transfer another print from bleach to clean water. "Place made me shiver, like, the whole time. Think about what it was like living there."

"Or dying?"

"Okay, thanks, now I'm shivering again. Eddie, I'm not kidding, they need to take a fucking wrecking ball to that place."

"I suppose. But you have to admit it was amusing how disgusted those poor little models were." Edward clipped another sheet to the line. "Well tough shit, little girlfriends, y'all make more than I do, so you can just go ahead and put on your big girl panties. Edward noticed that Greg's arms were tightly folded. "What freaked you out the most?"

"Um...shit, where do I begin? The reception area?"

"True enough. Mental hospitals aren't most people's idea of home." Edward reached toward the wall, his hand cranking the amber light's intensity. "Let's take a look."

The five dangling photos slowly came to life as Greg's gaze sharpened. "Oh, God." He hugged himself tighter, unaware how his torso rocked as he absorbed the imagery.

Edward chuckled and clipped on another dripping print. "Mia Kirkwood, you've done it again."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trump vs. Hillary: Wake Me Up When It's Over.

Finally it's come to pass—Trump vs. Clinton—estúpido hombre vs mujer acostada.

Are you ready? If not, that's fine, because we've got a solid six months ahead of us to watch a muck-huckin' donnybrook not witnessed since Geraldo took a neo-Nazi chair to the face. We'll have a nice long exposure to this toxic spectacle, so let's just pace ourselves, okay?

And by ourselves, I mean me.

Four years ago, little intrigue marked the 2012 presidential primary season. As with every incumbent president over the past thirty years, Barack Obama sailed through spring and summer unopposed by anyone from his party. In fact, the last time that happened was 1980, when a cranky Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter ("We cahn't bayah fah mah yeeahs of wicked pissing failyah!").

On the right was Mitt Romney: tanned, rested and crisply mom-jeaned. After biding his time in the well-choreographed dancing order of Republican establishment candidates, he'd placed considerable distance between himself and the field by May, anti-climactically creaming Santorum in the final delegate count 1575 to 245.

That Obama-Romney matchup, while packing some considerable wallop due to the men's stark ideological and cultural differences (car elevators, magic underwear and Stanford vs. single moms, magic cigarettes and Harvard), seems nearly flavorless compared to this year's eminent insane.

Currently, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are polling historic numbers in the category of "strongly unfavorable." It seems that we don't just despise Trump, we want to take that orange mull-hawk and hurl it around the freaking room like Bam Bam with a granite easy chair. As for Hillary, she doesn't just lightly chafe our sensibilities, she fracks into our souls with her venomous guile and heaves around more baggage than Mr. and Mrs. Howell.

So yeah, this one's a little different, and there's no way to know how a contest between two such remarkably unappealing candidates will affect voter turnout. On the one hand, this November could experience record participation from non-white and young voters. Specifically Latinos, with their 48% turnout lagging behind African-African (67%) and white voters (65%) during the 2012 election, may go big on November 8. Why? A little refresher:

They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting. -Donald Trump, July, 2015

By the same token, over the past year both Trump and Bernie Sanders have risen to symbolize America's immense dissatisfaction with traditional insider politics. Not all who backed Sanders can be considered rubber stamps for Hillary, and certainly not for Trump, whose splintered his own party like the delicious inside of a Butterfinger.

This war of attrition will end in six months. Pissed off honkies who can't find it in their consciences to vote for either candidate will recycle their ballots and set their iTimers for 2020. Pissed off Latinos and African-Americans will vote in record numbers, but more as a referendum against Trump than an "atta girl" for Hillary. She'll win the presidency decisively.

Remember, though, there's still a long way to go, so you need to calm the hell down.

And by you, I mean me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ignorance and Hate in the Tar Heel State

Okay, what's up with this whole bathroom thing?

Back on March 16, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 2, banning employers and businesses from discriminating against employees or customers based on their race, color, country of origin, religion, age or “biological sex.”

Which is good... ish. Problem is, by saying what can't be done, Carolina's new law is actually implying what can be done. Omitted from the bill's language is any prohibition on discriminatory practices against those who identify with a different sex than the one designated to them at birth.

Before we go too much further, help me understand why—what were the true motivations behind such a strange rule? Why did a state's congress spend so much time and energy crafting this legislation? Here's all I could come up with, as explained by Davy Doug Duggar, Carolina kissin' cousin to the celebrated Duggar clan of Arkansas:

a) Fear—"Y'all just watch. Y'all gonna see those goddamn abonimabations settin' up shop in every laydees room from here to Stoney Creek. 'Specially that one down the hall from the food court at Raleigh Mall. Y'all never mind how I know that, I just do, a'ight?"

b) Power—"Case y'all forgot, we're the waht gahs. We in charge. Y'all can take yer baby killers, Mexicans and freaks and dump 'em on off in San Francisco or Seattle or one o' them other shit holes in California."

c) The convenience of dealing in absolutes—"Ever since Adam and Eve was cast out of the Olive Garden, men have held sole possession of the penis. Except that Jamie Lee Curtis, and ah do love her work."

Feel free to add your own theory, because this whole thing freaking flummoxes me. And in terms of item c), while life is mostly grey, there are plenty of black and white issues I can get behind. Here's three off the tip of my tongue:

1) There will never be a perfect ratio of chips to salsa. Ever.

2) The coat closet can never be left partially open. Since moving in, I've closed it 6,022 times. Yes, I figured it out.

3) Cats are weird.

I mean, sure, at my current proportions I'm imposing enough to be Leo's prison daddy, but if I ever shrank to the size of a troll doll, first he'd torture me by slowly gnawing off my arms with his toothless gums, then finally halt my misery by clamping down on my little Adam's Applet.

Fickle beasts, they are.

Given more time to consider the concept, I'm sure most of us would be able to conjure up a few more examples of good and bad, of black and white, of right and wrong. But gender isn't one of them. What right have we to label someone as wrong or bad after what has surely been years of struggle and shamed secrecy in pursuit of his or her true identity?

I'll answer that one, too—we don't have that right. If you're uncomfortable with your kid using a public restroom, go in with them or find a single-occupancy "family" facility. And speaking of family, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, of the 69,000 child abductions that occurred in 1999, about 82 percent of them were perpetrated by family members, and 11 percent by friends of the family (or other adults that the child knew well). So, North Carolina, if you really want to keep your children safe, maybe y'all should look a little closer to home. 

This is simply another in a long line of smoke screens churned up by repressed conservative men to keep the usual suspects in line. Anyone who disputes that our lives contain shades of grey apparently hasn't figured out how to utilize the grey matter God gave them.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Yin's Fine, But That Needle's a Little Close to My Yang.

How open are you to trying to new things? Ever bought a pair of red Chuck Taylors, then actually worn them? Ever had your ear pierced in Canada then didn't get rid of it when you got back to the States?

Hey, me neither!

On a scale of one to ten, how game are you, with a one being, "Hey, Honey, can you hand me a new bottle of Pert over the curtain? You know I can't wash my bottom with a dirty head," to a ten being "Hell yes I'll eat that monkey!"?

While most of us fall somewhere mid-range, I've always skewed toward the "there's only one way to get to Tukwila" end of the scale. Sure, I've always talked a big game, but inevitably I've skedaddled to the comfort of my black and white cocoon of absolutism.

But when it comes to my asthma, experimentation has always bucked my conservatism. Since my first attack in '65, I've experimented with any number of inhaler cocktails, yet stuck to my tried and true friend, Albuterol, much like Donald Trump's well-documented dependence on Cialis and finger extensions. I'm a freaking OG vaper, which is why my adult life has witnessed a winding chain of steroid-based treatments, but without the benefit of large deltoids and small testes.

Prior to this winter, my only foray into eastern sensibilities had been a brief smidge of ponytailed dabbling back in the '90s, devouring Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in an impressive year-and-a-half. In summary, its message was that when we're able to shake free our dualistic mindsets (good/bad, right/wrong, subject/object), and simply experience every moment as it occurs, our egos dissolve and we become one with everything. No separation will then exist between the energy that powers all living things, a force within which God resides.

So yeah, while the whole Zen deal is amazing and enlightening and all that shit, not once in all those pages does anyone mention God shoving needles in my cheeks. And I'm not talking about the more insulated cheeks located south of the Bible Belt; if my eyes are midtown Manhattan, the needles are setting up shop in Little Italy.

Regardless, by December of last year, things had gotten to the point where, whether at work, home, the bus or the Target check-out line, I'd become a wheezing, coughing, throat-clearing phlegmbot, tirelessly annoying folks of all shapes and sizes, It was time to act or be assaulted by loved ones and strangers with equal impunity.

In January, I began weekly acupuncture treatments, and since, I've managed to vaguely grasp the theoretical reason why the Army Corps of Engineers felt it necessary to construct a weekly needle runway from collar bone down to lower abdomen, stopping just short of the more sensitive Silk Road to the Temple.

The gist of the theory is that when our bodies are balanced, energy flows freely from within and without. This energy is known as qi (pronounced "chee"), or life force. Qi consists of opposing forces, the yin (moist and cooling, emanating from the earth) and the yang (warm and invigorating, flowing downward from the sun and sky).

With my flow of qi impeded, an overabundance of "wind" or yin, becomes trapped in the lung, causing wheezing and shortness of breath. To combat this, needles are inserted along the lung meridian, one of nine energy pathways present in our bodies, to re-kindle the egalitarian relationship between yin and yang. In other words, the lung meridian is prodded with enough little lawn darts to force the twins back to the negotiating table.

Finally, following these months of treatments, yin and yang appear to have stopped fighting in the back seat over the last Red Vine, and Father Qi hasn't had to pull over and spank, as he calls them, "those goddamn twins."

Is all of this working? Has my asthma gone the way of the IBM Selectric? Not yet, but it's improved substantially. Unfortunately, I'm unable to fully attribute this change to acupuncture alone, since during this same period, I've eliminated dairy, lost some weight and implemented a regimen of 18 herbal supplements per day. But hey, what matters is results, right?

Actually, l changed my mind. The acupuncture is fully responsible. Let's order a pizza.

Friday, April 1, 2016

These Two.

I was going to type this up last night but I started throwing up. How's that for a hook?

Before I move on, a quick word about the process of vomiting—and it is just that—a process. Very few of us spontaneously hurl, as usually we're provided warning signs anywhere from minutes to hours prior to the ultimate act of yelling yogurt. I'm here to tell you though, somebody paid for express delivery on this one. I went from enjoying a beer on a beautiful Thursday evening, preparing a nice black bean soup (with bacon, where you leave the grease in the soup and it's freaking delicious) to bedazzling the bedpan in less than two hours.

Sorry, I tend to trend graphically in this forum and I do want you to read on, so I'll stop there. It's just interesting how, when the human body encounters a breach of security, it goes through a sort of NORAD Defcon level progression. And not to worry, feeling much better today.

I was planning on featuring my two daughters in this post, since during April the older kid turns 21 and the younger, 16. It's a big milestone and they've been subjects, sometimes willing but usually not, of numerous posts over the past seven years, Accordingly, I've decided my gift to them is Seinfeldian in nature—the gift of nothing—no interviews or greatest hits. You're welcome, darling angels.

Alas, most of the cute stories, the mispronunciations and heart-tweaking sentiments, the naive perceptions of life on Earth, have slowly evaporated with each passing season. And like many of my friends also experiencing this, I've tried to embrace the evolving nature of parenthood, from hands-on to hands-off in fairly short order.

April fools! Here are the top five quips from each daughter since this blog started back in 2009:

Older daughter (I'll call her Hermione):

3) December 5, 2011 (age 16)

Hermione: "Hey, Dad, I can see your butt crack,"

Me (I'll call myself Ryan, either Reynolds or Gosling): "Okay, do you want me to put down this hammer and this really small nail and this huge string of lights that's 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.

Hermione: "Dad, guess what? We filmed you on my phone."

Ryan: "You filmed me? Are you serious?"

Hermione: "Yeah."

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

Hermione: "Yeah."

2) January 12, 2011 (Age 15)

Ryan: "It looks really short."

Hermione:"Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing spandex underneath, so even if it gets hiked up, no one can see anything."

Ryan:"You only need to touch your nose to hike that thing up."

Hermione: "Dad, just wait until you see me with it on. You'll feel much better."

Ryan didn't.

1) March 30, 2010 (Age 14)

Ryan: "If you could change anything about your first ten years, what would you change?"

Hermione: "When I was four, I wouldn't have peed on the floor of my room and wiped it up with your towel and put it back, thereby forcing you to dry yourself with my urine.

Ryan: "I wish you could change that too."

And now for the younger child (let's call her Chrysanthemum)

3) February 29, 2012 (age 11)

Chrysanthemum: "I let Autumn borrow my deodorant in gym today. I know I probably shouldn't do that, but I sort of feel sorry for her because she smells like..."

Hermione, interrupting: "Seriously, you guys, I was looking at my stomach in the mirror this morning and my two-pack is looking so good..."

Chrysanthemum, interrupting: "You just interrupted me."

Hermione: "Sorry. But really, check this out (exposing her bare stomach). Is this not a highly-defined two-pack?"

Chrysanthemum: "I don't care about your stomach. Can I finish talking please? Thank you...I forgot what I was talking about. Anyway, Ashley and Jonah are dating now, so there making it Facebook official tonight and then they're...

Hermione, interrupting: "Ewww! There's something in my Au Jus!"

Chrysanthemum: "You just interrupted me again! And it's a piece of bread. Stuff gets in your Aus Jus all the time! Look at mine. It's got stuff in it, too. Now listen to what I'm saying!"

Older Daughter: "I think I need a bang trim."

2) August 21, 2009 (age 9)

Chrysanthemum: "You know what I want for dessert?"

Ryan: "What?"

Chrysanthemum: "Gilletto."

Ryan: "You mean gelato?"

Chrysanthemum: "No Dad, I mean gilletto. Come on. You've had it a lot."

1) July 13, 2009 (age 9)

Chrysanthemum: "Dad, tell mom to change her clothes. She listens to you."

Ryan: "What are you talking about?"

Chrysanthemum: "Dad, Mom has a doctor's appointment, and the doctors and nurses are going to be really embarrassed to see her in her brown sweater with huge buttons. She looks super ugly."

Ryan: "People in our family are allowed to dress any way they want, including you."

Chrysanthemum: "But I always wear really pretty things."

Ryan: "Just leave your mom alone."

Chrysanthemum: "Just tell her to change her sweater, then. She can leave her pants on."

Ryan "I have to get back to work. Just let it go."

Chrysanthemum: "Okay, but you have a really unattractive wife going out in public."

Happy birthdays, my beautiful girls.