Friday, November 25, 2011

Through the Throngs (A Black Friday Experience)

Growing up on the farm, I used to work with cattle. Last night, I was part of the herd.

Yesterday we spent a good portion of our Thanksgiving looking through the newspaper advertisements (you remember newspapers, right?) trying to find the best bargains. We were looking, in particular, for a good deal on a large television. (Our current tv is in the process of dying, and The Wife has decided she can no longer wait for my Vikings to make the Super Bowl for us to get a new one.)

So, that's how I came to be standing near the Target parking lot at 11:20 PM with a few thousand of my (not so) closest friends.

The television in the Target ad looked the most promising. (I believe it was a 68-inch tv for about $27.89) (I may be exaggerating a bit.) The store was to open at midnight, so we thought we'd mosey over that way a bit extra early. We weren't "extra early" enough. We managed to find one of the three last parking spots in the entire lot.

Four police cars were lined along the front of the store. (They weren't there for the donuts.) Crowd control can't be a fun job, but at least they weren't wearing riot gear.

When we saw the line, we were amazed. It came from the front door of the store, wound itself around like a snake through a closed off section of the parking lot, crossed the main parking lot driveway, stretched down alongside the adjoining Wendy's parking lot (that's where we were), kept going all the way to the back of the parking lot, then turned and went back toward the other end of the parking lot.

We stood dutifully in our place while the forty minutes passed until the store actually opened. A loud cheer arose as the line finally started to move.

Aside from the people standing in line, there was another group milling about in the parking lot, looking for an opportunity to crash the line. A glop of about twenty of them attempted to smush their way in where the line was most vulnerable, as we attempted to cross the parking lot driveway. Thankfully, the Target crowd control crew saw what was happening and rushed in to stop it, herding people away and shouting, "Go to the back of the line!" They were able to stop most of the interlopers, but one nasty, haggard-looking woman managed to sneak in a few spots behind us. The mob mentality almost took over, because I thought about grabbing her and physically throwing her out of the line. But, laziness prevailed and I did nothing.

As we wound our way around toward the door, The Wife, who is a math teacher, did some math. Using a quick formula based on how many people fit into each parking spot, and how many times the line wound around, she determined that there were AT LEAST 3,000 people in the line, with the possibility that the total was over 5,000.

It took 30 minutes from when the line started to move until when we were able to actually enter the store. It didn't take long to determine that the television we had gone there for was sold out. But, we had a few other things we wanted to look at, so we started out shopping.

I grabbed a shopping cart. I did this for three reasons: 1) to put the stuff in that we were going to buy; 2) to give myself a little bit of a personal space buffer; and C) to possibly use as a weapon to ram people with if need be.

Having grown up in a small town, I'm not really accustomed to large groups of people. (There were more people in the electronics department than live in all of Marsh Valley.) Still, we managed to make our way through the throngs and get a few things that we wanted.

At one point in my store wanderings I saw the nasty, haggard line-crowder from earlier. I really wanted to ram my shopping cart into hers, but again restraint got the better of me, and I did nothing. (It's a good thing I'm such a damn nice guy.)

Then it came time to check out. And wait in line again. The line for the registers ran from the front of the store, all the way up and down every aisle in the grocery section to the back of the store, through the frozen foods, and into the towel and bath mat aisles. It was a fairly fast moving line, but a long line nonetheless. As we weaved through the food aisles, it gave us a chance to look at all the foodstuffs that Target has for sale. And how high their prices are. And why we never go grocery shopping there.

About three-quarters of the way through the line, a man with a tv tried to scooch in front of us. The Wife then, in her best junior-high-math-teacher voice, said, "Excuse me, I think you need to go to the back of the line." The guy looked startled, mumbled some crap about not knowing this wasn't the end of the line, then shuffled off with his tail (and tv) between his legs. With that tone in her voice, I could see why the junior high kids think she is the "mean" teacher. (And I was very proud of her as she sent tv-boy moping away.)

It took us a half an hour to get from the back of the line to the registers. We paid for our things and escaped. All told, it took us about two and a half hours to get $40 worth of board games and pajamas for the kids. It was an interesting experience, but I don't think I'll be doing the "Black Friday" shopping at Target again.

Next year, we're going to hit Walmart.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mr. Roboto Is a Stupid Song: My Daughter the Music Critic

"Mr. Roboto," she said, then paused a moment, choosing her next words carefully. "Mr. Roboto is a stupid song." So says my daughter, the three year old critic critic.

She's right, of course. Hey, I love "Mr. Roboto." It's a fun song. It might even be a good song. But, there is absolutely no question that it is a stupid song. Not even Dennis DeYoung could deny that. The Girl knows her music.

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!
(When I saw the reflection of my iPhone, I thought about re-taking the picture. But after further  consideration, I thought it more appropriate to leave it there. I think Mr. Roboto would approve.)

She has always loved listening to and singing songs. When she was first learning to talk we had a couple of toys that played the song "Pop Goes the Weasel." She didn't know all the words, but at the appropriate time in the song she would sing along, saying "Pop...wee-so." (It was cuter than I could possibly find the words to describe.)

I like music, too, and when I'm watching the kids I'll put the iPod on random and let it play. The Girl quickly latched on to some of the songs and started singing them. One of her early favorites was "We Will Rock You" by Queen. She attempts to sing the words while simultaneously doing the stomp-stomp-clap actions to the beat of the song. (She struggles, but she does so with a big smile on her face.)

Sometimes it's surprising what she picks up from random songs. The other day she was walking around saying, "He had stars in his eyes." I couldn't figure out what she was talking about. Finally it dawned on me that one of the songs my iPod had just played was "Juke Box Hero" by Foreigner. She came to the conclusion that the Juke Box Hero has stars in his eyes to "help him see."

She doesn't always get the lyrics right. After hearing "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" she managed to change the lyric "let's keep the party polite" to "let's keep the potty polite." (I guess when you are three it's more important to have a polite potty than a polite party.) (Heck, that's still true as an adult, too.)

When she first learned the children's song "Once There Was a Snowman" she morphed the line "in the sun he melted" into "in the snowy mountain."

But, more often than not she gets the words right. She saw her PopPop sing "16 Tons" at karaoke (a sight that traumatized most everyone else who witnessed it.) Though she had only heard the song once, she was soon walking around the house singing "I woke up one morning when the sun didn't shine. I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine. I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal and the straw boss said well a bless my soul." And yes, it is quite amusing to see a little three year old girl sing those words while trying to make her voice as deep as possible.

Her taste in music is very varied, from classics like Billy Joel's "Piano Man" to novelty songs like "Fish Heads" by Barnes and Barnes. She likes songs by R.E.M., Crash Test Dummies, They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds. She likes the "Mary Poppins" soundtrack, and anything from a Disney movie. She loves the kid's songs she learns at church. One of the first songs she learned to sing was the Carpenter's "Sing (Sing a Song.)" She loves the group Ok Go, calling them "The Dancing Guys" after repeated viewings of the video where they dance on treadmills. (They have a new video where they sing with the Muppets, further endearing them to her.)

And from her Auntie K (who is much more "hip" and "with it" than her parents) she has learned more modern songs, like some song about shooting kids for their shoes (I googled it and found out it is "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People), the "hotel, motel, Holiday Inn" song (Googled again: "Hotel Room Service" by Pitbull) and that "Hide Your Wife, Hide Your Kids" song from the internets.

Things changed a bit a few weeks ago. The Wife brought home from the store a three-CD set called "123 Favorite Kids Songs." It features one hundred and twenty-three children's songs. These are the old, classic songs that everyone learns as a kid, though no one really knows why. Songs like "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain," "On Top of Old Smoky," and "The Farmer In the Dell." It also includes "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt." (Despite what you might have heard, his name is NOT, repeat NOT my name, too.) And, "Jimmy Cracked Corn." (I don't care.) (Seriously, I don't care.)

The Girl, of course, fell in love with these CDs immediately. And even though there are 123 songs, she can tell you which of the three CDs any of the songs are on. The unfortunate side effect is that she has really latched onto the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and sings it over and over and over and over again. She'll ask, "Do you want to sing 'Yankee Doodle?'" We will say, "No." Undeterred, she'll say, "It goes like this..." and then sing it again. And again. And again. (I'm almost to the point of wishing the Brits had won the Revolutionary War.)(I've always wondered what a crumpet is.)

The Girl likes to sing. She sings in bed. She sings in the car. She sings on the potty. It's wonderful to hear her sing. (Yes, even "Yankee Doodle" for the umpteenth time.) It's great that she likes music. And it's great that she likes a wide variety of songs. Even Mr. Roboto. The day after announcing "Mr. Roboto is a stupid song," she asked me if I would play it. So I did. And apparently even a stupid song can bring a smile to everyone's face.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The One With All the Fuzzies

I've finally come to the realization that I'm never going to have a cool beard. It's just not happening. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1)The Wife doesn't want me to grow one; and B) I couldn't grow one if I wanted to.

Growing up, I always thought guys who had beards looked cool. My favorite athlete was Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Alan Page. Alan Page had an awesome beard, so I looked forward to the day when I could have one like his. The 1970s were a great time for facial hair on athletes. One in particular, Chicago Bulls center Artis Gilmore, was exceptional. Artis was an artist with his facial hair. He would grow out his beard, then trim it into cool angles and designs. Combine it with the bushy sideburns and the massive afro, and Artis Gilmore was the coolest looking dude in the world.

In high school, there are always those one or two guys who are able to grow beards by the time they are sophomores. I was not one of them. By the time I went to college I was telling bad jokes about my facial hair, like "I've been shaving for three years, and I cut myself both times," and "I've got a basketball moustache: five on each side."

I did finally get to the point where I needed to shave every day. But, it wasn't because if I didn't I'd have that cool Don Johnson "Miami Vice" two-day stubble. No, if I didn't shave I'd have that four-hairs-growing-out-of-your-chin Shaggy from "Scooby-Doo" look.

This is me and my friends a few years after high school.
I'm the one on the left with the spottiest beard.

As I got older, I eventually tried to grow a beard. It was very patchy and spotty, like the lawn of a vacant house. I settled on a version of a goatee. I say a "version" of a goatee because an actual goatee has hair that attaches from the moustache to the beard on the chin. Mine had a bald spot.

I had that version of a goatee the first time I met my future wife. Thankfully, I had shaved it off before we had our first date. Whenever I threaten to grow it back, she shakes her head, rolls her eyes, and tells me I can "do whatever I want," with the direct implication that if I did it she wouldn't be happy.

I don't think she has to worry. A few weeks ago it hit home to me that I should be done with any more attempts at facial hair. I decided I'd try to grow my sideburns out. (Nothing like Artis Gilmore. I would settle for the much more modest Luke Perry look.) Well, it took about three weeks before my wife even noticed I was trying to grow them. And then came the kicker. My three year old daughter was sitting next to me. She was looking intently at the side of my face for a few moments, then she said, "Are you the one with all the fuzzies?" Ouch.

Of course, that's not to say that I can't grow ANY hair on my face. I have two random eyebrow hairs that think I am a Romulan. If left unchecked, they will grow about two inches longer than all the rest of my eyebrow hairs, like some kind of antennae. (Unfortunately, they don't help my cell phone reception at all.)

And then there's the nose hairs. The older I get, the more out of control the nose hairs are. I think my best chance at a passable moustache would be if I didn't trim my nose hairs. (But, I don't think The Wife would approve of that, either.)

A while back, I went to a doctor. He had a white nose hair that shot down about an inch from his nose, then curled up like a fish hook. I have no idea what the doctor told me that day because I just couldn't take my eyes off of that amazing nose hair. I don't even remember the doctor's name. To me, he is Dr. Fish-hook-nose-hair. (I've tried to look him up on Google using that name, with no success.)

So, I think The Wife is safe. I'm not going to try to grow facial hair anymore. (At least until I can figure how to do some kind of comb-over with these ear hairs.)

Now choose a title that best fits this story:
O A. The Un-Moustachioed Dandy
O B. Not By the Hair of My Chinny-Chin-Chin
O C. Artis the Artist
O D. The Shaggy D.A. (I'll leave it to you to figure what the "D.A." stands for.)
O E. The One With All the Fuzzies

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Size Fits...Sometimes

One size fits all.

It's a phrase we hear often. It's a phrase we seldom believe.

Really? One size fits all? Have you seen the different sizes people are? Take a look at Mary Lou Retton.(If you like, you can even picture her falling out of a pinata, like in her Dairy Queen commercial.) Then think of Shaquille O'Neal. (Then picture him 40 or 50 pounds heavier than the last time you saw him, because now that he is retired and no longer chasing around the Tim Duncans of the world, those Double Whoppers with Cheese add up pretty quick.) Now, picture Mary Lou and Shaq standing next to each other. (She's smiling, isn't she?) If Mary Lou stood inside Shaq's size 22 hightops, they would probably come up over her knees. Can you imagine ANYTHING that would fit one and also fit the other?

My problem isn't with the people who claim one size fits all. They are either deluded or blatant liars. My problem comes when one specific size doesn't fit the same every time.

Not long ago, I lost some weight, and it was time to step down a size in my jeans. I have one brand and style of jeans that I have been wearing for years. (Wrangler carpenter.) (I like the little side pocket for my cell phone.) I've got six pair of jeans. (That may seem like a lot, but I wear them for work every day.) They all SAY they are the same size, but they are not. Two pair are too loose, two pair are too tight, and two pair are juuuust right. (Yes, you can tell I have small children, because I just turned this story about pant sizes into "Goldilocks and the Three Bears.")
One size fits…maybe? (If I suck in my gut.)
Is it asking too much to get some consistency? In a perfect world, jeans from every different company that SAY they are a certain size would all BE that same size, so I could freely move between Wrangler, Levi, Lee, Rustler, Ed's House O' Jeans, or any other brand without worrying about size discrepancies. But that's not even what I'm asking for here. I can't even get the same BRAND to be consistent.

I have the same problem with shoes. When I try on shoes I land anywhere between size 10-and-a-half and size 12-and-a-half. It makes buying shoes online virtually impossible. Maybe it's a ploy to keep shoe salesmen in business? (If so, it's not working, because I haven't been to a store where the shoe salesman brings out the shoe and puts it on your foot for you since about 1989.)

Or, they could just be messing with our minds. Most of these shoes and jeans are made in foreign sweat shops. Maybe the workers are thinking, "Stupid, fat American thinks he can fit in a size 34? We'll see about that."

In the end, I don't care what size the label SAYS my clothes are, I just want clothes that fit. So, I may have to resort to the closest thing we have to "one size fits all": stretchy spandex! Please don't make it come to that. (I wonder if anyone makes spandex pants with a side pocket for my cell phone?)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just another number

It all started several years ago at Radio Shack. (Nothing good ever starts at Radio Shack.) I was at The Shack buying something. (That's what they want to be called these days: The Shack. They're trying to rebrand the company, as if somehow shortening the name will make you think the whole store isn't as obsolete as the "Radio" part of their name. It's like when Kentucky Fried Chicken became "KFC" to try make you forget their food was fried. Or when the SciFi channel changed their name to "SyFy" so people wouldn't think of it as a nerdy science fiction place, but instead as a cool place where they can pick up syphilis.)

Anywho, I was at The Shack buying something, I'm not sure what. It had to have been a cord for my stereo, a cable for my computer, or a battery for my cordless phone. (Something along those lines, because unless you are a remote-control car aficionado, why else would you go to The Shack?) 

The Shack: the place to go for cords, batteries, and remote-control cars!
I was at the counter paying for my purchase, my mind wandering to which fast food place I should go to for lunch. (This was back when I was single and ate out on average 13 times a week.) My internal Arby's/Burger King debate was interrupted when the salesclerk unexpectedly said, "What is your phone number?"

"What?" I said. I was a bit taken aback. 

The clerk repeated, "What is your phone number?" I asked why they needed my phone number. "We always get the phone numbers of our customers." Who can argue with logic like that? (Anyone with a brain?) The salesclerk made me feel stupid because I didn't know that this sort of information exchange went on all the time. I gave them my phone number, because who was I to go against the wishes of The Shack, especially if it's something they "always" do? Besides, I didn't want to argue, I just wanted to take my cord/cable/battery and get me a Beef 'N' Cheddar. (Mmmm….cheesy sauce!)

That's how it began. And now, it's hard to make any purchase without leaving a piece of personal information behind. We hardly even flinch anymore. I've made several visits to several doctors over the last couple of months (to try to see why my leg seems to be falling apart), and the first thing they ask me, even before my name, is when is my date of birth. It's a good thing my junior high buddy Jim doesn't go to the same doctors I go to, or there would be some confusion. (We share the same birthday.)

Sometimes it's not clear who is asking for the information and why. Within a week of moving to my current house, I was paying for fuel with my credit card when the fuel pump asked for my zip code. I wasn't sure which zip code to give them. Was it the credit card company asking for my old billing zip code for security reasons, or was it the gas station asking for my new zip for marketing Radio Shack-ish reasons? (And just what was my new zip code, anyway?) After entering the wrong zip code twice, I was shut out of the system. (It's never good to be totally rejected by an inanimate object.)(I already get enough rejection from actual people, I don't need machines doing it, too.) I had to move to a different pump, where I finally was able to crack their zip code code.
The other day when I went to get my hair cut, I finally lost it. I get my haircuts at a national chain. I don't want to mention them by name, so I'll just call them "Good Clippers." I've been going to this particular "Good Clippers" for about three years now. The first time I went there, they asked for my phone number. All of the eleventeen times I've been there since, they ask me my phone number as soon as I walk in the door. I tell them my number. They look at their screen and say "Andrew?" I then say, "No, my name is Joe." We've done this dance at least a dozen times. (Or eleventeen. Whichever is bigger.)
Finally, this time, I had had enough. "No, I'm not Andrew," I said sternly. "I've been coming here for three years, and every single time I do, you think my name is Andrew. Andrew hasn't had that phone number for at least three years. It would be very nice if you could take Andrew's name out of your computer, so that you don't call me Andrew the next time I come in. Do you think you can do that?" I had to try to maintain a bit of civility, remembering that one of these women would soon be holding sharp instruments very near to my head.

Yes, we can do that, the woman at the register said. She type-ity typed in her computer for a bit, then said she had removed Andrew's name from my phone number. Did she really remove Andrew's name? I'll find out for sure in a few weeks when I go back. If they call me Andrew again, I'll probably lose it and punch the wall or something. I'll hurt myself, and then I'll have to go to the doctor. And tell them what my birthday is.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I've Been Waiting....

Only at a doctor's office can you be treated so poorly in order to get treated to get better. It's a good thing for doctors that we need them, because if anyone else ran a business like a typical doctor's office, they wouldn't be in business for very long.

The other day I had to go to the doctor. I was having another flare-up of my gout, and I wanted to see if the doctor could help me get it under control. (Gout: I wouldn't recommend it. But, with age and weight numbers on the wrong side of young and skinny, coupled with a love of eating red meat and a genetic predisposition, I'm even a better candidate for gout than a child actor is for having future substance abuse problems.) (I'm talking to you, Lohan.)

So, I had a doctor's appointment at 3:30 PM. I got there at 3:25 on the odd chance that the planets had aligned and they might actually be ready for me early. (Fat chance.)

I was then handed a clipboard to fill out my medical history. Now, as I get older and more creaky, I go to the doctor with greater frequency. I have been to this particular doctor's office several times in the last two or three years. And yet, here I am filling out my medical history. Again. They say they need me to fill out my medical history again because they have a new computer system. I swear, offices change their computer systems more often than Walmart rearranges their aisles, because heaven forbid you could actually walk right to where the light bulbs are without having to map out a search grid!

So, I fill out my medical history yet again. No, I do not have a sexually transmitted disease. No, I do not have any allergies to any medications (although I am starting to develop a nervous twitch every time I have to fill out my medical history.) And no, no matter how many times you ask, I am NOT pregnant!

So, I finish up with the clipboard and wait. And wait. And wait. (They call it the "waiting room" for a reason.) Happily, they have some good magazines (actually from this century), so I lose myself in a Sports Illustrated article. I'm reading so intently that I wonder if they called my name and I didn't hear it. Nope. I'm still waiting.

Finally, they call me back at 4:10 PM. (I've been there for 45 minutes.) Every time I get called out of the waiting room I think, "Okay, now we're getting somewhere." And then I'm plunked down into the little examination room, and the waiting continues.

The little examination room is fun, isn't it? It's a magical land of cotton balls, Q-Tips, and colorful posters showing what your innards would look like if someone sliced you open. And whatever you do, don't touch the haz-mat receptacle full of used needles! (Death in a little plastic container!)

Of course, the centerpiece of the little exam room is the 3-foot long exam "bed," covered with a wide swath of wax paper. The message of the wax paper: You are stinky, filthy and full of germs, and as soon as you leave we're going to fumigate the room and throw away anything you touched. (We'd burn all the furniture as well, if it weren't for cost and safety concerns.)

So, I am now sitting on the exam "bed" with my feet dangling in the air. I can't lay down, because the "bed" is too short. There is no back support, so I'm slumping there with my shoulders all hunched. (Do they have a deal with the chiropractors? I mean, the chairs in the waiting room weren't exactly La-Z-Boys, but at least they had a little support.)

Is it a bed? Is it a chair? How do you get comfortable on this thing?
(And what if parts of my body touch the area that's not covered by the wax paper?)

In a fairly recent development, they now have magazines in the exam room. Unfortunately, there are only three magazines. They are: Parenting Magazine, People, and Martha Stewart Living. (I'm not a big fan of Martha Stewart, but at least she's not so ego driven that she feels the need to have a picture of herself on the cover of every single issue of her magazine.) (I'm talking to you, Winfrey!) None of the magazines are enticing enough to make me jump down from my wax paper perch and possibly twist my ankle (Why does the exam "bed" have to be so tall? It's a good thing I'm not afraid of heights.)

Finally, an hour after arriving at the office, the doctor made an appearance. And that's all it was: an appearance. The doctor was in the room for less than five minutes. I usually spend more time changing channels during the two minute warning of a football game than he spent in the room with me. He told me I needed to get blood work and an x-ray. And then he left. The vampire nurse then came in and took my blood. (To be fair, the vampire nurse was very nice. She was the only one in the entire building who apologized to me for how slow they were.) And then I was gone. But I wasn't done. I had to get an x-ray, and there is no x-ray machine at the doctor's office. So, I had to go to the hospital.

Things went smoother at the hospital than they did at the doctor's office. Mostly. Instead of giving me the clipboard to fill out my medical history, the woman at the admissions desk just asked me the pertinent questions. (And, thankfully, she did NOT ask if I was pregnant.) (I'm not, by the way.) But, the one question that really threw me was when she asked, "Do you have a living will?" I was there for an x-ray. I didn't think it was a life-or-death situation. (But then, I guess they do put that lead apron over you, so maybe it's more dangerous than I thought.)

By the time I finished up with the doctor's office and the hospital, I had spent the entire afternoon and much of the evening trying to figure out why my knee hurt. And, at the end of the day I didn't know any more than when I started. It was very frustrating.

It doesn't have to be that way. The very next day I had a dentist appointment. (I know, glutton for punishment.) When I got to the dentist office I was led to a chair in the waiting room. I sat there for literally less than one minute when they came and took me back to the exam room! There were no questions about my medical history, because they already knew it. Compared to the doctor's visit, the trip to the dentist was like a dream come true! (Except for the needles, drills, and sharp pointy things inside my mouth.) (And the drool.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Maybe Next Year

Recently, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title. (That’s basketball, for those of you who are sports impaired.) The Mavericks started playing basketball in the 1980-1981 season. They’ve been playing and trying for 30 years, and they have finally won their first championship. I’m happy for their fans. (The jerks!)

A few days later, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the award given to the NHL champion. (That’s hockey.) The last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup was after the 1971-1972 season. Die hard Bruin fans have waited 39 years for a championship. I’m happy for their fans. (The cretins!)

I can understand what those Bruins fans have gone through (except for the winning part.) It was sometime around 1971 or 1972 that I truly became a sports fan. That’s when I got a favorite team of my very own. (Because my brother made me.)

My brother is four years older than me. He knew everything about sports, and his favorite team was the Green Bay Packers. So, of course, my favorite team was the Green Bay Packers. Until my brother told me to get my own team. I was five and he was nine, and he was tired of me copying everything he did. So, I had to get a new team. A team of my own.

At the time, I had a shirt that was a non-descript sports jersey. It was a white shirt with the number “88” in red on the front and back. Apparently I liked the shirt, because when my brother told me I had to get a new team, I asked him, “Who is someone who wears the number 88?” My brother responded, “Alan Page.” I asked, “Who does he play for?” “The Minnesota Vikings.” So, I declared, “Well, then, that’s my favorite team.” And I’ve been stuck with them ever since.

(Looking back, I realize it could have been worse. My brother could have answered the “88” question with Charlie Sanders, and I would have been stuck with the Detroit Lions for all these years!)

It hasn’t been easy being a Vikings fan for the past four decades. They’ve almost always been good, but they’ve never been good enough. Every year starts with the promise that maybe this is the year they’ll finally win the championship. And every year ends with disappointment, and sometimes even heartache.

It was especially difficult being a Vikings fan as a kid in the 1970s. They were a great team, but they just couldn’t win it all. In a four year stretch they went to three Super Bowls. They lost all three. (Badly.) I learned at a young age how to accept losing. (A good skill to have, growing up as a nerd and a loser.)

The Vikings only made me cry twice. The first came in the 1973 season. The Vikings had started the season with nine straight wins, and they were playing on Monday Night Football. They were unbeaten, so I thought they were unbeatable. They lost to the Atlanta Falcons. (Really? The Falcons?) I was seven years old, and I cried. The second time I cried, I was eight years old and the Vikings lost the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I thought they would win. They didn’t. The Vikings have lost a lot of heartbreaking games since then, but I haven’t cried. (I’ve yelled, cursed, thrown things, and told their coach to do things that are anatomically impossible, but I haven’t shed any tears.)

So, as a Vikings fan I’ve had almost 40 years of futility watching the NFL. But, hey, there’s always basketball, right? Nope. I’m also a Utah Jazz fan. The Jazz are very similar to the Vikings: always good, but never quite good enough. (Plus they both wear hideous purple uniforms.)

Although they moved to Utah from New Orleans in 1979, it wasn’t until they surprised everyone with a division title in the 1983-84 season that the Jazz endeared themselves to the locals. Since then they’ve only had two losing seasons, if you define “losing season” as losing more games than they won. However, if you define “losing season” as not winning the championship, they’ve had nothing but.

Between the Vikings and Jazz, I’ve accumulated over 65 seasons of championship futility as a fan. (I don’t care enough about hockey to have a favorite team. And, I don’t follow baseball as closely as the NFL and NBA, but my favorite team is the Seattle Mariners.) (The Mariners are similar to the Vikings and Jazz, but without as much purple in their uniforms.)

So, every season, as the playoffs approach, once my team is eliminated (and they always are), I find myself rooting for the other teams that have had long championship droughts. I cheered for the Red Sox in 2004 and the White Sox the year after. I was happy for the Saints a couple of years ago, even though they beat my Vikings on the way to their championship. And I was happy for the Mavericks and the Bruins this year.

I feel genuine happiness for the fans of these franchises, because I know what it’s like to wait for years for a title. But then, I also feel a little disdain. Jealousy rears its ugly head, and I think, “why is it never my team?”

In the end, all I’m left with is “maybe next year.” That’s why I still watch. Now that I have an actual life, with a wife and kids and everything, I don’t have as much time to watch the games as I used to when I was single. But, I’ve got to keep watching. I’ve invested so many hours, so much heartbreak and disappointment, that I’ve got to be there to feel the joy and triumph when one of my teams actually, finally, inevitably wins it all. (It is inevitable, isn’t it?)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Ballad of the 40 Year-Old Virgin

If you’ve been following my blog for a while (and really, who hasn’t?) you may have noticed the title “40 Year Old Virgin, Father of Two.” And you may have thought, “Well, he’s talked about being a father, but what’s all this about the virgin thing?” Well, here you go:

You may be asking yourself, “How exactly does someone become a 40 year-old virgin?” Well, it’s pretty simple: don’t have sex until you are 40 years old.

I’m sure some of you are thinking: that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Some of you couldn’t make it past age 13. Some of you ducked under the bleachers or climbed into the back seat. Some of you got a hotel room for after the prom. Some of you experimented in college. (A lot of you experimented in college.) Some of you got drunk and didn’t know what happened. Some of you wanted to save yourself for marriage, but didn’t quite make it. Some of you wanted to save yourself for marriage, but then got so horny you ended up marrying someone who wasn’t right for you, just so you could have sex. And some of you saved yourself for marriage and actually married the right person. But, there is no way most of you could have made it to forty.

But for the 0.000001% of us that made it to forty, it probably wasn’t that difficult. I can’t speak for all of the 40 year-old virgins, but I know in my experience there were several factors working in my favor. (That’s “working in favor” of me maintaining my virginity. Or, “working against” me ever being able to have sex. Whichever way you want to look at it.) Here are some of those virgin factors:

1) I'm shy. If I’m in a large group of people, my preference would be to just blend in with the wall. My philosophy being if I don’t say anything in front of a bunch of people, then I won’t say anything stupid or embarrassing in front of a bunch of people. The bad part of this philosophy is that it’s hard to get noticed by women if you never do anything noticeable.

2) I'm not particularly attractive. If you are good looking enough, women will be attracted to you no matter what you do or say. (Or even what you don't do or say.) I am not that good looking. (I’m not particularly ugly, either. My thought is that if you were to gather 50 men at random, I would not be one of the ten most attractive, nor would I be one of the ten least attractive. I would be one of those 30 non-descript guys in the middle.)

C) I'm a nerd. How much of a nerd? Well, I have a large comic book collection, and I’ve been to more than one Star Trek convention. (You can go to one Star Trek convention and say you are just there to make fun of the nerds, but if you go to more than one convention, you’re not fooling anyone.) And, did I mention that I didn’t have sex until I was 40? (‘Nuff said.)

4) I'm socially inept. Over the years there were times when, despite the overwhelming odds against it, women were actually attracted to me. Only I was too dense (stupid) to notice until days, months, or even years later. (Once, in high school, a girl I kinda liked actually asked me out. I couldn’t go with her because of a scheduling conflict with a family vacation. But, it wasn’t until years later that it dawned on me that she probably liked me, and the smart thing for me to do when I got back from the family trip would be to ask her out. I didn’t. I’m an idiot.)

5) I'm a Mormon. Mormons are taught, at a very young age, that having sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage is one of the absolute worst sins you can commit. (Just behind murder for seriousness.) Add that to all the other virgin factors listed above, and I was figuratively scared to death of girls. (Not literally, or I would actually be dead.)

6) I'm from a small town. I’m from rural Southeast Idaho. (As opposed to metropolitan, urban Southeast Idaho.) The town I’m from, Arimo, has a population of about 300 people. There was literally one girl my age in the whole town. (Yes, literally.) They had to bus five towns together to get enough kids to make up a high school. At least 80% of the high school population was also Mormon, so all those girls were taught the same “pre-marital sex is sin” lessons that I was. So, many of them were as afraid of me as I was of them. (The “sex as sin” lessons didn’t scare everyone, though. Teenage pregnancies still existed in rural, Mormon, Southeast Idaho, even before it was glorified by MTV.)

[Note: On the serious side, even though it seems I’m making light of it, I do strongly believe that there shouldn’t be sex outside of marriage. A lot of the world’s problems would be solved if everyone followed that simple rule, such as teen pregnancies, abortion, marital infidelity, and high taxes. (I’m not sure how the high taxes would be helped, but I’m going to go with it, anyway.)]

7) I'm a child of divorce. While we’re on a bit of a serious topic, here’s this one. My parents got divorced when I was 19 years old. They had been married for 26 years. They raised their three kids, and as soon as they had them out the door, they decided they had had enough. The three months I was home after my freshman year in college, as my parents’ marriage was in its death throes, were the worst months of my life. The fighting and the yelling was constant and horrible. And I decided then and there that I would rather be single than ever have a relationship like that.

8) I'm indecisive (I think.) When I asked my wife and her sister what they thought some of my virgin factors were, they said one of them was that I am indecisive. I thought about adding that to the list, then decided against it. But then I changed my mind and thought maybe it does belong on the list. I’m just not sure.

9) I'm overly cautious. I don’t like to get hurt. I don’t want to get hurt. So, I avoid situations where I might get hurt. Was I slower learning how to ride a bike than everyone else? Yes. Did I learn how to swim at an early age? No. (I still don’t know how to swim. One of the benefits of being 6’ 2” is that I can handle being in a pool up to the six-foot depth.) Skydiving? Umm, no. So, where dating was concerned, I was so afraid of getting dumped by a girl that I never put myself in a position where I could get dumped.

10) At a certain age, it's hard to meet women. Once you get past 25 or 27 or so, it’s hard to meet single, available women. And so, most of my dates after that age came about via blind dates. If you’ve ever been on a blind date, you know just how scary that prospect can be. (Although, to be honest, on most of the blind dates I went out on, I was the scary one, based on virgin factors 1-9 listed above.)

So, there you have it, my top ten Virgin Factors. (I’m sure there are more reasons, but I’m going to leave it at these ten for right now.) Looking at this list, you can see just how easy it was for me to stay a virgin until I was 40. I had no prospects and no hope for a relationship. I had settled into what I thought my lifetime role was as the weird, hermit uncle. It is nothing short of miraculous that I ever found a woman willing to actually be with me, despite all my shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. Yes, my wife, Amber is a miracle to me. If we were Catholic, her finding and putting up with me would be a miracle worthy of nominating her for sainthood. Luckily, as Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), she already is a saint. I’m a lucky man. (Maybe even the luckiest!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Joe Fix-It Strikes (Out) Again

The stereotypical cliché is that the helpless woman marries the man so that he can take care of the house and fix all the things that break and need fixing. I’m sure this is the case with some people, or it wouldn’t be the stereotype. I am not one of those people.

Some guys are “Joe Fix-It.” I’m “Joe Ignore-It-And-Hope-It-Gets-Better-On-Its-Own.” It never does. Then I switch to “Joe Stand-There-While-The-Wife-Fixes-It” mode. I’m very good at being “Joe Stand-There-While-The-Wife-Fixes-It.” Sometimes you just have to find your niche and go with it.

I may not be "Joe Fix-It," but I do know the difference between a crescent wrench and a Croissan'wich.
(I would prefer a Croissan'wich.)
Case in point: A while back, I got out of the shower and noticed the faucet was dripping pretty badly. My immediate reaction? I must not have turned the shower off far enough, so I crank down on the knob as hard as I can. The drip gets worse. My next reaction? Like Tim “Tool Time” Taylor from "Home Improvement," I decide to go with “more power.” I crank down even harder on the knob. Of course, this only makes the drip worse yet again.

My next course of action? Reboot. (Hey, it works sometimes with the computer.) I turn the shower back on, then turn it off again. Since the faucet doesn’t run on any Microsoft systems, this strategy fails miserably.

Now I have nothing left in my arsenal except ignore-it-and-hope-it-gets-better-on-its-own. It’s a tried and true strategy that I’ve employed for years. And, surprisingly, it’s actually worked a few times, most notably with engines that have overheated or are flooded. But, I don’t think the “Ignore it” strategy has ever worked with a leaky faucet. That doesn’t stop me. I’m going to give it a try.

So, I went back to my daily grind of watching the kids and whatnot, and didn’t give any more concern to the faucet. Then The Wife came home from work at school (she’s a teacher), and went to the bathroom. Any thoughts about the faucet had completely left my mind (I’m good at “Ignore” mode) until the moment she yelled, “Joe!” I always hate it when reality strikes and I’m shaken out of “Ignore” mode.

(And to be clear, when The Wife yelled, “Joe!” it wasn’t a yell of “Joe, what did you do to the faucet!” It was more a yell of, “Joe, do you know anything about this faucet that is leaking?”)

What was The Wife’s first reaction to the leaky faucet? “Where are the tools?” The thought of using tools to fix the faucet hadn’t even occurred to me. (I am an idiot.) And soon enough I had reverted to my role as a 14 year-old on the farm: I was the tool gopher. Except that now instead of going for tools for my Dad, I was going for tools for my Wife.

Soon enough, she had the thing taken apart and the problem diagnosed. We needed a new shower handle knob. (My cranking down on it had, of course, made the problem worse.) So, we stopped at the hardware store to get a new one. (Ironically, The Wife likes to have me with her at the hardware store, because if she is by herself they treat her too condescendingly.) Before the evening was out, the faucet was fixed. (For good measure, while she was in the area, The Wife decided to change the shower head, too.) (Just because.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Am Goofy! (Or Possibly Celine Dion)

I'm Goofy.

I know that I'm goofy, and everyone that knows me knows that I'm goofy. Especially my daughter. (This is a good thing, because she loooooves Goofy.)

We took the kids to Disneyland in February. We went in February because The Girl was about a month away from turning three years old, and kids get in free at Disneyland if they are under three. Using this as a reason to go to Disneyland means we are:
a) smart
b) frugal
c) cheapskates
4) looking for any reason to go to Disneyland
e) any or all of the above.

She was very excited to see where Goofy lives. Why does she like Goofy so much? Probably because of me. As a big, clumsy doofus, Goofy is the obvious choice for me to identify with. Whenever I do something that showcases my clumsiness in front of The Girl (which is more often than you might think), I tell her, "Daddy is clumsy. He's almost as clumsy as Goofy."

That is a very Goofy man! (And hey, isn't that poo on that building behind me?)

In my record collection I have an album from the 70s that has disco songs about and by the Disney characters. I put the song "Watch Out for Goofy," which is about how clumsy Goofy is on the dance floor, into heavy rotation in The Girl's night-night music. She loves it.

And then, there's the voice. Now, I'm no Rich Little/Frank Caliendo/Scott Bakula, but if I do say so myself (and I'm about to), I do a pretty good Goofy impersonation. Unfortunately, it's a limited impersonation. I can do the Goofy laugh ("Uh-huh-huh-huh,") and the words "Sorry" and "Gosh." (The key to a good Goofy "gosh" is to pronounce it "gawrsh.")

The bad thing about being so good with the Goofy voice is that The Girl requests it ALL the time. When she says, "You're Goofy," she's not commenting on my mental or physical nature, she's ordering, "Daddy, do the Goofy voice again!"

In that regard, I feel an awful lot like Celine Dion. Celine Dion, you ask? Well, no, I'm not French, or Canadian, or French-Canadian. I'm not skinny, can't hit the high notes, and I've never performed in Vegas (although my wife has). I've never been called a chanteuse. (Or a chantuer.) (I know, "chantuer" isn't a word, but if a male masseuse is a masseur, shouldn't a male chanteuse be a "chanteur?")

Wait, so why am I like Celine Dion? Well, aside from the fact that I've taken to randomly whacking myself in the chest while I'm singing, I'm like her because we both have to endure constant requests to perform the same thing over and over and over and over again. You know she is constantly getting requests from people to sing "that Titanic song." She's had other hits, but "My Heart Will Go On" is the only thing she ever hears about.

The Girl is constantly demanding I be Goofy. It wouldn't be so bad if my range weren't so limited. But, if I try to stray much beyond the "Gawrsh" while doing the Goofy voice, I end up sounding like a cross between Mater from the "Cars" movies and Elvis Presley. It's pretty pathetic to hear, but she doesn't know any better, and she still loves it. And that's why I still do the Goofy voice: it makes her happy.

On our first morning at Disneyland, as we got through the gate, Goofy was right there near the entrance. It was almost like he was there waiting just for her. She got to hug Goofy and pose for pictures with him. It was the happiest moment of her life! ,,,Until she got on the carousel. Then the Dumbo ride. Then met Cinderella. Then had an ice cream. That's the great thing about being around a three year old: EVERY moment has the potential to be the happiest moment of her life!

The Girl getting her first hug from Goofy! (You should see the smile on her face!)

And if I can bring about that next "happiest" moment by trying to laugh like her favorite cartoon character, then by gawrsh, I'm going to do it!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Before I Became a Dad....

  • Before I became a dad, I never sniffed anyone else's butt in public. (Or in private, for that matter.)
  • Before I became a dad, I used to think shows like "The Simpsons" and "Malcolm In the Middle" were funny. Not so much now, because I don't want my kids to get any ideas from them.
  • Before I became a dad, I never thought of a stairway as the Scary Jagged Incline of Pain and Terror.
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew I could get so much enjoyment from a simple game of "Peekaboo."
  • Before I became a dad, I never carried around a bag filled with items specifically designed to take care of the situation if someone were to poop their pants.
  • Before I became a dad, I used to think shows like "Friends" and "How I Met Your Mother" were funny. Not so much now, too much promiscuity. (Where's "Little House On the Prarie" when you need it? Heck, at this point I might even sit through that snorefest "The Waltons!"*) (*I think that might be the first time "The Waltons" has ever been followed by an exclamation point.) (Good night, John Boy, indeed.)
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew car seats were so hard to install.
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew the Dumbo ride at Disneyland could be so much fun.
  • Before I became a dad, I never fed anyone else with a spoon, or used a spoon to scoop up the food that didn't make it into the mouth the first time and tried to shove it back in again.
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew there were such things as a "left" sock and a "right" sock. (Apparently, sometimes girls socks need to go on specific feet in order for the bow to be on the correct side. Who knew?) (Not me.)
  • Before I became a dad, I never uttered the phrase, "First go into the bathroom, then take off your pants."
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew Dora the Explorer could find anything with just a little help from Boots the Monkey, her Backpack, and some random friend who speaks only Spanish.
  • Before I became a dad, I never had much interest in anyone else's bowel movements.
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew the names of every single Disney princess. (Or the entire lyrics to the "Bibbidi-Bobbid-Boo" song.)
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew nap time was such a wonderful thing! (Okay, I did kinda know this one.)
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew I could move so fast when someone uttered the simple phrase, "I gotta go potty." (If I could channel that speed into some sort of race, I just might make the Olympic team.)
  • Before I became a dad, I did know that spaghetti should not be used for styling someone's hair. I just never met anyone crazy enough to try it.
  • Before I became a dad, I never worried about every little crumb on the floor possibly going into someone's mouth.
  • (The Wife suggested: Before I became a dad, I never said the word "poop" more than four times a day. Obviously, she doesn't know me as well as she thinks she does. (Poop is a funny word.))
  • Before I became a dad, I never tried to fold a stroller. (It's not as easy as it looks.)
  • Before I became a dad, I never got so excited when someone pulled himself up to standing.
  • Before I became a dad, I had never heard of a "breastsicle." (Frozen breast milk.)
  • Before I became a dad, I had never eaten that many raisins and Cheerios in church.
  • Before I became a dad, I never worried about the pain and suffering I might cause to my children by passing on to them my love of the Minnesota Vikings.
  • Before I became a dad, I never worried so much about anyone pooping in the tub.
  • Before I became a dad, I never thought I'd eat any food that someone else had already slobbered on. (Why does she have to take one bite out of every chicken nugget? Can't she just eat two whole nuggets and leave the rest slobber-free for me?)
  • Before I became a dad, I never read the same book, from cover to cover, 23 times in the same day.
  • Before I became a dad, I never picked anyone else's nose. (The old saying goes: "You can pick your nose. You can pick your friends. But you can't pick your friend's nose." It make no mention of your children's noses.)
  • Before I became a dad, I never knew I could love two little people soooo much!!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Disneyland: Getting There Is One-Eighth the Fun

I'm going to Disneyland!

That's what I was saying a couple of weeks ago. "I'm going to Disneyland!" Sounds like fun, doesn't it? It was. But that doesn't mean it was easy. Taking a vacation can be hard work.

The week before the trip was full of a lot of prep time. There was shopping and packing and laundry and more packing. (Here's a laundry tip: Before washing the children's clothes, make sure there are no diapers or Pull-Ups mixed in with the clothes. Not fun.)

The Wife's parents, Grammy and PopPop, were going on the trip with us, which was great because when wrangling two kids, the more adults the better. They met us at a little after 5:00 AM on Friday morning to drive down in tandem with us. Unfortunately, that morning Grammy discovered that the hotel reservations they thought they had did not, in fact exist. It didn't matter at that point, because they were coming hell or high water. (And it turns out there was actually some high water.)

We took off and drove to our first stop, St. George, Utah for some fuel. And some caffeine. (Between my weird work schedule and getting ready for the trip, I had gotten less than four hours of sleep the previous two nights.) My caffeine of choice is Mountain Dew Live Wire, an orange-flavored soda. Unfortunately, it is a limited flavor that I can only find in southern Utah. So I loaded up. (And while in St. George, Grammy was frantically on the phone and was able to get reservations at a hotel a half a mile away from ours.)

The next stop was Las Vegas. Except we didn't stop there. I'm not a "Vegas" guy. I don't like to gamble. I get as much entertainment out of flinging change at random strangers as I do shoving it into a slot machine. So, we saw no need to stop in Vegas.

The thing that interested me most about Vegas (besides the large, gold-plated buildings) was the billboards. There were a lot of billboards, and they were mostly divided into two categories: sleazy strip club/casinos or sleazy personal injury lawyers. And while it's true the sleazy strip club ads showed more skin and cleavage, it doesn't mean that the lawyers were any less sleazy. Who knew they needed that many personal injury lawyers in Vegas? Maybe they're working together. People stare at the strip club billboards, get in wrecks, and need to call the personal injury lawyers. (It's possible.)

And why is it personal injury lawyers feel the need to have rhyming slogans? Here in Utah we have "One call, that's all." The one from Vegas was, "Enough said, call Ed." I guess I answered my own question: the rhyming ones are the ones I remember.

Anyway, I was able to keep my eyes on the road just enough and made it through Vegas without the need to call Ed.

We decided we could make it all the way to Barstow, California before we needed to stop for fuel and food again. The freeway between Vegas and Barstow is a bit troubling. It is mostly two lanes and sagebrush. And there is a lot of traffic. I cannot for the life of me understand why they don't make it three lanes. (I guess we have to score one in the victory column for the Sagebrush Presevation Society.)

The only real town between the California border and Barstow is Baker. Baker promotes itself as the gateway to Death Valley. It gets hot in the summer. Now, our van does not have a GPS, so it had no way of knowing where we were. But, I kid you not, the air-conditioner automatically turned on as soon as we hit Baker city limits, even though it was the middle of February. Somehow it knew.

The road between Baker and Barstow is the location for some kind of temporal disturbance. How else to explain how traveling a distance of 60 miles at 80 miles per hour can seemingly take two and a half hours? (I've seen enough Star Trek to know a temporal disturbance when I see one.)

As if the road between Baker and Barstow wasn't bad enough, ten miles out of Barstow the good people of California have put up a Fruit Inspection stop. They force all cars to pull over and inspect any fruit you might be bringing with you to California. At least, that's what they do in theory. They had the road down to two lanes. In one lane they were letting everybody through without stopping them. Of course, this was not the lane I was in. Most of the cars in my lane were getting through without getting stopped, too. Except, of course, for me.

I pulled up and they asked if I had any fruit in the car. I said yes. So, I had to stop, go around to the back of the van, find the fruit and show it to him. He "inspected" it for about half a second, then sent me on my way. Grammy and PopPop, in the vehicle directly behind me, had the same problem. Except that when Grammy went to the back of her vehicle to retreive her fruit, it was buried behind all of their suitcases. Upon seeing this, the "inspector" decided it was too much hassle and sent her on her way. So, obviously, their inspections must not be too serious. Why bother at all?

I guess it could have been worse. It could have been a Fruit of the Loom inspection stop.

We finally arrived in Barstow and stopped for lunch at McDonald's. Next door to McDonald's was a place called Tom's which featured on its sign a cartoon of a Mayor McCheese-like hamburger headed man, except the only thing this burger man was wearing was a snug Speedo swimsuit. There's something to be said for the comfort of McDonald's.

While in Barstow, it was warm and sunny. More than one person in our party commented on how absurd the forecast for rain in Anaheim seemed. We laughed at the possibility of rain. (You can see where this is going, can't you?)

We then needed to fuel up, but couldn't immediately see a Chevron. (My wife and her family will only fuel up at Chevron stations. They belong to the Cult of Techron.) So, Grammy said she would find one using her GPS. I was to follow her. She immediately made a left turn and had us heading back north on the freeway. Luckily we were able to get off and turn around before making it back to the Fruit Inspection station. Meanwhile, we found where the Barstow Swap Meet and drive-in theater are, information that could come in handy, well, never.

We finally found a Chevron, fueled up, and made our way to Anaheim. And hey, there's nothing like driving on an unknown freeway in a big city during rush hour in a heavy downpour of rain. (Sunny in Barstow and rainy in Anaheim! Who'd a thunk it?)

We made it! We found our hotels, checked in, and got ready to attack Disneyland in the morning. The only thing left to do was find the guy who sang that song "It Never Rains In California" and go punch him in the face.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sharp Dressed Man?

As the song says, "Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man." And yet, The Wife married me anyway. (Just one more reason why I am very lucky. Possibly even the luckiest.)

Don't get me wrong, I've got style. It's just not good style. And what little style I do have is from around 1985.

Have you ever noticed how a lot of people (espcially guys) lock into what was "cool" in their youth, and get stuck in that style for the rest of their lives? You'll still see some guys sporting the Miami Vice jacket-over-t-shirt, no socks look. Or women at the gym wearing Flashdance-era leg wamers.

Sometimes, people get locked in to styles that were never cool. There is a truck driver I see occasionally at work who is still sporting the John Denver look, with the straight bowl haircut and the round little glasses. I have to suppress a laugh whenever I see him, and usually end up singing Thank God I'm a Country Boy for the rest of the day.

Me, I'm stuck in 1985. That was the year I left home for two years to be a Mormon missionary. Mormon missionaries usually leave home with two sturdy, dull, bland suits, and three or four dull, bland ties. When I got there I found that one of the popular activities for missionaries on their one day off a week would be to go to thrift stores to try to find good-looking used suits and stylish ties. (When you wear a suit and tie every day, it's nice to have a little bit of choice.)

What everyone was looking for were zoot suits with narrow lapels, and pants with pleats and cuffs. And the ties needed to be skinny. The skinnier the better. That's what was cool when I was 19 years old. So that's what I still think looks good. Much to The Wife's dismay.

Now that is a sharp-dressed man!

She doesn't like my skinny ties. She thinks they look silly. Over the years I've gotten rid of most of them, but I kept four or five of my favorites. Last summer when The Wife was off visiting her sister, I wore one of my skinny ties to church. And nobody openly mocked me. At least not to my face. (I'm sure the snickering was for some other reason.)

I try to tell her that skinny ties are coming back into fashion. I tell her that the guy on the television program Bones wears skinny ties. She replies that if I were as good looking as the guy from Bones, I could get away with wearing skinny ties, too.

The Wife also thinks my pants with the pleats in the front make me look fat. I disagree. I think it's my fat in the front that makes me look fat.

But, The Wife is a lot more tolerant than most women would be. Back when I was single I bought a green suit. I think it's a pretty good looking suit, so it probably isn't. But it's green. Very, very green. (And if even I think it's too green, you can be sure that it is way too green.) I wore the green suit, even though my Aunt Maxie strongly warned against it, back when The Wife was still just The Girlfriend. And yet, she still married me anyway.

She may not like my "style," but she lets me wear whatever I want, with only an occasional eye roll or exasperated sigh. She's wonderful.

She's also lucky, because it could have been worse. I could have gotten locked into the tight-white-suit John Travolta look. Or the dirty sixties hippy look. Or the MC Hammer shiny baggy pants look. Or that silly John Denver look. Thank God I'm not that country boy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shields Up!

I always wondered on Star Trek why they had to keep saying, "Shields up." Shouldn't the shields always be up? I mean, they're traveling through the unknowns of space, never knowing when a Klingon might de-cloak, a nefarious nebula might appear out of nowhere, or some robe-wearing near-omnipotent species might decide to toy with them. Shouldn't they expect the unexpected and always be prepared by having their shields up?

Why am I thinking about this? Because I let my shields down. Twice. Each of the last two nights I've taken a crippling shot to the groin from my two-year-old daughter, once from her knee and once from her big toy microphone.

I thought I had my shields up. I've been around kids long enough, both as a father and as an uncle, to know that when kids are climbing around I need to keep that certain area guarded. Especially when they are using me as a jungle gym.

But, it doesn't matter how guarded you think you are, they are going to get a shot or two past the defenses. It's like they have superhuman speed like The Flash, Superman, Quicksilver, or Dash from The Incredibles. Or something.

Given time, one of those feet will connect with that crotch to inflict pain, unless the shields are up.

And it's not just the speed. It's the targeting. I think they know the exact spot that will cause the most damage. It's like that climactic scene from the first Star Wars movie. (You know, the first movie that is really the fourth movie, even though they made it first, not fourth.) Anyway, the movie where Luke Skywalker has to use the Force to shoot his shot in the one tiny little place in order to blow up the Death Star. It's like these kids use the Force to find the one spot that will inflict the most crotchatic pain.

The other night The Girl's knee struck with a speed and precision that I thought were a once in a lifetime shot. Until the next night, when the toy microphone struck just as quickly and just as precisely.

Now, my guard is constantly up. I'm expecting crotch shots at every instant. The Girl is halfway across the room, but if she were to move, I'd flinch. This is no way to live. I can't walk around the rest of my life with one hand covering my private parts. People would talk. (And they wouldn't be saying nice things.)

I guess that's why the Enterprise roamed the stars without their shields up. Yes, it's good to be on alert, but you still have to live your life. It's impossible to be on full prevent mode all of the time. I just have to try to put what's happened behind me and move forward from here.

But, the next time she climbs onto my lap to have me read her a book, you can be sure that the Nard Guard will be on full alert.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eating "Brinner" with a "Spork"

The best thing about the English language is that it is constantly growing and changing. If you want to, you can make up a new word. If enough people like it and use it, it will actually become a new word, in the dictionary and everything. Awesome!

The worst thing about the English language is that it is constantly growing and changing. Any idiot can spout some nonsense gibberish, pretend it is a word, and if enough other idiots agree, it actually will become a word. Ridiculous!

(I'm guilty myself. In my last post I "created" the word undressedness. I don't think it is going to catch on. I am an idiot.)

What got me thinking about this is a constant barrage of Subway Sandwich commercials on the radio. They continually claim that their sandwiches are freshtastic. Freshtastic is not a word. It sounds kind of stupid to me. If the sandwiches are fresh and fantastic, just say so, don't try to make up a new word, because I'm not buying it.

This got me thinking about some of the other "words" that people have tried to create by smashing two words together. Some have been successful, some haven't. One of the best and most accepted "smashed" words is brunch. Everyone knows that brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch. And most people like brunch. (Anything that has the possibility of bacon is going to be well received by the general populace.)

The television show Scrubs introduced me to the similar word brinner, which is when you have breakfast food for dinner. And again, anything that encourages my consumption of french toast and syrup gets my full approval.

This brings me to spork, which leaves me somewhat torn. I like the word spork. It is fun to say. I like the concept of the spork, combining the best features of a spoon and a fork. But, in practice, the spork doesn't really work. The fork tines of the spork are just not long enough to actually do much good. It ends up simply being a spoon with a jagged edge. Nice try.

A homemade Spork! (Don't worry, it works about as well as the ones they give you at KFC.)

There are some "smashed" words that I have nothing but pure contempt for. Whenever anyone refers to the largest city in Georgia as Hotlanta, I literally want to punch them in the face. I don't know why it bothers me so much, but it does. (I get angry just typing it: Hotlanta. I better walk away and cool down for a minute.)

(Okay, I'm back.) Similarly, I will never, never, never, never buy a truck during a sales promotion referred to as Trucktober. True, I've never bought a truck and probably never will (at this point I'm more of a mini-van kind of guy), but that doesn't mean I can't hold grudges against dealerships with Trucktober promotions.

Oddly enough, despite my disdain for Trucktober, I'm okay with the similar sounding Rocktober. I'm not sure why. Maybe I just like the rock and roll music so much that anything that promotes it is all right with me. (Because, as rock and roll legend Bryan Adams once sang, "everywhere you go, kids wanna rock!")

[Note: My editors have just informed me that Bryan Adams is not a "rock and roll legend." Rather he is, in fact, a "Canadian pop singer." Sorry for the confusion.]

Pillsbury is trying to make funfetti into a word by marketing cake and frosting with little bits of candy sprinkles (funfetti) mixed in. And once again, because it involves tasty sweet food, I'm inclined to like it.

The word "fantastic" is a popular base for "smashed" words. Besides Subway's freshtastic, there are funtastic, and craptastic, among others. And then there is fantabulous, which uses the other end of fantastic. I'm fine with all of these because I don't think any of them were created for an ad campaign. (I'm not quite as fond of scrumpdillyicious. It's trying a little too hard.)

Things might be getting a little out of control. I recently heard a snow storm referred to as a snowpocalypse. (It wasn't. Most everyone survived.)

My favorite "smashed" word, though, was something that was made up specifically for The Wife and I. When we were dating and engaged, we were very, very happy; both of us walking around with goofy grins on our faces most of the time. We were also very sappy, with lots of public displays of affection; a general sap level so sweet that even Aunt Jemima wouldn't dare bottle it. So, they started calling us shappy. And it fit perfectly, because we were shappy!

We're not as shappy anymore. We're still very happy, but four years of marriage, two kids, dirty diapers, potty-training accidents, and general lack of sleep have sapped most of the sap out of our shappiness. It's okay, though. The kids have pushed the happiness up to levels I never thought it could reach. And, every once in a while we'll tap into a vein of sap and be even shappier than we ever were before. (I get shappy just thinking about it!)

Okay, now it's your turn. Are there any "smashed" words that drive you crazy or that you really like? Let's get some comments going. Thanks!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Law of Roommate Undressedness

I am not allowed to walk around the house in my underwear. (This is probably a good thing.) The Wife, on the other hand, is allowed to stroll through the home in her underwear without any repercussions. Double standard? Not really. It's just the Law of Roommate Undressedness.

You see, what I have going against me is the fact that The Wife's sister, Kimmie, lives in our basement apartment. The basement has its own door, but it's not always accessible in the winter. Plus, the apartment isn't totally separate: we share the washer/dryer area and the downstairs family room with her. So, basically, she is our roommate, and it is perfectly feasible for her to be walking around in our house at any time of the day or night. And thus, no moseying about in my scivvies for me.

Conversely, according to the Law of Roommate Undressedness, the same is true for Kimmie. She can't wander around in her underwear either, because she would never know when I might be lurking about. (Honestly, I don't lurk.) (At least not on purpose.)

The Wife, however, is immune to all of this. As my wife and Kimmie's sister, she is free to roam about in her underwear willy-nilly. (And she occasionally does.)

Of course, if it were my brother living in the basement, the tables would be turned. The Wife would be stuck in her pajamas and/or sweats, while I would be free to prance around in my underwear. (Well, maybe not prance.)

The Law of Roommate Undressedness is a bit more vague when the roommate is an opposite gender sibling. It all depends on comfortableness level and age. Right now, my daughter and son take baths together, but that will only last for another year or two. At what age should opposite gender siblings not see each other in their underwear? 5? 8? 12? 16?

Personally, although I would be more comfortable in my underwear around my sister than around almost any other woman, if she lived in our basement I would still clothe myself before walking around. (You're safe, Lynette.)

Of course, most roommates are not siblings. In theses cases the Law of Roommate Undressedness depends almost completely on comfortableness level. How comfortable are you around that person in your underwear?

I think, in general, women are more likely to walk around in their undies around other women than men are around other men. In my personal experience with roommates in college, underwear was rarely seen, with the occasional exception of emergency dashes to the bathroom.

Women, on the other hand, like prancing around wearing nothing but their bras and panties with their female roommates. Or at least that's what I've learned from movies like Animal House. (Animal House was based on a true story, wasn't it?)

(Truthfully, like most other things about women, I have absolutely no clue what exactly it is they do, or why they do it.)

[Disclaimer: As discussed here, the Law of Roommate Undressedness applies only to heterosexual roommates. (I am not going to be responsible for setting dress codes for homosexual roommates.)]

So, that's about all I have to say about the Law of Roommate Undressedness. I guess I'll just sit here with my clothes on for the rest of the day. (Unless Kimmie has gone away for the weekend again. If so, let the prancing begin!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pooh Happens

I am a man in my mid-forties. I've lived a lot of years, had a lot of experiences, and reached a certain level of maturity. Or so you would think. You see, there are times when I am no more mature than a 10 year-old boy. Case in point: whenever I see the character Winnie the Pooh, I can not stop myself from making poo jokes.

I blame Oprah. (Wait. This is one of the few societal problems that is not Oprah's fault.) I blame A. A. Milne. Who names a character in a children's book "Pooh?" I think even back in the 1920s poo and poop were synonymous. And I don't care how much you dress it up by adding an "h" on the end, pooh is poo. Rumor* has it that Milne's alternate name for the character was "Winnie the Crappe." (*I like to star rumors.)

Anyway, by naming his bear "Pooh," Milne has left me no choice but to make poo jokes. Oh, they aren't funny jokes, but I feel compelled to make them nonetheless. As an example, I had some friends who had a set of Winnie the Pooh drinking glasses. Anytime they got the glasses out I would feel forced to say, "Hey, there's Pooh on this glass!" Like I said, not funny, but I just couldn't help myself.

The Wife knew about this Pooh compulsion early on in our relationship. (And yet she married me anyway. She's a saint!) Because she knew about this, when we started to have kids she went out of her way to avoid any and all Winnie the Pooh clothing and merchandise. She didn't want our kids to have them, because she didn't want to listen to my lame jokes. Avoiding the Pooh is not as easy as it sounds. There is Pooh everywhere! The Wife's Pooh ban didn't include Pooh's friends, just Pooh. So, we happily have a couple of stuffed Tigger dolls. And I've always been partial to Eeyore. (People say he reminds them of me.)
Look out, Eeyore! There's Pooh on that shirt!!!
But, despite her best efforts, The Wife couldn't stop the flow of Pooh. Pooh is everywhere, because the people pushing the Pooh are brilliant and relentless. Almost everywhere you look, there is Pooh. Pooh is unavoidable. Pooh happens. And so, a couple of Pooh books made it through The Wife's embargo. And then someone who didn't know about my Pooh joke obsession gave The Girl a little stuffed Winnie the Pooh.

At first, I tried to fight it. I tried referring to that little stuffed animal only as "Winnie." But, before long I was saying things like "There's some Pooh on the floor over there," and "That toy box has some Pooh in it." I just couldn't help myself.

And then, it happened. The ultimate Pooh joke, and it didn't come from me. It came from my cute, innocent, little almost-three-year-old Girl. The Girl and her Auntie K were on the floor playing with toys, while I was in the kichen doing some dishes. Before anyone knew what was happening, The Girl had grabbed her stuffed Winnie the Pooh and was holding it against Auntie K's backside. And then The Girl said, "I'm putting Pooh up your bum."

"I'm putting Pooh up your bum."

Needless to say (although I'm going to say it anyway) I thought this was the funniest thing I had ever heard! (So did Auntie K and The Wife.) I don't think The Girl knew what she was saying. But, maybe she did. Maybe she's the funniest kid on the planet. Or maybe it's hereditary. Maybe, because she's made from my genetic material, she's destined to spend her entire life telling really lame Pooh jokes. If so, heaven help us all. (The pooh will really hit the fan.)