Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What Happened to “F-Troop”?

Okay, now for something completely unrelated to my life, but this has been bothering me for quite some time, and every time I think about it, I’m confused with today’s line-up of classic television shows: What happened to “F-Troop”? As far as sit-coms go, it’s a prime candidate for that sort of filler TV Land would love in their time slots.

What is “F-Troop”? Alright, if you’re asking this, just click somewhere else. That’s right, move on; I don’t think I want to share company with someone who can’t appreciate “F-Troop” for all that it had to offer America in 1965, after all, the show was so advanced as far as sitcom’s go that it changed our idea of what a sitcom should be. But what was it about? Well, this Civil War “hero” accidentally wins a battle against insurmountable odds by a sneeze… well, just listen to the theme song for the back story:

The end of the Civil War was near
When quite accidentally,
A hero who sneezed, abruptly seized
Retreat and reversed it to victory.

His medal of honor pleased and thrilled

His proud little family group.
While pinning it on, some blood was spilled,
And so it was planned he command...F-Troop!

Where Indian fights are colorful sights, and nobody takes a lickin',

When paleface and redskin both turn chicken.
When drilling and fighting get them down,

They know their morale can't droop.
As long as they all relax in town
Before they resume, with a bang and a boom...F-Troop!

Isn’t that a great synopsis for a television show? So what happened? Why is it that I haven’t seen an episode of “F-Troop” in nearly 10 years. “F-Troop” shot 66 episodes and the show was on for only two years, being canceled in 1967. Interestingly enough, the first year was in black-and-white and the second in color (as that should show you how transitional that time period was), but it wasn’t successful enough to make for a long-standing sitcom. There’s a simple answer for this. The comedy that is “F-Troop” was too advanced for its time (I think I said this before); and we can blame something dear to my heart: satire.

Discover the irony of the show: Becoming a hero by accidentally leading a cavalry charge the wrong way, Lieutenant Wilton Parmenter is given command of Fort Courage, yet he commands a bunch of cowards, who can’t even fire a cannon without knocking over the lookout tower (always my favorite). The Fort's crafty Sgt. O'Rourke has a deal with the local Hekawi Indians to market their wares to the tourists, but what tourists are in the old west? They must sometimes pretend to be enemies, and incidentally the Hekawi tribe supposedly derived their name when the tribe became lost, exclaiming “Where the heck are we?” which then became “We're the Hekawi.” Remember Wrangler Jane Thrift, named because she wrangled horses and sold goods at the general store, and how she was always out to marry Parmenter, yet he refused, even reluctantly? Seems unlikely (as she was the only woman within 100 miles), and remember the famous line, “Not in front of the men?” Played by aptly named Melody Patterson, did you notice that in the first season Parmenter never returned the affection, never kissed her back and never made any advances at all? Why? “Not in front of the men” was written into the show because, right before they started shooting, she revealed that she was not yet 18. The following season, she had turned 18 and Parmenter upped the affection.

Anyway, back to satire in the 1960.

In 1965, satirical comedy was nearly unheard of. People turned on the television to watch wholesome family-oriented shows like “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Mister Ed,” “Bewitched,” and silly shows like “Gomer Pyle,” “The Munsters,” “Gilligan’s Island,” and “Beverly Hillbillies” to name a few. There wasn’t a whole lot of room for a show like “F-Troop” (coincidentally enough, Tom Adair, who wrote many of the “F-Troop” episodes also wrote many episodes of the above mentioned shows). I don’t think people understood satire, and they couldn’t associate with the old west, even though many, many westerns were on TV during that era (though no dark comedies).

By 1965, five million color televisions had been sold in the United States, five times as many from three years earlier, and the networks packed them with westerns, “Bonanza” (1959), “Wagon Train” (1957) and “Virginian” (1962), and other shows that debuted in 1965, in addition to “F-Troop” were “Green Acres,” “Days of Our Lives,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” and “Get Smart.” And that’s the important show to compare with “F-Troop,” as “Get Smart” starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, as one of America’s first shows that was satirical, poking tongue-and-cheek at America’s new zest for spies, secret agents and espionage, fueled by the popularity of James Bond and the realism of the cold war.

It was just like “F-Troop” in many regards. “F-Troop” was a western comedy, the only one of its kind but what are they playing on TV Land tonight: From 6am Monday morning, there’s “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “The Munsters,” “Green Acres,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” all shows that would feel just at home sharing the air waves with “F-Troop,” but why isn’t it there? The short answer is credited to the sniveling politically correct bleeding hearts that like to ruin things for other people. “F-Troop” was last aired on Nick at Nite between 1991 and 1995, but too many viewers complained about the poor light the show showed to Native Americans (gag) so it was undoubted shelved.

As an appendix to this, I did a little looking around, and I discovered that only six episodes “F-Troop” (three from each season) were unceremoniously released as part of a Warner Home Video collection called “Television Favorites” on September 27, 2005. Based on the success of the sales of that collection (which included a host of other period shows), Warner Home Video announced that “F Troop: The Complete First Season” would be released in boxed set form on June 6, 2006, with all 34 black and white episodes included. Just on time for Father’s Day.

“F-Troop” might not be on television anymore, but it is still evident in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where much of the show’s exterior shots were filmed 40 years ago. Though the area is completely overrun with houses and neighborhoods, I’m sure folks living on Fort Courage Avenue and Chief Circle in Thousand Oaks are always wondering where their streets got their names.

I wonder what the people on Rockridge are watching right now? "Excuse me, while I whip this out."

Now That’s Embarrassing

I’ve never met anyone that didn’t get embarrassed in certain situations, and frankly, I don’t think I ever want to. A person who lacks embarrassment is a person who has no shame, no privacy or humility, and that’s a person whose immodest conscious has nothing to lose, nothing important anyway. You find these people on reality shows, daytime talk shows and freak shows, mostly, and they’ve been known to consort with those who find themselves craving the center of attention. I’ve never enjoyed the spotlight in any form (lime or any other flavor of light), never one to be that center of attention and not one to draw notice anywhere from anyone (surprisingly enough, I do enjoy the theater though…it’s one of my hypocrisies). That being said, I get embarrassed easily, but lately I is becoming easier to hide my mortification; I’m not sure how this personality trait developed itself over the years but, as a child, I was humiliated easily, as I hid from attention and I avoided situations that would put me in the middle of everyone’s judgmental gazes. I don’t sing, I don’t dance (either in public anyhow) and I don’t like to give speeches (though I have)…so much so that I rarely speak out during business meetings unless I’m so confident in what I am saying that there’s no refuting my point, and we know how rare that is in real life.

Mark Twain employed an effective tool in his comedy writing, and that is to put his characters in such uncomfortable positions it has to be funny; his readers (or lecture attendees) would laugh the most when they were the most uncomfortable. It’s called empathetic embarrassment, when you feel bad for the person who is actually the one that should be embarrassed, and one of our reflexive reactions to uncomfortable situations is to laugh, which is why dark comedies are so funny and it is why TV shows like “The Office” are so successful.

I’ve had my share of embarrassing predicaments, and it seemed to hold true that the more embarrassed a person gets, the more embarrassment he is subjected to. What a horrible Catch-22, as someone who wants to avoid embarrassments finds himself in more and more of them over the course of his lifetime. Here’s a few that I haven’t be able to completely repress to the back of my mind. Take into consideration that these might not seem embarrassing to you in any way; consider yourself lucky. However, if you don’t find any of these to be embarrassing at all, I hope we never meet. Enjoy these at my expense:

1. In the fourth grade, I played The Lion in a school rendition of “The Wizard of Oz,” and during the first dress rehearsal, I was supposed to enter the scene for the first time by jumping out from behind a tree and growl at Dorothy and Company. From backstage, I was going to make this a great entrance, so I stepped back as far as I could so I could take a running leap. When my cue came, I ran onto the stage, jumped up in the air, started to growl with my arms up like the claws of a menacing lion, and when I came back down onto the stage, my feet slipped out from under me and I flopped flat on my back with a crashing thud on the stage. Mortified, I laid there for a while…

2. Any birthday dinner where I am sung to by strangers, servers in a restaurant who don’t really care who I am or what I’m doing there (as long as I leave a good tip). On top of which, since everyone on this planet has a birthday (and there are, on average 16.4 million other people on Earth sharing your “special day”), they find ruckus birthday greetings in the confines of a quiet restaurant an annoying disturbance to their conversation. Have you ever heard a group of disenchanted servers singing a sad bastardization of the “Happy Birthday” song—only because they’re avoiding paying royalties to the estates of Kentucky sisters Mildred and Patty Smith Hill, who penned the gem while teaching Kindergarten—and been disgusted by the lack of exuberance by the people singing it? It’s just embarrassing. So, my birthday was nearly two months ago and I went to lunch with a former coworker, and before anyone could pull a fast one on me, I told the server that it was my birthday and if anyone so much as mouths any song related to my birthday that no tip would be dispensed. I think she appreciated it as much as I did, as that meant she didn’t have to round up any unwilling fellow servers to blather out the well wishings.

3. I was on a plane coming back from somewhere, I don’t remember exactly where it was, as I was getting home after a weekend covering a show for the magazine I worked for at the time. Now, me and flying are two things that don’t mix well in real life, and I have reservations about sitting in a pressurized tube at 35 thousand feet, rocketing toward potential doom with no way out but down. Not to mention, the swinging, rocking, swaying that goes along with the ride. Let’s compound this with the fact that I had a few beers the night before at the “after show” dinner I was invited to by the show promoters… I remember it now, it was the Michigan show that also involved the untimely demise of a pristine Audi A4, a railroad track and about three feet of air. But I digress. So, I’m on the early morning flight, not fully awake, not really enjoying myself, and I’m sitting next to a nun, a nice lady who looked like she just spent the last five years preaching the word to the sick in the Congo and now she was on her way back to the nunnery to live out her chaste life of quiet servitude to God and his way…and she’s sitting next to me. I tried to break the tension with a joke (but either she didn’t speak the language or she gave up language for Lent), and my mounting anxiety about the flight, an anxiety that was slowly turning into motion sickness, was leading me down the road to inevitable illness. It starts with a chill. Then sweat, but a chilled sweat. Parched throat, thick tongue…no drink cart yet. Palms dripping. The plane suddenly drops, sways to the left like a slow car with no shocks, and swallow hard. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and worry that you’re not going to make it the rest of the five-hour flight. Light headedness sets in; you put your head back, sigh repeatedly, deep sighs. I was sitting in an aisle seat next to the nun who was enjoying being closer to the Lord by the window, and I began the justification for laying down on the floor in the middle of the aisle. If the door was unlocked, I would have opened it and stepped out on the wing. Then it overcame me: I was going to pass out; I was sweating like a pig and black spots began to blotch my vision. I heard myself say this as I said it, but after the words came out of my mouth, I was mortified at the imposition. What did I say? “Can I lay in your lap?” I didn’t wait for a response, just flopped over onto her thighs and slept for nearly an hour, right there in the chastity of the sister’s lap. How mortified I felt when I awoke, feeling much better, but further embarrassed by the perfect impression of my face on her habit… in sweat. Sigh.

4. Long before Kara and I were married (back when I was still trying to impress her), we decided to take a hike up to the top of the mountains above my folks’ house, but not before having a heaping helping of my mother’s spaghetti, which I always thoroughly enjoy, perhaps too much that day, as my plate spilled over with the pasta. About halfway through our hike, stomach cramps set in and I knew there wasn’t much I could do about the inescapability of what was to come. What goes in, must come out, and that is no more true for spaghetti as it is for any other cheesy, spicy foods. But, what can I do? We’re nearing the top of the mountain (which is what “halfway through a hike to the top of a mountain” means), there’s no bathroom on this mountain and I have no toilet paper (but I did bring a couple of hand towels). I’m with a woman I want to date; I want her to admire me for my hiking skills and my abilities to be one with nature, and as it turns out, she witness my being “Number Two” with nature. Sure, nature calls, but why then? Though she laughed at my predicament for months to come (and is probably snickering now), she still married me, however embarrassed I was.

5. I was in the Boy Scouts for nearly eight years, with a matriculation through the ranks of Cub Scouts before that, and I enjoyed the process from start to finish. For one, we got to camp and hike, and I got to see the beauty of nature, but also because we got to do a lot of things I wouldn’t normally get to do. For example, I marched in the 1990 Rose Parade, carrying one of the award banners and I got to go to the Rose Bowl that day (though I slept through most of the game). In 1983 or 84, as a troop, we visited Burroughs, and if you don’t know what that is, it’s a computer company back before they were mainstream, and it consisted of a building packed with millions of dollars of reel-to-reel computer tapes you see in documentary films about the burgeoning computer industry. Well, we got there via a 1976 Honda Civic hatchback, a car whose emissions system had seen better days. I was stuffed in the back with two other scouts and the Scoutmaster driving first had to navigate the slalom course at the Indy 500. I was feeling woozy, but I was going to make it. About halfway through the tour, surrounded by millions of dollars of whirling computers, mainframes and exposed reel hard drives, I didn’t make it. Now, my brother, who is always quick to dredge up embarrassing moments, would describe my sudden illness as “projectile vomiting the likes of which I have never seen,” and I don’t doubt that it wasn’t. In fact, if that building is still standing today and the offended carpet still lines the main computer room on the second floor, I’m sure people walk through the three-foot by two-foot oval stain on the carpet and wonder, “Wow, someone must have spilled a whole pot of coffee there.” If they only knew.

There you have it. Embarrassing to me and my memory, and I’m sure I could come up with a sequel list of most embarrassing moments if I were to give it more thought, which I won’t do. Until next time, remember, if you blend into the wallpaper, nobody will notice you, and if nobody notices you, you can deftly avoid the humiliation and naturally follows unwanted attention.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Many Smells of Matthew

Babies smell. Okay, I’ll just get that out of the way right up front, so you know where I’m going with this; I haven’t been near a baby yet that smelled good to me, and I feel that I’m missing out on something special when I hear women (as it is nearly always a woman who will delight in the smell of a baby) rave about the scent of a little one. It’s like a new car smell to them. Me? I can’t walk up behind a baby, take in a deep whiff off of the back of his furry head and sigh, with my eyes rolled back into my head with delight, at the wonderful aromas of an infant. I smell day-old milk and dirty diapers every time. Am I missing something? Is there some sort of good smell button you push when you want a pleasing fragrance to waft from a baby, or am I smelling the wrong part? Are babies like honeydew and they only smell good at the stem end, and if so, which end is that? Maybe you have to hold them a certain way.

There’s probably many a mother out there reading this, wondering what prayer to God will smite me down the quickest for my most insensitive thoughts on my olfactory opinions of infants, but I can’t help how I feel and certainly can’t help what I’m smelling. It’s not like I’m asking for a bad smell, as I certainly don’t go out of my way to find them. They seem to find me.

Matthew gets into a rut of funk that is nearly indescribably at times, but it isn’t just him 10 minutes before his bath and two days after his last one, it is all of the stuff that goes along with babies that I generally deal with the most that fills my head with a horrific stench: the formula, the diapers… dear God, the diapers, the spit ups, the gas, the dirty clothes, the milk breath, his cereal, old bottles… everything on my end of the operation smells old, smells used, and smells lethal, like burning rice. I don’t see him right after his bath as he is whisked away to sleep; his best smelling hours are when he’s sleeping and I miss it all unless I sign up for the midnight shift (which is where I am now).

But, on my regular day shift, as the supervisor of the custodial arts around here, I’m subjected to the darker side of child rearing, the Darth Vadar, Death Star darker side, and my predominate function is to provide cleaning support after a successful day of milk digestion, as that’s all that Matthew is really good at right now: drinking and digesting milk and disposing of what his stomach has no use for. He’s really good at this…sometimes two or three times a day good.

That’s where I come in. I wear a clothes pin. I carry tongs.

With Natalie, we used a Diaper Genie, and if you’re not familiar with those little contraptions, let me catch you up on the latest, cutting edge technology in the diaper disposal industry. It’s is basically a trash can with a special lid, that’s all, a $30 trash can. You place a used diaper into the receptacle, twist the top a few times and the diaper is packed into a connected string of similarly fated diapers, as part of an oversized links of sausage, curling up into the bottom of the container. You’d think, being a lover of hot dogs (and sausages) that I am, I would find this fascinating, as if I’m pressing my own links right there in her room, but I got over it pretty quick… especially since its primary design function, to keep the smell incased inside these links, doesn’t work. Soon, after a day or two, it begins to smell like a morgue, a medicated death bathed in rose-scented sprays, and the underlying element to the tang was a spine-tingling unpleasantness that curdled your blood and triggered your gag reflex every time you pass near the Genie.

Something to consider: When one diaper smells, it isn’t that big of a deal, but when you’ve got a string of 20 diapers all compacted into this tub and linked together in a long smelly chain—and they go south (and they always do)—you’ve got a HAZMAT situation on your hands. You’re looking at a total teardown, floor to ceiling, to get out the smell; did you ever notice that the paint scheme and carpet were always different upstairs every couple of weeks?

With Matthew, we now employ the “throw it away after he uses it” method, which has its pros and cons. One of the benefits of the immediate disposal system is that it is out of the house moments after it is soiled… one of the detriments of this method is that there are 50 such diapers just like it lurking somewhere in the big trash can outside, unprotected, exposed to the elements and slowly gaining strength in numbers that far surpasses smells the human nose was designed to endure. When you open that lid to dispose of your single offending diaper, the blast of hot reeking air that hits you will literally take your eyebrows and blow them to the back of your head. My watch stopped once, just went completely dead. I chipped a tooth off of the smell, it packs that much of a punch… and just forget it if we’ve had a hot spell; that black trashcan begins to cook up a diaper banquet the likes from which your nose will never recover. In fact, I’m just now getting over smelling a fierce gale of a stinkstorm from three weeks ago: a blistering weekend mixed with a humid rainstorm the following week merged to form a fetid, rank, squalid stench that, for several days, hung in a green cloud around the side of the garage where we keep the cans.

Elsa wouldn’t go near it, and for her, that’s a big deal. And Elsa loves things that stink; she’ll chew on a cow bone that she buried two weeks prior, and she’ll even sleep next to it that night. She got a hold of one of Matthews more, ahem… creative diapers one time, had the thing filleted open on the lawn and… well, I spare you the nitty-gritty details, but I wouldn’t let her back in the house again until I was able to wash off her face both the nitty and the gritty.

Some mornings, it is my responsibility to feed Matthew his cereal, as he is beginning the long road to solid foods, and the brew is mixed up with a powder form from a box and a splash of formula to create this viscous, gooey concoction that is very much the consistency of watery paste or thin gravy with chunks. Now, I love cereal, a big mixing bowl full of cereal is a great midnight snack (not to mention three week’s worth of fiber in one sitting…well, two sittings if you count the sometimes dramatic affects of fiber), but baby cereal is repugnant, and I can’t understand how Matthew can eat it, much less get it near his nose. The very smell, like a mixture of orange juice and milk set over a simmering heat for five minutes and injected right into the limbic region of your brain is enough for spasms of the esophagus and a sudden volatile projection from the stomach.

Matty loves the stuff… but if that’s all you’ve had in your life, you’ve got nothing to compare it with, so go figure.

As I have lamented on endlessly before, one of my primary duties as a father and, I think, as a human being, is that I’m the chief bottle washer at this truck stop, and that means I have to first, find them scattered about the house. For some reason, the 13 bottles get strewn randomly from room to room, depending on solely in which location he is being fed. When Matthew’s done with the bottle, it usually gets deposited on the floor by the rocker and promptly forgotten about…and forgotten about… and forgotten about. When it is time for another bottle washing session, I have to hire a search party to scout the house and explore the whereabouts of the missing 13 bottles. Most of them end up rinsed out by the sink, and I’m usually only missing one or two during any given mission. When everything goes well, I’ll find them all and it won’t be too bad, as long as you don’t get your nose too close the them when they’re first opened. A job hazard is that the hot water I use to initially rinse them out only constricts the air molecules around my face, which causes the smell to travel quicker to my nose and with higher potency of offend.

Usually, after a couple of hours of sitting, the formula will attempt to revert back to its original elements, as it begins to separate. The heavier portion that settles to the bottom of the bottle is a mocha-colored coffee with cream hue, while the lighter top portion reminds me of the fluffy top to a lemon meringue pie, and when you see it begin to split, you know your nose is in for a severe spanking.

Sometimes my expeditions to find all 13 are unsuccessful, and that’s when I get to discover exactly what happens to one or two ounces of baby formula after two days… maybe three. Folks, it isn’t pretty, but if I catch it after the third day, all that may be left is a small puddle of green glowing toxic liquid, a runny pond of plastic that used to be the bottle and a scorched area on the carpet. If you get to close to it, you’ll hear it growl. Elsa will usually stay by my side when we search for them, and I know when she has found one as she’ll let out a long howling wail, as if the ghost of an old bird dog has finally found the downed quail, and it’s creeping along the long dark trail into a fog bank that has settled around a graveyard. That’s followed by some of the most disturbing whimpers ever to emanate from beast on the land or fowl of the air. Then again, Elsa’s nose is pretty sensitive.

Usually, it is rare for a bottle to get lost for that long a period of time, and since I know what can happen to one if it is, I’m rather diligent on finding them before nightfall (when expeditions are more difficult due to the sleeping inhabitants of the various rooms of the house), but most times, a missing bottle has only rolled under the couch or it is hiding amongst the stuff on the bathroom sink. Transporting a bottle of two-day-old baby formula is a tricky endeavor, best left up to professionals specifically trained to handle such hazardous material. You need the reflexes of a jaguar, the agility of a mountain lion and the cradling care of a mine detector, and what ever you do, don’t unscrew the top to that bottle in open air; you’ll have to sell your house. It is that bad, so much so, that instead of opening it, I’ve had to wrap the offending bottle in a triple layer of plastic, encase it in a block of concrete, then bury it in a six-foot-deep hole in the backyard with a bronze plaque warning all who come near: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” I just pray a Jumanji syndrome doesn’t happen 50 years from now, but throwing it away is much safer than trying to clean it.

Matthew smelled worse when he was younger, as sometimes milk would dribble down into the many folds of his six-layer chin and you could never quite get it all out between baths. And he spit up a lot more than he does now, so I was changing his outfits several times a day when I was on Daddy Duty. Lately, I haven’t had to dab a little Vicks under my nose when I go into his room, so I think the worst is behind us I’m glad to say.

Maybe I’m just getting used to it, but I’d hate to have one of those houses where people visit, I open the door, and they jerk their hand over their mouth and nose, cough with a chortling wheeze and say, “Your house smells like a baby.” I don’t think that’s a compliment.

Then again, smell or no smell (I’d prefer the latter), how can you think ill of such a cute and happy little baby, such as Matthew. I’ve got four other senses that delight in my experience with him, and where I come from, four out of five is a great deal. And if it takes a tiptoe through the tulips with a bottle of rancid formula that’s almost completely turned into cottage cheese in one hand and a diaper that can kill a low-flying bird on a hot sunny day in the other hand, then it is certainly worth it to blow out a few olfactory bulbs in my nose, have perpetual nightly dreams of a giant diaper engulfing Tokyo and have to constantly draw on new eyebrows. So what.

Just because I think babies smell funny and I’m constantly subjected to the pong of being a father, that doesn’t mean I don’t love him; he’s my son, smells and all.

However, he probably thinks I stink too… And some days I do.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lost in the Bubble Garden

I used to be an integral part of the bedtime routine for Natalie, and it was a soggy proposition, as my responsibility was as the manager of bath time. I made sure the water was just the right temperature, as deftly precarious adjustments of the hot and cold knobs requires skill, patience and a knack to decide what is too hot and what is too cold for a two-year old. For that, I’m Goldilocks. Another aspect was to make sure that the bubble-to-bath ratio was at its optimum consistency, too many bubbles and you’re bathing in soapy clouds of eventual cold air and not enough and it’s like you’re trying to say clean in an oil slick.

For the past several months, my position as bath manager was put on sabbatical as Natalie preferred Kara to take care of the bath portion of the night. For the first few days, it was fine by me, as I got to start my night a little earlier, but after a while, I rather missed being a part of it. Frankly, I think her experience was lacking (Kara doesn’t allow frivolously ruckus splashing like I encourage), so Natalie changed back, reaffirming her allegiance to the master of the tub, me. Let's face it, there are some things daddies do better, and giving baths is one of them. Perhaps it is my method of initiating new and inventive ways to bath that helped her return to the old regime; for instance, I instigated “candle baths,” which are four purple and yellow candles at each corner of the bath and the lights off. It was relaxing, innovative and fun, plus Natalie got to blow out the candles, something she enjoys. On another occasion, I originated the concept of “moon baths,” and depending on the time of the month when the moon was full, they usually came in conjunction with candle baths, only with the windows open so Natalie can see the moon.

Way back when, bath time was a chore for everyone, especially me, as Natalie hated to take baths; it seems she didn’t like the idea of being wet, and forget trying to wash her hair. She’d sooner have it shaved off than get it wet because the water would run down into her eyes. The trick is to make it fast and make it fun. That’s where the splashing came into the mix. It seems the more she splashed the less she noticed that we’re actually taking a bath, and it was easier to get her clean if I tickled her with a soapy sponge than if I were to announce that we were going to use the sponge.

Now, she loves baths, but she doesn’t want to take one, if that makes sense. I think she hates the idea of taking a bath, but once she’s in there, she has a blast. I come out soaking wet from the waist up, the walls are wet, the carpet around the bath is wet and even the windows over the bath are water spotted. But she’s clean, and that’s what matters.

Most of the time in the bath, about 90 percent, is a game. The actual washing takes about three minutes; she's small and doesn't get really dirty. I splash her with my hand and she tries to catch it. When she does, she tells my hand to “Stop it” and, of course, I don’t. That’s where the laughing comes in and she usually gets into fits of giggling when she tries to stop the individual fingers from flicking the water at her. When she has all of the fingers captured so I can't move them, why, I've got another hand, don't I?

Another thing she does is splash back, and she’s discovered that her most effective weapon at her disposal is the double-handed slap on the surface of the water, and there’s some collateral damage (she gets wet too) but it is drenching for me. I noticed that right before her hands hit the water, she closes her eyes, and it is at that moment that I dredge up a handful of water and douse her back, making her think she’s doing it to herself. Underhanded? Sure, but it’s who gets the wettest, isn't it?

When we meet up with Mommy after the bath, Natalie looks as though she dunked her head, and Kara will ask me if I washed her hair. "Nope, just splashing."

Because of the influence of “Dora, the Explorer,” we go on adventures too, like searching for the frogs, exploring with the purple boats under the bubbles and making waves. That’s my specialty, making waves that lap at the top of the tub and then crash down, like Hokusai’s painting, and spinning Natalie into a whirlpool. She loves that. Tonight, Natalie got lost in the bubble garden, as she calls a large pile of bubbles in the corner of the tub, when she pushes herself deep into the bubbles so it spills over her shoulders.

Bubble beards... it's exactly what you think it is. I also give her a bubble coat, which she isn't too fond of, and that is a pile of bubbles packed onto her shoulders so it looks like she's wearing a fluffy, white jacket.

Sometimes she does her own thing, like rolling over and pretending she’s swimming, and even a couple of times, she’s slipped down and dunked herself completely. It’s a little scary for her, but if we laugh it off; she’s okay and she’ll go back to playing. While she’s playing her own games, I’ll play African Queen verses the Louisa with the little plastic boats.

“How'd you like it, Rose?”
“Like what, Mr. Allnut?”
“White water rapids!”
“Why, I never dreamed...”

So, I’m back… king of the bath, and it is an important bonding experience for Natalie and I, and I welcome the return to power. Spending quality time like this with her while she is still young is something I won’t get to do forever. Pretty soon, she’ll be too old to need my help... or want it. Until then, I’m king of the bath, and I don’t mind if I have to change my shirt and dry off after each one. It’s worth it.

In other news, she is feeling much better and we have very little plans for the weekend. Her rash is subsiding and she doesn’t complain of being sick… just in time for her five weeks home with Mommy, as Kara tracked off on Friday so we’ve got an empty plate the next few weeks. Sure, I’ll have to work, but I’m sure I can find other things to do instead.

Today, I cleaned out the garage and did yard work, and tomorrow, I start on the backyard. We’re planning a bunch of renovations, and I’ll keep you posted on the developments.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Midnight Bark of Elsa, My Dear

With my apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight bark of Elsa, my dear.
When the witching hour’s shadow grows long
Elsa begins her howling song
And it doesn’t take long for my blood to boil
As my good night’s sleep is so soon to spoil

She’s but a dog, with gangly legs and all ears
We bought her from a breeder, it’s been nearly four years
We’ve had our share of problems and strife
And not a day goes by that I don’t blame my wife
For it was her idea to bring the young flea bag home
Though our backyard was too small for her to roam

Finally we moved to a large house and nice big yard
The grass lot and hill’s all hers, almost too much to guard
While she protects her property, each night I’m in bed
The barking begins, so much I wish her quite dead.
She’s only doing her job, or so she may think
Felines roam the fences, she smells their cat stink.

I throw open the window and shout down below
“Shut up you mutt or your blood will soon flow.”
She answers with a woof, a growl and a bark
She’s mocking my authority, hiding out in the dark
The stairs I descend, taking two with each stride
I grab for anything with which to tan her black hide.

She waits at the door for me to appear
With the rage I’m feeling she should cower in fear
A rolled up magazine held tight in my raised hand
Crushing in her skull is the violence I’d planned
Blood-shot eyes straining to see through the dark
Stop yelping, stop woofing, don’t whine and don’t bark

With her wide dark eyes and playful puppy-like stance
She thinks we’re still playing, let’s run and let’s dance
A simple dog smile forms where you think one wouldn’t
I can’t hit her, no kicking, no beating, I couldn’t
She’s just a dog and barking is her task.
Elsa protects the house and that’s all we can ask.

So if you’re robbing our abode in the midst of the night
Get ready for flight or one heck of a fight
Cause Elsa’s back there with teeth like a knife
She shear off your leg and you’ll beg for your life
As much as I complain and rue the day she was born
I like her around, and when she does go I’ll mourn

She barks at each midnight to warn all around
In my yard I’m the queen, my bark is my crown.
The nightly yelping to her is a more than a good deed,
And that deep husky growl is a trait of her breed
I’m happy she’s out there keeping tabs on us all night
But I wish she was quiet, at least ‘til morning’s daylight
Every night our scorned neighbors are wakened to hear
Of the midnight bark of Elsa, my dear.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

…With Relish!

The other day I popped four hot dogs into the microwave only to discover, a minute and 15 seconds later, that we were out of relish, a disappointing development in my lunchtime routine, but I didn’t want to waste four hot dogs so I suffered through them with mustard as my only condiment. Chagrin, as it was a bland affair, and I learned that you only miss something when it is gone.

If you’ll remember back a few days to the original post of the dachshund sausages, where I described in beleaguered detail the ins and outs of my horrific diet, and I told you that we are frequently out of one of the four elements that go into what I consider the well-rounded hot dog: the dog, bun, mustard and relish. For about a week or so, a lonely empty jar of relish sat in the refrigerator waiting to be replaced, and each time I would crave the delicacies of the cylindrical meats, I would remember we lacked one of the basic elements; with a heavy heart I would have to scavenge for something else. It’s like pouring a bowl of cereal only to discover you’re out of milk… sure, water will make your corn flakes wet and soggy but it lacks that certain something only cow squeezings can supply.

So, off to the store we go, down the condiment aisle, bee line to the little jars of mustard-injected relish with ample chunks of pickled cucumbers, cabbage and bell peppers…and what’s this? What to my glittering eyes do I see, but a new jar of relish looking at me. It appears as though my good friends at Heinz, realizing that I probably contribute more to the bottom line of the relish department than any living soul on this planet, have graced me with a new Premium Hot Dog Relish…just for me and for me only, as there was only one jar of it on the shelf; after 137 years of commitment to quality, they have decided to take it up a step, cast away the shrouds of mere common cucumber-based condiments and bequeath themselves to be kings among relish. Yes, kings among relish.

Well, my inner skeptic takes control of the PA and starts to shout: “What makes it premium? Why is it better? What’s in it?” "I don’t know," was all I could muster; I had no answers, which is really the only response I’m ever able to give my inner skeptic. He asks the questions knowing full well that I don’t have the answers (he checks the database first), so I’m left in a quandary. On the right is the regular hot dog relish, nothing special, nothing premium and certainly no wondrous mystery attached to its old label, the phrase “Hot Dog Relish” slapped into a seemingly blank label that could have ended up anywhere--I’m sure the label for Heinz’s 30-weight motor oil looks exactly like the one for relish; curse production streamlining… but then there stands the premium hot dog relish, shining new, untainted by time, marvelous in its grandeur, dare I say it? Okay, glorious. The label, a mouthwatering culinary effigy to the hot dog, displays “Hot Dog Relish” in an cylindrical reddish oval, reminiscent of the hot dog itself, and up above is the coiled banner containing the promising word “Premium” as if it were the motto on the family crest of the Heinz relish family. Underneath it all lays a pickle, curled up on the corners as if to smile at you and say, “Go on, trust me. I’m a condiment. I’m relish you can call a friend. I would never steer you wrong.”

I swoon briefly before snatching the jar into my basket… but “Wait,” cries the inner skeptic again. “Remember the Pepsi Challenge? Remember all that it taught us about product promotion and cross tasting?”

He has a valid point, so I toss a jar of the pedestrian, regular, every Joe relish in there as well. Let’s find out what makes the Premium oh so wonderful, but first, a small story about the Pepsi Challenge: I chose Coke. The Pepsi was warm. The lady had just opened a new can for me, and I think she had been keeping it under arm, as it seemed flat and certainly tepid. The Coke was effervescent, light, crisp with a clean aftertaste that made me sigh “ahhh.” So, when they say 4 out of 5 people prefer the great taste of Pepsi over Coke, I’m that fifth person, but don’t get me wrong, I drink whatever's cheaper; I don’t care where it comes from as long as it has that fizz, has caramel flavoring and it can keep me awake at night. I’m not going to pay $1.50 for two liters of Coke when I can do 99 cents for basically the same thing, allegiance to one side or the other in the Cola Wars means nothing to me.

Once home I did a comparison of the labels for each jar of relish, and the ingredients were spot on match of each other except for three very subtle additions: the Premium has extra mustard seed in it (as it is listed in a different order; the higher up on the list, the more of that ingredient is in the food), and for some reason five more grams of sodium, 100 compared to 95 in the original. The third important addition, in bold, at the bottom of the label, it says on the Premium jar, “Contains Soybeans.” It seems like an odd announcement until I ponder that people might have an allergy to soybeans… who knows? Also, Heinz must be particularly proud of its new condiment concoction because they include a Questions/Comments phone number on the label, whereas the old regular relish must have been an embarrassment. “Let’s not put the number on it,” they said in the label design meeting. “Maybe nobody will call.” From the back of the room, someone, mortified at being associated with such poor quality and resentful of the select few who got to work on the Premium label, asked: “Instead of Heinz, can we call it French’s?”

The best test for any food is the taste test, as it will separate fact from fiction, premium from regular. I’m not J.D. Powers and Assoc., but I was able mocked up a relatively believable blind taste test by covering the labels, mixing up the jars and spreading a liberal amount on two ends of a hot dog wrapped in a bun.

In a hushed tone: "What he doesn't know is that we secretly switched his regular hot dog relish brand with Heinz's new premium hot dog mustard. Let's watch!"

Product A: Deliciously thick texture, like cake batter with crunchy pickles doused in a heavy mustard flavor with hints of paprika and slight undertones of vinegar, onions and various unknown spices. That’s got to be the Premium as it just called to me, “I’m the royalty of relish playing my A Game just for you, tantalizing your taste buds—all of them simultaneously as if it were one long symphony of seductive delights in the form of relish—filling your mouth with the smooth creamy texture only Heinz is capable of delivering. Yes, Product A is the Premium, no doubt.

A little dejected, I took a bite of the opposite end of the hot dog, the one lathered in Product B’s offering and I knew it was going to be less than climactic, after all, it is the old recipe, the obsolete relish in the company of a first-rate spread… but wait, what’s this? Could it be? The delicious thick texture!… mustard flavor!… hints of paprika, vinegar, onions!… wait!… wait!… a delicate balance of spices known unto God. Could it be?

Kill the engines for a second here. I’m the sommelier of hot dog relishes and if I can’t tell the difference in a blind taste test in my own kitchen, what makes it possible for any mere mortal to discern the subtle nuances of the two? Impossible. This is a flat-out lie, a sordid perpetration assaulted on the American hot dog eating community, and I need to get to the bottom of this, toot sweet.

That’s it, I’m calling.

On the other end of Heinz customer service answers Andee, a delightfully cheerful woman whose voice only leads me to believe that she, and she alone on this planet or any other, loves relish more than I do. Never mind the small talk, I start right in.

Me: I was duped into buying your “premium” hot dog relish and I don’t see what is so premium about it. Is there some slight difference my highly tuned taste buds are missing?

Andee: You must be referring to our relish with the new label; we just recently designed a new label is all.

Me: So the word “premium” means absolutely nothing at all and the new relish is exactly the same as the old relish.

Andee: That’s right. It is a marketing tool, yes.

Me: Is this just a tricky way to get people to buy more relish by suggesting that it is somehow improved.

Andee: You bought some didn’t you?

Me: Ah, touché. Thank you.

I was so scathed by her aptly scorching remarks that I forgot to inquire about the soybeans additive, and upon further examination of the label, I missed the small blue ribbon on the bottom of the Premium jar that say it all: “New Look! Same Great Taste.”

Same great taste; they were right there, of course, the flavor of the Premium bottle is as comfortable as an old pair of slippers on a chilly winter evening, but the ruse is bitter. Well duped by a fancy new label, I’m only comforted in the fact that I’ve got stores of relish on hand now, but the marketing ploy has left a pickled taste in my mouth that I won’t soon forget.

With relish, I bid you a good day…but remember, condiments are not small candies found in a box of Trojans. Sorry, a little distasteful joke.

Ten Things I’m Sick of Hearing About

Just a little caveat for my three dear readers: If you’re not a fan of listening to a overly tired, heavily caffeinated and generally irritated person rant and rave about the things over which he has no control, I’d just as soon suggest you skip today’s extraordinarily lengthy tirade about various topics. However, if you enjoy a “you go girl” moment only found on “The View” (at least before Rosy screws it up), then read on.

Never before in my life have I been so informed about the world around me, the news, the politics, popular trends, celebrity dish and a cadre of informational tidbits that will only prove useful during the year 2025 edition of Trivial Pursuit, and never before have I been so sick and tired to hear a rehashing of the same drivel only to be serves up under new scrutiny, panned off as news, facts, and things I must know. That’s the mire I fall into sometimes; I get caught in the web of deceit propagated by the popular media you’d find in the check-out stand of any supermarket: Top news, why Kirstie Alley lost all that weight. Why? Because she’s being paid to, and her career as a fat actress is far less lucrative as a thin one. Remember “Victoria’s Closet?” Of course you don’t because the show was canned after a dozen episodes or so…overweight Alley doesn’t sell, but struggling to be thin Alley is a tragic tale we’ll fall over ourselves to listen to.

Even the supposedly respected upper echelon of “journalism” plays well into this category. as they attempt to gain an audience by catering to the star struck and the celebritophils ever on the quest to live the life of a entertainment personality, if only vicarious at best.

A couple of years ago, I made the mistake of subscribing to Newsweek and Time magazines (granted it was free, but I still chose them), and I began to wonder why I was reading essentially the same article in each magazine, each week, as they would arrive in my mailbox, Time on Saturday and Newsweek on Monday, oftentimes with the same subject as the lead cover story (last week they both wringed their hands over the wiretapping scandle), not to mention that some of the cartoons and weekly quotes would be identical. I was slightly despondent to think that there were no more aptly current comics strips out there than a small handful, until it was brought to my attention that both Newsweek and Time are published by the same company, probably the same cubical-bound hacks plugging away at the same story to be divvied up between the two at the end of the week.

I felt cheated, somehow, as I thought they were different publications with varying views on the world scene, which is why I was interested in them both. It’s not, and the more I read them, the more things irked me, from the bleeding heart liberal stance on illegal immigration (I’m sorry, they call them migrant workers… if I rob a bank, I’m not a bank robber, I’m a financial liberator). Don’t get me wrong, absolutely nothing against wanting a better life for yourself and your family, but if I were to move to another country in an attempt to better myself, I would do it legally and I wouldn’t drag my old-world customs with me. I'd start by learning the language and refrain from putting my hand out. If I break into a hotel room, I shouldn’t expect the hotel to give me free room and board just because they found me there? Okay, I could go on and on about this, as it does twist a thorn in my foot, but I’ve got a soapbox to get up on and a raving rant to make.

Here goes: Ten Things I’m Sick of Hearing About

1. What celebrities do. I don’t care that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had their kid. Good for them. No press agency was around when my kids were born. I don’t care that Lindsey Lohan is in some squabble with Paris Hilton (in fact, I don’t care that Paris Hilton even exists… my IQ drops a few points when I am forced to listen to her speak. See Number Three). I don’t understand how people can be so enamored with the goings on of celebrities, what they eat, what they wear, how they feel about world topics (Whoever gave Angelina Jolie a voice in politics should be banned from living on land) and who really cares about what they think? Usually, their thoughts are trite, overexposed, overanalyzed and over nothing, resulting in a frenzy of honest-to-God passion about whatever they’re oozing over for that moment.

Two general thoughts: 1) An actor and an actress playing opposite in a movie will, without doubt, be dating or married six months after the movie’s release. It’s a publicity stunt. Why do you think Cary Grant was married four times during his movie career and then suddenly (and happily, I might add) single after he no longer pulled in the box office money? He was gay, folks, gay as a marshmellow. The studio made him get married to keep up the macho appearance. Who would believe his “North by Northwest” suave smooth man performance opposite Eva Marie Saint if the audience, quite the bastion of homophobic movie goers at the time, believed he was a little light in his loafers? 2) Open any People magazine and 90 percent of the pictures are of the same people we saw the week before, Jennifer Anniston with new boyfriend Vince Vaughn (who will be in some craptacular chick flick this summer), Ashley Simpson (who should never have been allowed back on the stage after her lip sync debacle on SNL last year...yet we're a forgiving lot, which is probalby why half of SAG is still working... Eddie Murphy can pick up hookers in LA and then entertain our kids in "Daddy DayCare")… and the list goes on. Why can’t we, as a society, hear about regulars people doing extraordinary things instead of quasi-extraordinary people doing regular things? What’s that? Brad Pitt enjoys coffee in the morning? You don’t say. Just because he can earn 20 million dollars making a movie that should allow him the command of the national spotlight for doing something three-quarters of the world does on a daily basis. And what sickens me most is that thousands of people will switch brands after seeing that (see Number Six)…. “I drink what Brad drinks, which makes us the same person, so you must judge me at you would Brad.”

2. Britney Spears and the role models of young girls. She gives redneck, southern, trailer park trash a bad name, and I am so sick of hearing about her. How many pop singers start off with a cute following of pre-teens and then suddenly, overnight, switch from campy songs about boys and first kisses to stripper music and pole dancing? Spears, Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, and a host of others. Sure, Spears has fans, but lets review some of her latest stunts: She announces her pregnancy to the world on the Letterman Show by saying, “Don’t worry Dave, it’s not yours.” She is caught driving around town with her newborn baby in her lap, and then she is seen with him facing the wrong way in the car seat… in a convertible with the top down on a nice baby-skin blistering near-summer day. She dresses like a whore on stage and a trucker on the street, she married a complete moron and she lacks the class and tact befitting someone with all of her riches and talent (yes, she’s no doubt a good performer).

3. Paris Hilton (and anyone who carries a tiny shivering dog everywhere they go). I just can’t say enough about this blight on our social conscious, not to mention the severe detriment she offers to the overall impact on society. You know what is most disappointing, in 10,000 years, archeologist will uncover some ancient, circa 21st Century trash can on Sunset Ave and sift through the strata of debris only to discover an article about Paris Hilton’s thoughts on the world: “I don't really think, I just walk.” And this gem: “Every woman should have four pets in her life. A mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for everything.” That jackass is your father, Paris, and without him and his fortune, you’d be slinging hash in a diner somewhere. The sad part is that those archeologists will record these quotes as what it was like in the year 2006, misrepresenting everything important about the world, much like we do with ancient history today.

4. The Price of Gas. How many articles and news reports do we have to endure about the ever rising cost of gas? Yes, we know it is high. It is always high just before summer. Do you know why it is so high? Because the gas companies can charge us that much, that's why. Did you know that Exxon made $100 billion dollars last year? That’s pure, in their pocket profit. The Valdez can wipe out an ecosystem in Alaska, they get a slap on the wrist and then go on to gouge the country and make a profit to boot. I’m all for free enterprise and I despise Big Brother but if there is one industry that should be governmentally controlled, it’s the oil industry. And it isn’t like this flushed-with-money country is doing anything about it. Did you know that sales of the Lincoln Escalade, arguably one of the biggest gas guzzler of them all, is up 130 percent this year while sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid is only at 67 percent?

And don’t for a second think that oil comes from dead dinosaurs. A maverick astrophysicist named Thomas Gold asserted that oil was not a fossil fuel, it didn’t come from dead biological beings, and was in no way a scarce resource in danger of being depleted. He claims the quantities of oil available are hundreds of times larger than all of the estimated mass of biological plants and animals living during prehistoric times. Furthermore, he discovered that petroleum is largely saturated with hydrogen atoms, but buried biological matter (dead dinos) should exhibit a deficiency of hydrogen as it is one of the chemicals lost during decomposition. While we’re talking chemicals, crude oil is rich in helium, an inert gas which biological processes cannot concentrate in the quantities found. In a Radio Free America interview Gold said: “The astronomers have been able to find that hydrocarbons, as oil, gas and coal are called, occur on many other planetary bodies. They are a common substance in the universe. You find it in the kind of gas clouds that made systems like our solar system. You find large quantities of hydrocarbons in them. Is it reasonable to think that our little Earth, one of the planets, contains oil and gas for reasons that are all its own and that these other bodies have it because it was built into them when they were born?”

So, we’re getting screwed at the pump, by our government, by the oil companies and by the carmakers who are always insisting on putting premium in your tank. What’s the difference between 91 and 97 octane… a slightly different additive package, but the crude oil base, which is 90 percent of the overall volumn is exactly the same. It’s like asking the difference between Kelloggs’ Cheerios and store-brand Honey Oats: the box.

5. Global Warming. This is scare tactics at its best. Feed the world with fear that we’re going to drown when the ice caps melt and you’ve got sheep at the poles if you present a plan to stop it. If you’re a failed politician (I’m talking to you potatoe-spelling Gore) and you need to get back into the game, just champion the mystical cause that is global warming and all of the horrible things that go along with it. We’re killing the planet, because I was suckered into believing every frame of the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” as the gospel on global warming! The ice age was 10,000 years long, but it can be activated and fully into its frozen cycle in less than two days, as if everyone in the world left the fridge door open to air condition the world. Yes, humble, lazy, inept little mankind is causing great harm to this huge planet that has been around for over five billion years and will be around for another 10 before being engulfed by the sun.

In the last 100 years, the air on this planet has never been cleaner, thanks to a lot of emission controlling laws, of course. If you read any part of David Copperfield or Oliver Twist you would have read about how choked with soot and pollution London was during the industrial revolution, and if we didn’t tear the o-zone away from the atmosphere then, why would we think that it would happen now? I read on last week that Japanese scientists discovered that the o-zone would be completely repaired by 2050. Isn’t that nice? But what should come as no surprise is that we did absolutely nothing to change that fact; it's the earth in one of its cycles. And if the polar ice caps are melting, there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it…and, rest assured when you’re teasing your hair up into a frizz with that aerosol can, you did nothing to start it. That’s just Mother Earth changing gears like she likes to do every 10 millennia or so. Roll with it and get some sun tan lotion.

Okay, we’re over half way… why don’t you get up and stretch your legs before we continue? I know you’re tired, but all you have to do is read this; Imagine me, I had to type it out, you know, and it’s 2000 words so far. If only I was getting my rate for this.

6. Brand Placement. I was reading through Best Life a magazine, brought to me by the good people at Men’s Health magazine, and it very mildly caters to the celebrity scene, which is a nice change from the normal men’s magazine (think smut purveyors Maxim and FHM magazines whose sole existence is to tease us with photoshopped images of flawless skinned women and pedestrian articles about sex, false images of masculinity and various vices), but it came at a price. A few months ago, they featured Jake Gyllenhaal (from “Brokeback Mountain”) wearing a pair of Frye Boots that I rather liked, and since I haven’t been able to find a decent pair of casual boots—my cowboy-style boots sometimes just don’t cut it—I thought I’d get a pair of those. Upon visiting Frye Boots’ website ( and attempting to order their $180.00 Engineer boot, I was told that it was out of stock due to the article. Gosh. I know what you’re saying: This smacks of the Brad Pitt coffee reference earlier and makes me look rather hypocritical, but the difference is that I didn’t want the boots because of Gyllenhaal, I wanted them because they look cool.
“Jake Gyllenhaal wears these boots you know?”
“The cowboy guy from that gay cowboy movie.”
“You mean Electric Horseman?”
“No, the other one.”
“Oh, Rhinestone Cowboy?”
“Just forget it.”
“Midnight Cowboy?”
“I’m walking away now.” Of course, not in the boots as they’re on back order for six months. Why is it that there’s a commercial everywhere, from our sports arenas to the sides of cows. Pretty soon, I’ll look up at the full moon in the night sky and it will be blocked by a massive solar sail with a Coke logo splashed across it. Can I go anywhere without having someone try to sell me something? Probably not, but a unibomber-style shack in Montana is looking better and better each day.

7. People who think they’re above the law. Get this: Naked moron Richard Hatch of the first season Survivor fame won a million dollars for doing the show. I saw him do it, and no doubt someone from the IRS had a passing interest in the show as well, and I imagine it piqued his interest to review Hatch's tax statement for that year when, lo and behold, a cool million is mysteriously missing from his 1040 and in its place is a sad sob story about how he had a negative income that year and claims nearly $5000 in returns. I think his excuse was that he forgot about it. And just the other day, I misplaced a check for $10 million somewhere. You know how it is. So, last week, they sentenced him to 51 months in jail, where, I’m sure, he will be sure to keep himself fully clothed; I’m sick of people getting off scot free just because their name appeared on the cover of the latest National Enquirer. What makes them so special? If I were to slap a cop, I’d probably still be in jail (Zsa Zsa Gabor); If I were to drive drunk, pile into a guard tower on Capital Hill, would the police be sympathetic and drive me home (R.I. Rep. Patrick Kennedy). If I were to kill my wife and her lover, lead the police on a slow-speed chase with a gun to my head, get an attorney to use the Chewbacca defense and try to stuff my hand into a glove that obviously fits, would the jury let me off?

8. Today’s Youth. I’m not a codger quite yet and I’m not going to regale you with tales of my travels to school in the snow, but I’m sick of the attitude of most people around the age of 20 to 25. They’re inexperienced, cocky, arrogant and self-satisfied that they represent the crème of the crop. They thing they deserve everything before they’ve earned it. I worked with this yahoo who wondered why he didn’t get a raise and a promotion after only being with the company for six months. He earned it how? By doing is job, just like everyone else?

They have this sense of entitlement, that because they show up, they should be given the key to the executive washroom, and the severe delusions they develop. Watching the casting episodes for “American Idol” makes this completely evident; when they reject someone because they obvious couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, they don’t take the criticism with a grain of salt and make amends to try harder next time. No, they storm out slurring explicative deletes demanding that they be given another chance.

Where did this maladjusted attitude come from? Their parents, of course, who made sure that everyone went home with a trophy or ribbon even if it was ninth place, that nobody be labeled a loser or a failure…and they told them that they could do anything if they wanted to, don’t take “no” for an answer, we’ll bail you out each and every time, you won’t have to worry about standing on your own two feet and enjoy your college experience, never mind about actually learning anything. That’s what really brings me over: What happened to getting an education in college? Now, they strive for the “college experience,” and what exactly is that but a $20,000 annual excuse to do stupid things, get drunk, skip classes, and squeak by with a barely passing grade. Did you know that everyone’s up in arms about the high school exit exams, and people are saying that it isn’t fair to keep a kid behind because he didn’t pass that particular test. Who are they kidding? If the kid is so stupid that he can’t pass a test covering the very minimum basic elements of a high school education, then he doesn’t deserve a diploma, he doesn’t deserve to go to college and he doesn’t deserve to be later supported by welfare because he didn’t properly prepare himself for the real world. Alright, let’s move on.

9. Weight loss programs. This is an easy one. Exercise and eat right and you’ll lose weight if that’s what you wanted to do. I knew a guy through the magazine who was terrifically overweight, and on day he decided to do something about it. All he ate all day was popcorn, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn. At night he had a decent dinner and then went for a walk… soon he was running, and it took a while, but he lost about 70 pounds. Don’t get suckered into a weight loss program, especially if you saw it on TV. Ten bucks says that ever single actor in the commercial was never a pound overweight his/her whole life.

10. Saddam Hussein’s trial. I saw some of the coverage of the trial recently, and why does that tyrant get such a comfortable chair? Have you see it? It’s this wide leather swivel with great looking armrests and a plush cushiony back…it’s a farce. He should be sitting on a wooden plank with his hands cuffed to his feet. Kill one person and you come to court in a full-body chain suit; kill thousands and you get to wear a double-breasted suit and sit in an executive leather chair. They should just string him up and get it over with, and if that makes a martyr out of him to his followers, so be it…at least they’ll come out of hiding.

Wow, okay, so I’ve got some issues, yes, but you’d be surprised how nice it feels to unload all of that on unsuspecting old you. If you made it all the way through this to the end, you really must have some of your own procrastination issues, as you are surely stalling for some reason or another. But I feel nice and liberated. Of course, it is after 3am, so I don’t know how nice I’m going to feel tomorrow morning when I put on my cape and mask to become SuperDad!

Next entry will be much lighter, I promise.... I've got a couple of thoughts on hot dog relish and baked beans I'm sure you can't wait to hear.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Face of Evolution

Today was one of those days that there isn’t much to write home about… but let’s try to find something worth while, shall we? It was a rather long day, and I think I spent more time trying to get Matthew to sleep than the amount of time he actually slept, and one of my main goals was to keep infectious “Scarlet, My Dear, Fever” Natalie away from infectable Matthew, as one case of rashy Scarlet Fever per household is all we’re allowed in this county, unless we want to get quarantined by the Center for Disease Control; I for one, wouldn’t care for all of the plastic tubing they put up in your house, ala “E.T.”

Anyway, of course, Matthew’s asleep, one of his brief times he actually got some shuteye, and I’m doing a round of bottle washing at the sink, while watching “The Backyardigans,” one of my favorite kids’ shows; hey, it’s fun, inventive, entertaining and has a good story. Bottle washing is one of the duties dealt down to all daddies from the High Council of Motherhood as part of reparations for being a helpless male and part guilt because we didn’t pass a football-sized human from any of our orifices (especially the one in the nether regions). I seem to be at the sink with my bottle sponge at least every 18 to 24 hours, (yes, Kara refers to it as “my bottle sponge” and when she bought a new one, she showed it to me and said, “I bought you a new bottle sponge,” as if she was giving me a diamond necklace on our anniversary), but if I time it right, I can stretch it out as long as possible and only wash bottles once a weekend.

Back to the story: Matthew’s asleep, and Natalie, wracked with the old-timey fever of yesteryear, is supposedly nestled in on the couch watching the show too, nursing a cup of apple juice and snuggling with the purple blanket, like Linus. The baby monitor’s on to listen for Matthew and I’m slinging bubbles, thinking that, after I wash these 10 bottles and all of their parts (each bottle has six elements to it, so 60 dips into the scalding water—the hotter the better, of course) I’m going to sit down and take a breather. I had worked until around 2am the night before and had been playing daddy all morning without much of a break. Next thing I know, Natalie’s gone and I’m hearing though the monitor the mobile start to twinkle it’s irritating song, Natalie giggling and the baby stirring awake. I go upstairs to discover Natalie’s in Matthew’s crib, playing with his mobile and edging him to the corner of the crib with her bumpy, rashy legs.

I guess we’ll have to burn those sheets, now. Pity, they match the bumper and crib skirt.

Miraculously, he fell back asleep after I ushered Natalie stage left, and I stood there for a moment; while he was lying there, for the brief moment he stayed asleep (he was up again in about 10 minutes), I stood there by his crib and gazed at his face. So, I should be having those thoughts of warm comfort looking into the sleeping face of my only son, his soft cheeks, his gentle eyebrows and slightly open mouth, breathing quietly… and my heart should be swelling with pride that I helped create such a good looking boy, but oddly enough, the first thought that came into my mind was: “Isn’t evolution great?”

The reason that thought popped into my mind was because I was looking at his nose especially, a tiny feature that we adults take for granted every day… unless you’re Jimmy Durante, and it takes you for granted. Of course, if you’re Jimmy Durante, I got news for you pal, you’re dead. Anyway, who gives the nose much thought? I guess I’m the only one, but have you ever wondered why the nose is shaped like it is? We need to smell things, of course, and it needs to be connected to the mouth for tasting purposes… Do this: Hold an orange under your nose and take a bite of an apple. What do you taste?

Why does it need to protrude from our face like it does (in some cases more than others), and it is really an ugly facial appendage? I mean, who is attracted to someone else based on their nose? Maybe Cleopatra and Mark Anthony… you know, the Greek nose and all. But why does it poke out of our face, the only such protrusion of its kind? If I were to make a from-the-hip guess, the nose is shaped that way to keep the rain out, but then again, our ears do just fine and they are sideways holes…but you’d think the nose would be turned upside down to keep all that mucus in for God’s sake. Of course, what wouldn’t be able to call kids “snot-nosed kids” now would we.

What I’m getting at, while I was looking at Matthew, I was marveling at the shape of his nose, the shape of all our noses for that matter, and I developed a theory. Our nose jut out from our faces to keep us from killing ourselves. I know, it sounds drastic and perhaps a little dramatic, but it’ll make sense when I explain it. When we were infants, the only thing we wanted was to be fed (and arguably to be loved and held as well, but if we weren’t, it wouldn’t have killed us), as survival was the most important facet of our new lives. Breast feeding is the only way to feed a baby before the advent of history, calendars, modern times and all that jazz, but if you breath out of the mouth and you’re currently suckling with that same mouth, what is left to breath with? Your nose, of course… but wait, if your face is buried in your mother’s breast you could easily suffocate if your nose is flat on your face, none existent or concave. Instead, the baby’s nose pushes a divot into it’s mother’s breast and air flows down two small channels between the sides of its nose and its cheeks. No snorkel needed. How cool is that?

Now, is that the creation of God’s master design or is that evolution? I don’t know, and for fear of random lightning bolts striking out on a crystal clear day like to day, I’ll refrain from making a guess. But notice primates’ noses are not as pokey as humans, and does that makes them a step down on the rung of evolution (of course, with that extra foot thumb they’ve got, they’re catching up fast)?

In a time when Intelligent Design goes against Evolution, it is important to understand fact as opposed to fiction… as people have been struggling with for a couple hundred years now, ever since Darwin came back from the Galapagos on the Beagle to tell us about animals that seemed to have ignored changing with the times or changing rapidly in some places. Remember the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925? Of course, you don’t, we weren’t born yet, but you’ve heard of it, right? Sure made Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan household names, but it goes without saying, the showdown has been still going on ever since then even, and we never got a final answer except for “don’t teach it in the schools.”

However, what is especially irksome about the whole conflict is that the dividing factions on both ends of the spectrum can’t understand that maybe, just possibly, evolution and creation happened at the same time in two different parts of the world. Think about it, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden (did they meet Steinbeck when they went East of Eden? Sorry, English major joke.), had two kids, one of which killed the other and was banished, had some more kids and populated the world. Is that possible? Well, it isn’t too likely that the genetic code of six billion people could come from merely two people, and if that’s the case, I think we’d all be mutants by now (then again, maybe genetic mutation from Adam and Eve is evolution… did that blow your mind?). Of course, that’s not saying it didn’t happen, evolution could have happened elsewhere. God’s experiment with the forbidden fruit didn’t work out exactly as planned, but thankfully he had a bunch of monkeys a few mountain ranges over to take over building the population in conjunction with Adam, Eve, the extra kids and their sisters/wives. Is that possible? Maybe, but who knows?

But then there’s the timeframe. The Bible says the earth was created about five thousand years ago, and I’m sure the ancient Egyptians would take issue with that estimation as they were around for thousands of years before that, but the Bible was written by passionate religious people, not scientists… so who do we believe? Let’s ask Lucy, our friendly Australopithicus Afarensis, the woman dug up in the Ethiopian desert in 1974 by Donald Johanson and John Gray. She is estimated to be at least 3.18 million years old (but she doesn’t look a day over 3.17 million years old). Was that before or after Adam and Eve… but wait, what about the dinosaurs? Were they test drafts done by God before he created mankind? Maybe he said, “The dinosaurs aren’t working out… they keep eating the forbidden fruit…they keep eating everything! What did I do with that asteroid? It’s time for change.”

If Einstein was right and time is relative, six billion Earth years is the same as six days to God, just enough time to create everything, add the concept of Carbon 14 dating to screw us up and set us loose in the garden. Again, who do we believe?

I don’t have the answers, folks, just guesses like you, but I look forward to getting a library card in Heaven so I can check out a couple of books to explain it all to me. Who am I kidding? You know me, I’ll go to Barnes and Noble up there and buy them. You borrow books in hell.

In the meantime, I really enjoy watching Matthew sleep, so peaceful, so innocent, so fragile. That reminds me, it was a long day, I think I’ll get some work done for the night and hit the hay myself. Another long day for me tomorrow. I can’t wait until Natalie gets better; she’s not a forgiving patient. “Yes master, apple juice is coming.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

Foreseer of Doom

It is rather apocalyptic that I mention Natalie’s future life plans and, in the previous post, wonder what the people who were born 100 years ago would think of the early ‘70s, because, if Natalie had been born 100 years ago, she might not have made it past her third birthday. Fairly shocking statement, I know, but that would be the facts of the 19th Century. However, that’s not the case, thanks to Alexander Fleming, who discovered Penicillin in 1928. As a result, Natalie will live to a ripe old age, no doubt.

Saturday, Natalie complained of a sore throat, so she opened it up, stuck out her tongue so we could gaze in and her tonsils were the size of cherries, and just as red. On Sunday, she came down with a 102-degree fever and was very tired, so much so, that last night, she got up sometime in the middle of the night, used the bathroom, left the light on and went back to her own bed, highly suspect (and today, she napped for four hours, which has never happened).

Today, Kara took her in to see the family doctor and came back with a report that she has Scarlet Fever and streptococcal (aka strep throat), a very potentially fatal bacteria and a deadly combination that leads to rheumatic fever. Now, Natalie’s hopped up on amoxicillin, to which she’s no stranger to the taste thanks in part to Day Care’s proclivity to admit children even though they’re sick and because of her extensive ear infections last year (she had eight of them).

Ear infections are nothing compared to something so dangerous and feared as Scarlet Fever once was… it is a romantic killer, according to the literature you’re forced to read in high school. Remember reading Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit? That little boy had Scarlet Fever and they had to burn all of his toys! Burn!?! Bubby, Little Buffalo and Pink Bear aren’t going to be too keen on that turn of events, not to mention the hoards of other stuffed livestock that inhabit her room. More? Okay, Beth in Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) is killed by the illness, and Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her older sister in By the Shores of Silver Lake who went blind because of Scarlet Fever. Yikes, burnings, blindness and death, not to mention the months of illness it once caused, no little girl should go through that, but modern science to the rescue.

After her first dose of antibiotics, Gnat is already on the mend, but we’re still going to take it easy for a couple of days; thank goodness for Alexander Fleming indeed… I guess, more specifically, thanks to SmithKline Beecham, who first sold the antibiotic in 1998. Given all of the amoxicillin that has flowed through this house in the last two years, I’m glad she was born in 2003 and that we didn’t have a shotgun wedding in 1997!

Write is a Right Rite

At the risk of bursting buttons on my vest, I am proud to declare that today, Natalie joined the literate world, officially starting on the road to learning the written language. She knows the alphabet backwards and forwards; she knows the sounds of each letter; and she can even recognize words in various contexts, her name specifically; and she can type her name and the names of our family on the keyboard, but today, Monday, May 22, 2006, she wrote her first letter. Naturally, it was an “N” as that is the first letter I taught her.

We were painting this morning, which means she dips the brushes into a wide variety of colors and smears them on the paper. Since she has deemed that green is my favorite color, I’m only to use green, even if I’m painting a pumpkin. After painting, we got a new piece of paper and began using crayons and markers. I showed her an “N” and made her trace the lines with her finger, which she did.

“Can you draw an ‘N?’” I asked, to which she replied, “No, I need big muscles to draw an ‘N.’” It was logical to her and I wasn’t going to push it, so I let it go; she'll write when she's ready. While I was getting up to get a glass of water from the fridge, she burst with excitement and said:

“Daddy, daddy, I drew an ‘N,’ look!”

Well, everyone… look!

Which Way to the Future?

If I had a time machine, would I want to see what my life would be like 30 years from now? Would that take out some of the fun and excitement of the journey? Would I want to live a life that is predetermined, predestine and decided on before I take the first step? That’s a tough call. You see, I plan for spontaneity, and I practice ad-libs. I pack for a trip three or four days before I leave and I write out greeting card messages on another piece of paper before I put them on the card. I make lists of things to bring, wherever I go, be it a mental list or a physical one. For example, the hunting trip I’m hoping to go on in October (assuming we’re selected in the lottery), I’ve already started the list of things to bring, and I bought the backpack to put it in online yesterday. Granted it is partly a product of excitement, as I’m looking forward to camping under the stars and hiking through the forest, but it is really just who I am. I like to be planned.

So, when I think of what my children will become, I’m mostly filled with anxiety, because between now and then, it is my responsibility to produce children who will be productive in society, caring towards other, successful at what they choose to do and all around good people. It is easy to take credit for who you are today, because you are the one that is here to show the proof of your accomplishments, but it was really your parents that molded you, guided you and drove you toward the proper horizon that signals success. Now, does that mean good parents can’t produce bad children? Of course not. Kids don’t listen and they end up with their own agenda, but for the most part, good parents create good kids by example.

My folks always made me do the right thing. I once stole a couple of pieces of candy from an torn open package in the check-out stand of our local Ralph’s when I was probably five or six. We got to the car, mom asked what was in my mouth (I obviously didn’t go in there with them), and when I told her, we marched back into the store and I had to apologize to the manager for stealing them. I don’t remember what the manager said (I was melting under the spotlight of embarrassment), but I sure learned my lesson: Stealing leads to embarrassment.

It’s lessons like that you need parents for, good hearted people that look out for you in ways you usually don’t understand until much later and for reasons you don’t quite get. Why can’t I stay out all night? Why can’t I have another cookie? Why do I need a babysitter? What are good grades actually good for? Why must I finish the extra credit part of the assignment? Why do I have to do chores? Why must my room stay clean? Why do I have to be nice to people I don’t like? The list goes on, each one a mini-life-learning lesson designed (sometimes by accident) to teach me something about being the person I am, and let’s make no mistake, I didn’t turn out to be this swell guy just by chance. A lot went into me, and I wonder where I would be without that knowledge, probably just some feral child living with a pack of dogs (which sometimes doesn’t sound too bad).

I like to think that, in the picture at the top of this page, Natalie is lying back on the grass, staring up at the endless sky that afternoon and wondering where her life will take her, what she will become and how the grand plan will all end up. Perhaps she is deciding she’d like to be an entomologist; I mean, just moments before this picture was taken, we were fascinating over a lady bug that landed nearby. Maybe she’ll be a writer like her father (and hopefully a more successful one), as every time I see her typing her name on the computer (I know, she’s so smart…and only two) she looks at me and says, “Daddy, I’m working.”

Maybe she’ll want to be President, but I really hope not; it’s tough enough to go through this world without meeting people that end up hating you, much less having them vote to hate you, and every time I’d see an approval rating of less than 100 percent, I’d probably go on a rampaging spree of some kind—and have you ever known rampaging sprees to be a good thing?

Whatever she becomes, I hope she’s happy doing it; the world is filled with too many people doing jobs they aren’t good at or stuck in mindless positions they hate, working for incompetents they resent. God knows, I've been there.

Of course, she could always marry for money, right? You’d remember about your old dad if you did, wouldn’t you, honey? Until she does, I guess I’d better get back to work.

Ten Things I’ve Always Wanted To Do But Probably Never Will

I just finished one portion of a huge book project that I've been working on for the last five months, so there's nothing really to procrastinate... of course, there's always something to work on (I've got 14 freelance assignments on the board that need to be finished by July) and I start the next section of the book today. Sigh.

There is one thing I think I will never understand and that’s the myth of the mid-life crisis. You hear about it a lot, and it seems like a trumped-up, lame excuse to act like an idiot for idiotic reasons, making yourself look like a fool and hurt those around you: Some guy freaks out, buys a red sports car he can’t afford, gets ridiculous blonde highlights and an earring that actually makes him look every bit his age, and runs off with his secretary (that he also can’t afford) to some exotic island (he really can’t afford). To what end, to what purpose? Or maybe he has to do the whole comb-over thing, wear out-of-date clothes that he found in the back of his closet in the faint effort to look cool, and start using the lingo he did when he was actually younger… If it was cool to say “awesome” and “radical” back then, it must certainly be as cool, or more so, today.

In the end, he’s tired, broke, miserable and alone, but he’s got a great excuse to fall back on. “I had a mid-life crisis.” Oh, well, in that case, don’t worry about it at all. All of his infidelity, madness and narcissisms are washed away and quickly forgotten, and your wife? Your wife? I’m sure she’d take you back in a heartbeat. Poor you. Odds are good she’s living happily on half of what took you a lifetime to make, finally realizing that she had the wool pulled over her eyes all these years and that life is better when you're not caring for a man-child.

I don’t feel sorry for people who take this route, not one bit (then again, I don’t feel sorry for people who control their own fate and screw it up). If you’ve run out of goals and must revert back to your childhood for inspiration, just because you think your life is running out and you’ve accomplished nothing, then you’re not thinking hard enough. So, you concoct a lame excuse to dilute yourself into thinking that the best is behind you, and if it is behind you, you want to go back there. Ever see a guy on Skid Row in the grips of a mid-life crisis… or to the contrary, a millionaire wishing he had it all to do over again? Of course not, and that goes to show you, if it were real, it would happen to everyone.

At 33, I am roughly on the cusps of entering the middle of my life, but I see no need for a mid-life crisis; I think, for one, I just have a too much to do around here and no time to screw around at a Ferrari dealership or work on a new hair style. There’s kids to feed, lawns to mow, cars to fix, house to clean (and it’s two stories!), and don’t get me started on the sprinkler system at this place. It was installed by a hydrophobic blind man for a cockeyed client from Tucson who likes to breed cacti and tortoises (no, not together).

Plus, I can’t justify buying a sleek, expensive sports car, because there’d be no place for the two car seats. My hair is much too thick (yes, and luxurious) for a comb over; and I work alone, so the dog is the closest thing to a secretary I ever plan to have. When’s the last time you took a dog to an exotic island? Let’s not even bring up the fact that I don’t even wear cool clothes now, much less out-of-date ones, unless you think sweats and a t-shirt are cool then I’m freakin’ Fonzie.

In my own verbose and garrulous way, this is what I’m getting at: There’s always something you’ll never do in your life, be it become a sky writer in a biplane or a door-to-door foot massager who’s always busy on his feet because he’s on them all day. If you haven’t done it by now, that’s no reason you won’t, but there are a million reasons you can’t. You can’t dream about the past and the “what ifs”, and everyone, no matter how old they get, has a list of at least 10 things they wish they could do in their life before they die. Whether or not your list is on paper is irregardless; you’ve been collecting this list your whole life and they’re in there somewhere, waiting for the opportunity to come out. If you think you haven’t accomplished anything in your life, maybe this is just a wake up call to start. Here are some of mine (in no particular order):

1. Be a renown expert at any one given topic. I’m not really picky with the topic either, as I have a wide variety of interests, from wine and woodworking to history and travel. With my memory, that’ll never happen, ever. That’s why I own so many books. I read it, put it down, forget I read it, pick it back up again and read it again. I’m like a hamster. Wow, man, this is one long wheel I’m on.

2. Visit any of the Wonders of the World…and since there is only one ancient wonder left, the Pyramids, that narrows it down rather much, wouldn’t you say? Sure, we can add the modern ones to the list… but I think the Pyramids are on the top of the list. The catch is that I have no interest in visiting that part of the world any time soon.

3. Become an actor or a singer. Don’t laugh. I always enjoyed the stage whenever I was one it, so I think I would enjoy the entertainment industry in a restricted sense. You can act like an idiot on the street any time you want, but if they point a camera at you, poof, you’re a actor. Isn’t that how Tom Green got started… or was that Tom Cruise? Of course, singing is out, as I sing like a cat in heat on a fence.

4. Learn to fly a helicopter. Nothing further to comment on that, I just think they’re really neat, versatile and less expensive to run than an airplane (who has a runway in their backyard… I know, John Travolta does, you’re right. But I’m not a Sweathog).

5. Paint, sculpt or do something creative with my hands. Art for the sake of art, I guess, but I think I lack the patience to be an artist. A drop of paint here, a swipe there… just get out the Wagner and get it done. Seriously, despite the propensity for most of the great artists to go nuts and start lopping off appendages (I’m talking to you Van Gogh, can you hear me?), I think I’m mostly attracted to the silent emotions that art imparts on people, but the dichotomy of it is that I don’t understand that silent emotion. Art galleries, unless I’m seeing something historical by one of the “greats” is probably the singularly most boring place on earth. And don’t get me started on abstract art. Marcel Duchamp is not an artist… buddy, that was a urinal; then Sherrie Levine just paints one gold and calls it “appropriation art.” To me, it’s not just a urinal, but a plagiarized urinal.

6. Survive an emergency situation. I know, it’s rather Munchausen of me, but I’ve always been curious as to how I would react during a moment of emergency, when chaos and crisis abound. Would I lose it or rise to the occasion? Kara always says I’m calm in a touch situation, but that’s mostly because I don’t get how serious the situation is (or I don’t care), but truth to tell, I am a extremely relaxed and laissez faire sort of guy to begin with.

7. Drive across the country for no real reason or destination, just get in the car and go, free from it all, no worries, no responsibilities, see the sights… uh-oh, we’re dangerously close to mid-life crisis talk with this one. Careful. I just won’t do it in a Ferrari. That’s not saying I wouldn’t if given the chance, but I would choose not to buy one for this purpose as there’s no trunk space and they get horrible gas mileage. Yeah, that’s the excuse.

8. Join the Army. I think I would have made a great career military person, and my interest for this career started when they launched the first Gulf War in 1991, just before I turned 18. Odds are good, I would have gone over if I had joined and I’m sure it would have been exciting (as it was to hear the stories from the people I knew that went), but then again, odds were good for every man in this country to go to war if he had joined when he was 18, as it seems every generation has a war all to its own, from the Revolution to Iraq… every 20 years or so there’s a war of some kind, like national clockwork.

9. Invent something and get it to market. It’s not that I don’t have a bunch of good ideas (How about a personal hot-air balloon? No basket, just a harness. How about a straw insert that goes into a two-liter soda bottle that allows air to go in as the soda is poured out? Makes for a smoother pour and less bubble loss. How a box of kitty litter that doubles as the litter box, just pull off the side panel and it’s ready for your cat? No dust, no bags to store, dump the whole thing when your cat’s filled it) I’m always coming up with ideas for things, many times kicking myself for seeing them on the market years later. OnStar was my idea, a phone system that called for help when you pressed the button or got into an accident… I thought of that probably 15 years ago. How about the movie “National Treasure”? My idea. I started a book called Narrow Passage in 1997 that had treasure hunters finding a map on the back of a letter from Washington to Martha. I’d better stop giving examples, I’m getting bitter and it’s starting to show.

10. Live to be a 100 years old. Given my family’s history, this is probably a long shot, but it was always something I wanted to do, ever since I was a kid (okay, so I was a weird kid, so what). They say that life expectancy is increasing, and every time I hear it, I often wonder if they’re talking about mine or the kids born today. Since I think borderline obsessive-compulsive, the one thing I love more than having everything on my desk square to everything else and the desk is that love things in nice round numbers; 100 is about as round as you get in the age department. Plus, I’ll get to see what 2073 will look like, but I wonder what the centenarians who were alive when I was born thought of 1973. I’ll bet the word “hooey” was used, and it probably didn’t take them long to ask that someone turn down the music.

That’s it, 10 things I’ve always wanted to do. It doesn’t matter if I never get to do any of these things, and it doesn’t bother me that I’m not even able to do some of them (it’ll be a sad state of affairs if they start taking 33-year olds into the service). Truth of the matter is that I probably won’t do any of them, and that really doesn’t bother me. Sure as hell won’t stop me from dreaming; sometimes getting there is half the fun anyway.

What’s on your list?

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