From Hair to Eternity

I am a mammal. I know that this is exciting news but I just felt that it was necessary to share. Now, I have had suspicions that I was mammalian for quite some time. But after analyzing the empirical evidence, I have eliminated all the other options. So, I guess you can now say that I am Team Mammal. First, let’s look at the alternatives. I can’t be a fish. While I do enjoy a nice dip in the pool, seawater dries out my hair  and that coupled with the fact that I have all of the aquatic grace of a ball of mud pretty much rules out me being a fish. I would consider reptiles but snakes creep me out so you can forget that. I would contemplate the fact that I may be an insect but the frequency that I have bruises on my body kinds of negates belonging to any group known for its hard exoskeleton. Since I can neither adhere to walls nor jump more than 2 inches off the ground, then amphibians are clearly not where I belong. As far as birds go, I think that in light of what I like to refer to The Orlando Karaoke Incident of 1995, I lack the melodious quality assigned to all birds. Yep I am a mammal and better yet, I am a male one.

The one distinction that mammals have, in addition to being the principal characters in most Disney movies, is that the male and female of each species have certain territorial and socially sex specific roles. Other lower animals don’t have some regimented gender roles because frankly the males of those species have less complex requirements put upon them. For example, if you are a salmon, your role is simple.  Leave the ocean, check. Swim upstream and over rapids, check. Do your reproductive duty, check. Go back down downstream and become Grizzly chow, check. There is no, take out the garbage, mow the lawn, hold my purse while I try this dress on and/or snuggle included in any of those requirements. However, we higher mammals have to do more than just continue the species; we have to interact with members of the opposite sex at times when reproduction is not on the agenda. Because this interaction frequently exposes both males and females to the absolute insanity inherent in the opposite gender, both sexes have developed special territories where we may seek shelter from this insanity. Historically men have had the better selection in terms of man caves. Prehistoric men had actual caves. The medieval men had the knighthood and public executions.  The colonial age gave men pirate ships and the clergy. Early twentieth century American men had social clubs and jobs not involving cooking and cleaning.

Eventually the wheels of social justice began to turn and women began to find special places where they too could be with those of the fairest sex and share the joys of sisterhood, without having to wear an apron. I think this progress is great, but then……..men began to realize that the number of women’s- only places began to dwarf the number of guys’ places. Just look around. You have book clubs, women’s clubs, yoga studios, every store in the mall other than Sharper Image and GameStop. There is also some mysterious establishment with frosted windows named Curves. I am not sure what kind of place that is but based on the fact that the women come out sweating I am pretty sure it’s some kind of lingerie tickle fight arena. Even television, once that bastion of all things male, has gone girly. In order for me to arrive at that holy grail of manly TV., the N.F.L. network, I have to pass 6 shopping channels, Oprah’s channel, the Hallmark channel and at least 4 different incarnations of the Lifetime network. Because of this intrusion into the spaces formerly dominated by those with the “y” chromosome, we men have been forced to retreat to those special places that women have no interest in going, the principle of these being the barber shop.

The barber shop as a kid was a scary place. A barber shop as an adult is ever scarier. Every barber shop had these menacing leather-bound(at least I hope that’s leather) chairs and if you happen to be a small child they would get  out the “booster”. This is basically a leather wrapped piece of plywood that would rest on the arms of the barber chair so the barber could make sure to nick up all of your head and not just parts of it. The best part of it is that the thing had neither seat belt nor handles for you to balance with. It was basically walking the plank with the added fun of scissors near your major arteries. I had a friend who went to a cool barbershop as a boy; at least he thinks it was cool because the kids got to sit on a saddle while they got haircuts. A saddle? Great, they found the one kind of the seat in the civilized world with zero flat surfaces. “Hey Johnny, what happened to your ear?” “I fell off the saddle at the cool barbershop.” “Nice going Van Gogh.”

For those of you have never had the sheer pleasure (sorry I have to include at least one bad haircut pun) to spend time in a barbershop, let me tell you what you are missing. The place is never neat nor tidy. There are a collection of hunting magazines that no one has ever heard of in the waiting room. Well, it’s not really a waiting room. It is actually a collection of rickety chairs about 2 feet from the barbers. I would say it is within shouting distance but that measure of length has little meaning in a barbershop because the denizens of these fine establishments are generally shouting everything they say. The only problem with the proximity from those waiting to those getting bad haircuts, and they are always bad haircuts, is that inevitably one of those waiting will engage the barber about to cut my hair in some topic of conversation that the barber feels passionate about and everybody knows that there is nothing more fun than an enraged man with an endless supply of cutting tools. Usually, by the end of the conversation my neck looks like the cutting board at a Japanese Steakhouse. As scary as what goes on in front of the barber chairs is, what goes on behind them is even worse. Of course the requisite picture of the barber from his days in the army is there, and nothing says high fashion hair styling like a guy in a crew cut. There is the industrial sized bottle of Vitalis. I am not sure what Vitalis is but have a sneaking suspicion that it contains the same chemicals as paint thinner without paint thinner’s more pleasant smell. I swear that when the barber splashed that substance on my neck, I saw smoke. Next to the Vitalis was the giant candy jar….of combs. This container held mor combs that any human being could possibly need in a strange blue liquid. When asked what that viscous liquid was, the head barber told be alcohol. I may have been in a child and still believed in many unreal things. At the time I still believed in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and the American political system, but even I couldn’t buy that the alcohol was blue. I knew that alcohol came in two shades, vodka clear and Canadian brown. Then to add to my chagrin, the barber would pull a comb from that bacterial frappe and attempt to use it on my head at which time I would dodge every move like I was Neo from the Matrix. Sorry Floyd( it is required that every real barber have at least one guy named Floyd on the premises at all times) but you’re not putting anything near my head that came from a vat of liquid that looks vaguely similar to the product my mother uses to remove rust stains from our toilet. Everywhere you look there is weirdness. Then I would spot the thing that set me over the edge, the combination straight razor and long leather strap. Nothing settles a six-year-old like being 10 inches away from one of the props from the SAW movies.

After all the stress, you finally emerge back into the coed world. You have a new hair cut and the world is so excited. Well, not the whole world but at least the bullies at your bus stop because all your extra hair was making it itchy when they held you in a headlock. You swear that it’s just not worth it. You aren’t going to go to the barbershop any more, you are going to the hair salon because you mistakenly think that will make it better. By the way, you are wrong. As long as I was under my mother’s dominion, I was forced to visit the same barbershop but when the barbers’ tremors finally got so bad that a quick trim may have endangered my mom’s chances at grandchildren, she agreed to let me go get my haircut at the salon. Well, it wasn’t really a salon, it was a StuperCuts.(name changed to avoid any more litigation). I know that it isn’t exactly a Paul Mitchell salon but for a young man who considered any meal not delivered via a drive through window as gourmet, it was quite a cultural change. It was like the Promised Land…with hair on the floor. The difference between the male dominated barbershop and the female domain of the salon were like night and day.

  • Men get their hair cut, women get their hair done
  • Men visit barber shops, women visit beauty salons
  • Beauty salons have actual waiting rooms with magazines from the current decade.
  • Beauty salons are staffed by people who went to school in order to do hair, barber shops are staffed by people who work there  because they dropped out of school.
  • Beauty salons play satellite radio featuring the latest hits, barber shops play A.M. radio featuring shows about gardening.
  • At a beauty shop, they will actually wash your hair for you before your styling. At a barbershop, it’s a challenge just getting the barber to wash his hands after he uses the restroom.

As happens when ever you cross that territorial line between the world of men and women, the novelty of an experience different from the one we are used to make everything seem wonderful…..for a while. But slowly, the reality is that you have simply exchanged one type of psychosis for another. Soon the glow of joy of being at the salon was replaced by the cold wind of reality. The pre-styling hair washing seems to be the entrance level exam for the position of Water-Boarder at Guantanamo Bay. Gee thanks for making my scalp bleed, I really appreciate that. Another problem with the salon is the obsession with making appointments. Now I do understand that some of the coloring and styling activities may take longer than the typical five-minute buzz cut at the barber shop but do you need to schedule what time I should show up down to the millisecond. I am trying to get a few inches chopped off the fro not trying to land a spaceship on an asteroid. I can barely show up at work at the time that I am supposed to, and I am getting paid to do that. So if you expect me to show up at the hair cut place in the strip mall at a certain then I will give you the same advice that I gave my wife on our wedding day, ”Prepare for disappointment.”

Even arriving at salon, there are other issues. First of all, all the salons I have ever been to (that would be three) have an extremely loud door alarm to alert everyone in the zip code that the door has been opened. Nothing breeds hair styling success like startling the people with the razor-sharp instruments. I understand the reason for the alarm on the door. It is to give the employees an auditory prompt fo them to throw down their cigarettes and come back in the salon, because they smoke….they all smoke. Maybe it is the constant inhalation of hairspray or maybe it is the occupational stress one would feel from having to pretend not to notice when the client in the chair passes gas. Whatever the reason, the employees usually have more tobacco than the state of North Carolina. The last time that I got my hair cut, the lady that did it smelled like the lovechild of The Marlboro Man and Joe Camel.  Aside from the cigarette stained fingers cutting my hair, there is another problem I have with the salon employees. It is not the physical contact that takes place when you are cutting my hair, I understand the barriers that having short arms places on your ability to respect my personal space when styling my ‘do, it is the verbal contact that I mind. Let me put this delicately,  “ STOP TALKING TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!” We are not family. We are not friends. Heck, we are not even casual acquaintances. If I could cut my hair, I would. But I can’t and that is why I come here. So, let’s please stop pretending that we need to catch each other up on what’s been going on in since the never when I was here before. I don’t want to talk about the  weather. I don’t want to talk about my job. I don’t want to participate in your conversation about when your boyfriend’s”band” is going to hit it big. I don’t want to join in you and your co-workers’ version of an amateur  The Maury Show. You are a professional and I expect you to behave as one. You are under no pressure to be neither social nor chatty. In fact I want the same interaction with you that I would expect from a prostitute:

  • Don’t tell me your name.
  • Don’t look me in the eye.
  • Perform your duty well and you will be tipped well.
  • Perform it poorly and I will claim that I am a cop and then run away.

That’s’ it. It’s just hair. It really shouldn’t get complex. Of course there is another alternative………maybe I will just wear a hat.

 

Lessons learned

Well, here we are. We made it past the end of the word. No, I am not talking about that Mayan world’s gonna blow up crap. Everybody knows that the Mayans didn’t know diddly about predicting the future, or else they would have seen that inviting the Spanish invaders in for some tea and crumpets would have been a really bad idea. However, if the Aztecs would have predicted the world was going to end, sh#@ would have got real. I am talking about making it through the year 2012, which at several points this year seemed like a never ending big bowl o’ crap. It was like eating at Hell‘s Olive Garden. It had moments of moderate improvement and then got unbelievably worse. I just need to face the facts, 2012 was basically like all 3 of the Transformers movies. No, I am  not talking about the cool animated Transformer movie that came out when I was in Junior High( oh thank you Duval County Public Schools for adding one more feeling of inferiority to my 8-9 grade years by forever making me refer to it as ‘junior”) and had Dinobots in it and when Optimus Prime died you actually cried, or maybe that was just me. No, 2012 was just like the Michael Bay “let’s CG everything” Transformer movies. It started slow, got o.k. in the middle and then just devolved into nothing but noise and failure that you end up hoping that someone would just end the damn thing. Well as the the final credits roll for this year, and no, I am not going to wait around to see if there is one more foreshadowing- laden scene midway through the closing credits, I think it is time to reflect on the things that happened this year and what lessons that can be obtained from them.

 

 

 

So with no further ado, here are The Things that I have Learned, 2012:

 

 

 

  • Don’t underestimate the value of a quality tour guide, as a result of a certain unnamed,( not to protect his identity, it’s just that he wasn’t interesting enough to commit his name to memory) guide’s lack of zeal for his job, the civilized world has been exposed to six months of me typing out my cray cray.
  • Grown men should not use words like “cray cray”.
  • With regards to bosses, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
  • If when explaining your boss you have to resort to an analogy involving the word “devil”, then you probably have made some unwise career choices.
  • My most rock and roll moment: In the pit and at the front of the crowd at the Van’s Warped Tour.
  • My least rock and roll moment: Standing at an Asking Alexandria concert and thinking that that kid in front of me with the stale smelling t-shirt should really switch to Tide with Febreze.
  • Rotate your tires and check your brakes.
  • That guy at Pep Boys is a jerk.
  • Being unemployed is great, until the bills come in.
  • Having a job  is great, until you have to leave the house.
  • I could remember a lot more important things if my brain wasn’t full of t.v. theme songs and my locker combinations  from seventh grade.
  • Kim Kardasian and Kanye West make a perfect couple. She has a huge ass and he acts like one.
  • It’s pretty clear that the guy that makes Adventure Time does drugs.
  • When deciding whether or not to work for a company, just visit their breakroom and see if they have powdered creamer for the coffee. If a company won’t pony up for half and half,   you can probably forget about any future raises.
  • If you ask someone on the telephone more than once how to pronounce their name,  you are legally obligated to use that name at least 5 times during the conversation. Otherwise, just call me “sir” and get on with your business.
  • Watching the local news in HD is a great way to find out that you live in a town full of ugly people.
  • Beer and pizza>beer>water
  • Beer and pizza with friends> just about everything else
  • I think it’s a compliment when people you just met say they want you to hang around because they find you entertaining. At least I hope it is.
  • If you are in front of me in line at a store, I hate you. Nothing personal it’s just I got places to go.
  • I want to see snow and go to Disney World,  just not at the same time.
  • The list of people that I actually like seems to be getting shorter on a daily,  but those still on the list I seem to like more.
  • The levels of intoxication are: Sober, Relaxed, Happy Drunk, Sloppy Drunk, Wasted,  and “No I didn’t realize that guy was being a jerk to me”.
  • I can drive a golf cart like a sumbitch.
  • Just because I am going into the kitchen does not mean you are about to get fed, cat………..or kids.
  • I am still genetically incapable of keeping my darn ideas to myself.
  • Home runs  are a lot more fun when it’s your team that hits them.
  • If the “get fit ideas” on the internet were half  as appealling as the “get fat” recipes on Pinterest then I wouldn’t have to keep buying new pants.
  • Attention Facebook members( like its a club or something): Please stop posting every whimsical picture and/or ecard that you find on the interwebs. Facebook is for posting pictures of your children, sending birthday wishes to people you really don’t care about, complaining about your job and posting  political opinions that I don’t agree with.
  • George Takei is exempt from the previous rule.
  • Do not let your kids name the new kitten unless you don’t mind saying the words “Pootie Pie” in a crowded vet’s office.
  • Haircuts are overrated.
  • People should be be classified not by race nor by sex but by whether they keep putting the twist tie back on the bag  of the bread or just twist the bag and tuck it underneath. Twist tiers unite, the revolution is coming.
  • After twelve years of bathing, my son still doesn’t remember he will need a towel until after he gets in the shower.
  • As part of Disney’s purchase of Star Wars, I hope they add Jar Jar to the shooting gallery at Frontierland.
  • If you like two different football teams, there should be a rule that they both can’t suck in the same year.
  • According to my marriage license, I got married on Febraury 28, 1992. According to my Facebook timeline, I got married on March 1,2009.  Does that mean I have 17 years worth of saying something stupid that I have to do all over again?
  • Parents celebrate their kids’  birthdays because we went 365 days without killing our children……..yet.
  • AA batteries make great although noisy cat toys.
  • This year is going to be great…….because it has to be.

 

 

Cave Paintings

It was not the lunch break that I intended to  have. I work in  a secure and controlled office. We have to swipe our i.d. badge to enter the room, the use of mobile devices from Kindles to Cell Phones are prohibited and the internet is locked down on all our computers. No, I do not deal with national security issues nor do I perform any specialized scientific experiments. It’s just that we deal with the human resources files for employees of a certain state and that state has been stung enough by the theft of its employees identities in the past that it now takes the protection of those assets very seriously. The result is that we  work in something akin to a bubble and our only knowledge of the outside world is via our intranet connection which only informs us of  deadlines for enrolling in benefits and which manager from our corporate headquarters across the pond just got promoted. This does make our lunch periods as a time when we get reconnected to the world outside our cubicles. I had just sat down to a lovely plate of pasta salad and chicken salad sandwich at a small neighborhood cafe, when the outside world caught up with me. I was not prepared to deal with what the  had been happening  since 9:40 a.m. Nobody was.

It has been nearly 10 hours since that horrific event in Newtown, Connecticut and I am no more prepared to deal with it now than I was the moment the event came into my consciousness. The past day has been an uncontrollable torrent of thoughts, emotions and opinions and every new bit of information that I am exposed to seems only to confuse and baffle me more. I feel the need to some how make some sense of what I am thinking, not out of some sense of egotism that I have some bit of wisdom that I can bestow upon the world but rather I feel the need to try to wrap my brain around this event for the sole protection of my own sanity. We are all like those ancient cave dwellers who, when faced with a hostile world that contained danger in every shadow and death waiting at their threshold, put pigment to cave well in an attempt to explain how they survived. I stand before my empty space of wall with by finger dipped in color and find myself ill equipped to communicate. After all, how do you depict an unfathomable sense of loss.

Newtown, Connecticut lies 1,012 miles from where I now sit at my dining room table and yet it feels like it is right next door. Is it just me or does, when one of these horrible events take place, the distance from your location to the scene of the tragedy seem to in no way insulate you from the feeling that it is in your back yard? I have never been to Connecticut but as the events of the day were relayed to me by various news outlets, I saw in my minds eye every overturned desk and the look of terror in every child’s face. Slowly, I began to realize that the school I was seeing was not the Sandy Hook Elementary of Newtown, CT but rather I was seeing the elementary school that my children once attended and the campuses that they now inhabit. The look of terror was not of some faceless stranger but rather it belonged to  the kids who are part of my life. I think that is why the distance is of no consolation because every parent, every teacher, every older brother and every interested adult knows that despite their insistence in our kids safety when they leave us, we are always on the precipice of danger from some unfeeling and unstoppable mad man. I say this not to strike fear in my own heart although that emotion is one that I have been constantly dealing with since this event took place. Instead, it makes me feel that we all have to find a way to deal with this, to try to understand “the why” and “the how” and to vow for the” never again”.

There is a certain fraternity among those of us who have been blessed to have children. We realize that it is not by  our own merits that we were able to be called mom and dad. There are far more honorable people than myself that, although desperate to have kids of their own, are prevented from having kids through the conspiracies of biology. This feeling among parents that to a small extent we have won a sort of procreation lottery leads us to spend every waking hour trying to keep our kids safe and feeling loved. We skip sleep, give up our last dollar, invite their friends including the ones we don’t like to parties and we change our whole schedules to accommodate their every need in the hope that they will one day understand how much they mean to us. I personally am as committed to my kids as I can humanly be and know that most parents are as well and it is this mutual appreciation of our role in our kids and their friends’ lives that gives us something in common with all other parents. It also makes the loss that other parents experience to be so hard to take. Whether it was due to a tragic auto accident or the slipping away after a long illness, there is no way that a parent can hear of the passing of a child and not feel that gut wrenching, paralyzing fear that someday I may have to feel the same. This feeling was visited twenty-fold upon us yesterday. I heard some parents of very small children hypothesize that younger parents would hurt more at hearing of the Newtown event because their kids are the same age as the victims and they hold a common feeling of the loss of the possible future these kids could have had. I  feel that the sense of loss is just as profound among those of us who have kids that have passed the age of the victims for we know in concrete terms the joy of every day since that age that our kids have given us. I will suggest that all parents feel loss today and we all have deepest sympathies for the nightmare that those parents a thousand miles away are experiencing. For all the events that those parents will never get to share again, I feel saddest about one that seems so trivial, picking up the kids from school.

Every parent has had to perform this feat at least once in their lives. The traffic is hellacious, disorganized and generally it involves sitting in a steaming car for what seems like an eternity waiting for some school official to walkie talkie your kid’s release to your car. When the kids finally finishes saying good bye to every classmate in the school district and opens your car door, it happens. In that moment between the whump of a backpack hitting the back seat and your first question about how their day was, you feel it. In that moment of silence, you know on a subconscious level that they are safe. Those last 8 hours since they left your presence has passed without harm, you relax just a little bit in knowing that once again you can be with them and talk to them and tell them that you love them. The greatest tragedy about that Friday morning at Sandy Hook School is that for twenty sets of parents, that moment is gone forever.

As hard as dealing with my own thoughts about this tragedy have been, the act of trying to understand why it happened and how to make sure this is the last time we have to mourn innocent victims of a senseless crime is nearly impossible. Clearly, we need to address the culture we live in. The pandemic of mental illness and its striking at the heart of our youth has to be addressed. We need to remove the stigma of talking about mental illness like it is some family secret and deal with the reality of what it is, a diagnosable, treatable medical condition that deserves the same attention as any other medical condition. Where are the colored ribbons? Where are the charity walks? They don’t exist because we continue to believe that it is weakness to talk about how we feel and we spend everyday saying things like ,” I am fine” and “Oh he’s o.k.He just has the blues today”. The common thread among too many of these shooters is that they have had conditions that were not diagnosed and/or undertreated. I know we can’t bring back those who have suffered at the hands of the mentally ill but perhaps if we can start as a society dealing with mental illness in a mature and scientific way then who knows how many lives we can save?

I have to admit that I not exactly feeling calm and pensive this morning. No, the emotions that we all have been feeling lead us to probably think most logically when dealing with this any other tragedy. This is definitely true of myself because the emotion I feel more than sadness is that of anger. This has pissed me off to no end. I am mad at the shooter for taking young lives. I am mad at my politicians who claim that we can’t talk about the root causes of these issues because the timing is inopportune. Most of all I am angry at the American culture that bemoans this tragedy but refuses to honestly address it and in just a few days will add it to the  laundry list of historical events that we should have learned a lesson from but didn’t. This is not about guns.

This is about boys and guns. I am a hypocrite. I have spent my life teaching my son that violence is not the answer, the lives of others really matter and to turn the other cheek. I have also allowed him to play video games that  feature firearms and the use of those to kill digital representations of human beings. He has a Nerf arsenal of guns and other spongy weapons. I even got him a b.b. gun last Christmas. Now, my son is a peace loving boy. He would never hurt anyone and even when faced with a bully at school, took the intimidation as opposed to striking out in anger. But I am only fooling myself if I don’t realize that the prevalence of guns as entertainment in his life doesn’t cause him at least some sense of moral confusion. Now I have to do my job as a parent and find a way to temper those confusions with guidance. I am not going to make some empty promise of him never playing anything violent  again because I do believe some of it serves as an outlet for the aggression that otherwise would be internalized to himself or unleashed on others. What I am going to do is explain to him the difference between the fantasy and reality of violence. I am going to stay  in the room  with him when he plays and if I determine that it has become too much, I am going to turn it off. Basically I am going to do the job that parents are supposed to do. Most of all I am going to talk to him about how he should treat other people and the value of all life.

The common thread that runs through every mass shooting is the same, some male and a gun. The preponderance of young males with firearms has reached epidemic proportions and its not just a mass shooting at a school that should make us realize it. Just in my medium sized city this week we have had at least one gun incident every day and whether this is a shooting over a drug deal gone bad or at the hands of a madman in CT, the fact is that this has got to stop.  We have got to stop wringing our hands at the mall shooting at  Clackamas Town center and then forget about the gun violence that goes on every other day in the shadows. How many women must be killed at the hands of their abusive husbands?  How many kids must be shot playing with their parents guns? How many teenagers must be shot at gas stations because their music was too loud before we start to honestly address the problem? This is about more than guns. Its about guns in American. Switzerland trails only the U.S. in gun ownership but has a gun crime rate that is so low that its is statistically untraceable. So it has to be about more than guns but that doesn’t mean its about less.

This is not about the Second Amendment. It is also not about the government kicking in doors and confiscating hunting rifles. We need to get to a stage in our politics where we can actually talk about guns in our society in a way that is measured and reasonable. Why must it be all or nothing? Can’t we address the reality of the world we live in, even if it doesn’t jive with whatever catchy little slogan our political allies like to hide behind? I am sorry but guns do kill people. There are bad people in the world and they are going to use whatever means is at their disposal to harm other human beings. We should require that they have to extend a little more effort than walking up to the sporting goods counter at Wal-mart. I understand there is a role for guns in society but we have to realize that the proliferation of guns has less to do with constitutional rights and more to do with the profitability of gun companies. Glock’s profit margins are 68% per firearm, not a bad margin. I am not saying that gun companies should be run out of town on a rail, but that we have to be honest about some of the factors that encourage gun ownership by many who frankly are not the most responsible. We also have to eliminate both sides of the extremes. A gunless culture would not guarantee a world without violence and neither would a society where every citizen is packing heat. We have to find some reasonable middle ground between Nazi Germany’s example and that of Dodge City.

The ultimate solution would be a society that values all human life and would pass those values along to its children. Since we seem to be far from accomplishing that perhaps we should limit, not outlaw, some of the weapons that make the taking of that life so efficient. This is the point where usually the N.R.A point of view will be expressed that it is only the armed general population that keeps our country from being run by tyrants. I find it odd that an organization that puts such stock in the Second Amendment simultaneously puts such little belief in the remainder of our Constitution and its provisions that are in place to prevent such tyranny. There are two problems with this view of guns as the only way to keep the oligarchs from marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. The first is that even if this argument had merit it is vacated by the fact that the majority of its advocates seem to be more obsessed with whether two homosexuals can get married and the religion of our current president than they do with making our nation a better place. The second is just basic military theory. Do you really think that a military that possesses nuclear submarines and F-22 fighters is really deterred by a collection of hunting rifles? The true fact is that true, reasonable and consistently applied gun laws may not cure all ills but it may just help save a few lives and isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Well, it appears my space on the cave wall is nearly full and although the thoughts I express are only my own, they have allowed me to start to get a handle on the events of a Friday I am not soon to forget.  My hope is for healing to those affected by this event…. and those affected are all of us.

Resume for your consideration

 You have to keep your options open. Although I have a stable job with a multinational corporation, I continue to peruse the job market in my quest to find an even better position than the one I currently hold. The problem is that as soon as soon as I see an employment listing, the position is filled before I have a chance to apply for it. I guess it’s true that the greatest ingredient to success is timing. It seems that there has to be a way to get ahead of the job search system. I have an idea. I think the answer is to apply for a job before the general public ever knows that it is available. There are two ways to do this.

The first, and far more morbid, way is to just cruise the obituaries with the thought that every name that is listed is one more job opportunity. However, there are a few problems with that system. First of all, for some unknown reason, the numbers of elderly people who are now deceased are greater than those of any other demographic group and the elderly tend not to have the most covetous jobs. Even worse, most of them don’t even work. Oh yes, they have some great excuses like, ”I am 90” and “I just retired six months ago after working double shifts for 53 years in a coal mine”, but to me it just sounds like they are being lazy. The worst of it is that those employed at all  work only as greeters at Wal-Mart. I am sorry but having to sling shopping carts at the dazzling human specimens that frequent Wal-Mart does not sound very appealing. An addition flaw in trying to follow the Grim Reaper into a career change is that showing up at funerals and asking the surviving family members if the deceased had a good dental plan or got holidays off leads to more confrontations than I feel comfortable with.

The other means of obtaining employment in a position that you desire is to find a job that, although currently occupied, would be a perfect fit for you. All that remains is to make the case as to why you would be the ideal person to do the job better than it is being done.  I have been looking at the various occupations around and think that I found the one that I want. The job requires a limited work schedule, a lot of fringe benefits and best of all, the current job holder has been there so long that he is not doing the job as well as someone new would. That is why I am submitting my application of the position of…….Santa Claus.

First, let’s look at why I am a natural fit to fill the position:

SCHEDULE. Let’s face the facts. Santa actually only really works one day per year. If you ask any of my former managers, they will assure you that only working one day per year is something I am accustomed to.

CHILDREN. Similar to the soon to be ex-Mr. Claus, I tolerate other people’s children once every 365 days as well.

SLEIGH DRIVING. I have been involved in the transportation of various goods throughout my professional career. And if I can maneuver a 25 foot beverage truck with bad brakes through the cobblestone streets of downtown Saint Augustine while drinking a coffee and talking on the cell phone, then landing a sleigh on a roof is really no big deal.

TOYS.  The only other adult on the planet that knows more about toys than me is Josh Baskin ( for the uninformed that was the name of the Tom Hanks character in “Big”). Proof of this is that I am the only person over the age of 10 that still includes a new Hess truck on his Christmas wish list every year.

ELF MANAGEMENT. This should be the one area where my experience should be lacking but unfortunately everyplace I have ever worked at has been run by small petty people so working with actual elves would not be a new experience.

DIET. Cookies, hot chocolate, candy, candy canes, these are the items that Santa is said to consume. Or as I call them…..lunch.

It is not enough to just show that I could do the job as well as it is being done, I need to show how I can do it better. The truth is that with no real competition, the current Santa Claus has become complacent so it’s time to bring some innovation to the North Pole. Guess who has two thumbs and some ways to jazz up Christmas? THIS GUY!!

We need to begin with the basics. I love the nostalgia of the whole reindeer pulled sleigh idea but in this day and age some changes need to be made. A sleigh? In light of the reality of global warming having a vehicle only is useful for transportation across snow seems silly. I have an invention that we should introduce, it’s called the wheel. Actually I am in contract negotiations with the Volkswagen Corporation on designing a new sleigh. First of all, no one designs autos like the Germans and secondly I love the idea of the Christmas Eve trip involving an intercontinental game of Punch Buggy.

I like the idea of using unpaid slave labor to make the toys and will continue to use elves with a few alterations. Say goodbye to the miniature toy makers with the bells on their pointed toed shoes. I am replacing them with the elves from The Lord of The Rings. I would love to see a kid complain about a toy that was made by a race of Immortals with deadly accurate archery skills. Sorry little Johnny that you don’t like the fire truck you just unwrapped. Why don’t you go tell Legolas why it is not good enough, as soon as he is done killing that cave troll with his bare hands.

The suit needs some work as well. Bright red with fur-lined collar? What are we trying to do, give the P.E.T.A. people a heart attack? I say we go with some jeans and a hoodie in soft muted tones. I just think it is unsafe to wear any bright colors in any state that has a Stand Your Ground law on the books.

We need to talk about what the Santa gig is really all about, namely toys. This is the area where the current Santa is really slacking. His obsession with safety has meant the too many toys have been eliminated from the inventory. Has anybody seen the toys now available? They are about as exciting as a mayonnaise sandwich on white bread. It has gotten so bad that we now have board games based on iPhone apps that were based on board games. Somebody stop this ride, I want to get off. The obsession with safety has means all the toys are now nontoxic and non- fun. I think it’s time to bring back some good old-fashioned danger into Christmas morning. I am going to bring back every lead paint based, phosphorus leaking, and sharp edged toy that I can. People can boo hoo all they want about unsafe toys, I know that if it wasn’t for b.b. guns and micro machines poor little Kevin McAlister would never have been able to fend off the Wet Bandits. There is also the issue with creating lasting holiday memories. Sure, a kid may let the morning that he received a Nerf ball fade from his recollection but nobody forgets the trip to the E.R. that was a result of the ride in the go-cart with no seat belt. Like the saying goes,” Photos are fleeting but x-rays are forever.”

The other part of the job that I am uniquely qualified for is the process of designating a kid as naughty or nice. This is the job I was born to do. I spend the majority of my waking hours observing the actions of others and making arbitrary judgment based on what I see so determining the classification of whether some snotty nosed brat as naughty or nice is just too easy. I understand that just making these judgments based on nothing more than my own internal premonitions about a kid is probably somewhat unfair so I will have to codify a few ways to avoid the naughty list. Come to think of it, I can’t believe that we are still using the designation of naughty and nice to describe behaviors in 2012. Clearly we need to come up with new labels to identify positive and negative behavior.  I am going to now refer to the two lists as “Awesome” a.k.a. the nice list and “Sucks” will be the naughty list. It is rather simple to be on the Awesome list. A child and/or adult should treat people well, take care of their responsibilities, look out for your fellow man…. yada yada yada.

Appearance on the Sucks list requires me to lay out a few rules. Committing any of the following offenses will result in immediate inclusion on the Sucks list and let me just add that I hope you like coal.

AUTOMATIC SUCKS BEHAVIORS

  • ·         Saying “axe” when you mean “asked”
  • ·         Writing “a lot” as one word.
  • ·         Farting in an elevator.
  • ·         Not agreeing that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie.
  • ·         Using off brand Band Aids
  • ·         Having to appear on Maury more than once to find out who your Baby Daddy is.
  • ·         Not liking baseball/football
  • ·         Liking soccer
  • ·         Referring to a tomato as a fruit.
  • ·         Not using turn signals in a car
  • ·         Using hand signals on a moped.
  • ·         Riding a Vespa
  • ·         Turning your mobile phone’s speaker on in a grocery store.
  • ·         Posting intimate details about your life on Facebook and then publicly lamenting that you wish people would” just leave you alone”
  • ·         Asking everyone you meet to read your blog.
  • ·         Reading this blog
  • ·         Not knowing “who lives in a pineapple under the sea”
  • ·         Letting your kids watch Family Guy/American Dad/the WNBA/ the news.
  • ·         Complaining about the weather
  • ·         Blaming it on the a-a-a-lcohol.

 

 

So I guess that is how I will submit my application for Santa Claus. References available upon request.

 

 

 

Last minute gift ideas

Dear Santa,

I know, I know. It has been quite a while since I have written to you but I have been quite busy lately. I understand that you are not used to receiving letters from those of us who are over legal voting/drinking age but since I didn’t really have any kind of relationship with you until I was seventeen years old then I kind of figured that I had some unused years of eligibility left. Also, I presumed that since you are a magical elf that can manipulate the relationship of time and space that you could bend the rules for me and accept this letter. I was just going to deliver this in person to one of your duly appointed representatives at the mall but apparently they haven’t lifted that restraining order yet. However in my defense, I had just figured that if a five year old is going to run his mouth like that then he really out to be able to take a punch. I am just glad that the Taser marks have finally healed.

Well if you made it this far in the letter then I guess I should really get to the point. I would love to tell you how good I have been this year but I recall something about “he sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” so I won’t waste your time with lies and deception. The truth is that although I have tried to be good, I have been fairly naughty this year. I have acted selfishly. I have gotten angry at the people I love. On occasions, I have drank too much and listened too little. I have not been patient with the faults of others nor those of myself. Most of all, I just haven’t made the positive difference in the world that I believe it is every human being’s obligation to make. There have been moments when I have been good but these just haven’t occurred frequently enough this year. Due to the fact that I find myself on the provisionally naughty list this year, I will not ask for the tangible gifts that I normally would request. I won’t ask for videogames. I won’t ask for some new great kitchen tool that would make me feel like a real cook. I won’t ask for the new Hess truck to add to my collection or a new Star Wars t-shirt, although I don’t think you can ever have too many. Even if I did ask for some physical gift I doubt you could find our house in order to deliver it. The tree is not yet up and the lights are not strung along the roofline. There is no inflatable snowman in the front yard and there is no lighted replica of you on the front porch. I would like to blame our tardiness in decoration on my recent illness or the financial struggles that our family, and many other families too, are experiencing.

But I must be honest, there is something more than that and that is why I need your help. So Santa, the only thing I need from you is ………………….Christmas. No, I don’t mean the actual date of December 25. The passage of time means that day will come and go as it always has. I also don’t mean the version of Christmas that is marketed and packaged as nothing more than an excuse for out-of-control consumerism so that what was once a holy day of celebration is nothing more than an excuse to buy more useless junk. No, the Christmas I am referring to is about something that that can’t be wrapped in a box nor stuffed in an envelope. In the words of Dr. Seuss, it is about “a little bit more”. This is the Christmas I need you to bring.

I want the Christmas that feels like a warm blanket at the end of a cold day.

I want the Christmas that I had the first year I was married as we sat in front of our scrawny tree and shared gifts that were the first ones we had ever had together.

I want the Christmas when my daughter was one and the time when she was mesmerized by the lights and ornaments on the tree not the presents beneath it.

I want the Christmas when my son got his first baseball. It was simple and he had no idea how much joy watching him play has given me.

I want the Christmas of family. I want the day where we get together and instead of convincing our selves why we are better than these other individuals, we share the love that keeps us together.

I want the Christmas of peace and reconciliation. I have seen to many families fall apart this year and I wish them the kindness of heart to put their differences aside and find a way to be kind and respectful to each other.

I want a Christmas of action. Please bring me a time when we can stop feeling bad about those suffering around us and start doing the things that are needed to make their lives better.

I want a Christmas of priorities. Each day we lose a little of the relationships we have with friends and families because we let the distractions of life steal the attention we should pay to the ones who matter to us.

I want the Christmas of love. I want Jews and Muslims, Christians and Hindus, Devout religious fanatics and skeptical atheists to treat each other like the god they believe in, or don’t, wants them to.

Finally, I want a Merry Christmas. Not an empty platitude to mumble as you go about your day, but rather a true feeling of happiness that is based on the lives we have and not the things we own.

So dear Santa, please bring me the Christmas I need….because I know I am not the only one.

Touch me I’m sick

“I am trying to be ill.”- Rik, The People’s Poet

 

I was born with strong bones and a healthy heart. Being born as nine pound plus baby, I can honestly say that I was never weak, nor malnourished. And based on the rapidly growing pile of jeans in my closet that no longer fit and my rapidly diminishing view of my toes, I can say that this situation has continued to be the case. I am grateful that I was born with such a sturdy body. I thank the Lord that he gave me many gifts. He gave me an excellent sense of hearing, strong bones that have never been broken, a remarkably handsome face and awesome muscle tone. He also gave me the ability to completely delude myself as regards my face and physique. It is sometimes a burden to have been born so blessed. However, in an effort to even out the score and ultimately prevent me from ruling the word, the Good Lord is his infinite wisdom decided to give me one pair of organs that frankly just don’t work that good. No, not that pair of organs, you pervert. Based on the two young people that resemble me and spend a good portion of the time calling me Dad, while asking for me to give them money, I would say those organs work just fine thank you very much.

No, the organs I am referring to are ones that have a far more important job and are about as effective as the Jaguars offense, my lungs. I hate my lungs because frankly they work about as hard as a government employee on a Friday afternoon. There was a time when my lungs weren’t consistently letting me down but apparently the factory warrantee on those bad boys expired after 18 months. For those of you who have never known the joy of taking a deep breath and feeling like you are inhaling through a wet sponge, let me enlighten you in on the joys you have missed.

  • ·         You have missed the joys of being up at three in the morning because you can’t breathe and you and your occasionally nodding off mother get to enjoy some late night TV. However, if you think that late night television is bad now with your 300 channels and your 54” HDTV then imagine what it was like back in the early 80s when there was only 3 channels on…during primetime.
  • ·         You missed the joy of being accused of being a smartass by every teacher because you made the critical mistake a taking your usual desperate gasp for air at the same moment that your teacher mentioned her age and/or weight.
  • ·         You missed knowing more about how to conduct a chest x-ray than the Technicians that spend 24 credit hours learning to do it at community college.
  • ·         You also missed the secrets of children’s medicine: If it tastes good, it doesn’t work. If it tastes bad, it still won’t work. And if it tastes really, really bad then it won’t work but the doctor will recommend that you drink a bottle every fifteen minutes.

I don’t want to pretend that I was sick throughout my entire childhood; there were some considerable periods of time when I was completely healthy. The fact was that as long as I didn’t get a cold, I was fine. However, as soon as I felt the first twinges of a sore throat, I was like a man leaping from an airplane without a parachute. Oh sure things were okay right now but the reality is that conditions were only going to get worse. My mom did do her best to make my periods of sickness as tolerable as possible. When the times came when my coughs got really bad she would occasionally deviate from the doctor prescribed medicines and go with some home remedies and they were so great. My favorite was a combination of warm honey and whiskey. I am not sure if it helped my cough, but it sure made the cartoons I was watching far more entertaining. The only problem with home remedies is that once you tell someone that you are open to using them then suddenly everyone that you know is an amateur physician and has their own little known medical secret that will make you well. There is also a simultaneous contest to see whose home remedy can be the weirdest. My rural south Georgian (the state where sanity is on permanent holiday) grandmother always won the title hands down.  My personal favorite recommendation from her was ,in response to my case of pneumonia( another benefit of being sick as a kid is the ability to spell “pneumonia” without using spell-check) , that my Mom render up a large amount of possum fat and the bathe me in it and follow that with wrapping me up in newspaper. Wow, just like it said in the New England Journal of Medicine. I hope this explains my dual hatred of both the opossum and the printed newspaper. The only thing worse than people offering up home remedies, is when they recommend their own doctors. Once again, I truly appreciate that there are people in the world that care enough about me and my health to offer free advice but sometimes it still sounds weird. The conversation is always the same,” Oh, you have a bad case of __________. Well my doctor, DR. ____________ can cure that right up. Just make sure you tell him that I sent you.”

Now, this although noble, is just plain odd. It’s not like there is a vast difference in doctors in this day and age. I mean I always presumed that there were professional guidelines that all doctors have to meet. I don’t think I have ever seen a lottery scratch off ticket that says,” Match the number to your lucky number and win a medical practice.” So since they are pretty much equal I don’t think shopping around would do my health much good. Secondly, your relationship with your doctor is like your relationship with your preacher: First of all, once you have started the relationship you are too committed to leave and secondly you won’t know if you made the wrong choice until after you are dead. But, the truly odd part of the doctor recommendation is the “mention my name” part. What are you working for commission? Did your doctor promise to knock 25% off that kidney transplant if you brought him 15 new patients?  That’s not medical referral, that’s a pyramid scheme.  And just once I want to hear a doctor say, “Oh, you know Steve? Well in that case I am going to give you the “real” medicine because I have been giving everybody else Flintstones Chewables.”

Now while I do have much respect for anyone that would rack the kind of student loan debt that is necessary to become a doctor lately, I must admit that the general level of medicinal professionalism has started to suffer lately. It’s not the doctors’ fault, with growing malpractice insurance premiums, prescription drug abuse on the rise and the fact that every numbskull with an internet connection thinks they can do the job of diagnosing their ailments better than you can. It’s no wonder that the number of doctors is on the decrease. Although there are many fine doctors still practicing medicine, there are a few charlatans operating in the medical field. Have you fallen prey to one of these bad doctors? Here are a few tips to know for sure:

  • ·         Your doctor’s office is an El Camino with no wheels that’s parked in the alley behind the pawn shop.
  • ·         Check out the health of the fish in the waiting room aquarium. If he can’t keep a 93 cent goldfish from Wal-mart alive, then odds are against him curing a human being. A note to you non-aquarium keepers: Fish don’t sleep belly up.
  • ·         The Time magazine in the waiting room refers to the 1880s as   ”The Future”.
  • ·         The receptionist desk consists of just a series of pallets stacked on top of each other.
  • ·         When the nurse calls you to come on back, she adds,  ”if you dare”.
  • ·         The door stop in the hallway is a cooler that reads,   ”Live Human Organs”.
  • ·         The floor in the treatment room has a chalk body outline on it.
  • ·         The back of the doctor’s lab coat has Jiffy Lube on it.
  • ·         When you hand the doctor a vial of your blood, he asks “what’s that red stuff”.
  • ·         The x-ray machine is just an Etch-a-Sketch bolted to the wall.
  • ·         The doctor keeps referring to when he took his Hippopotamus Oath.
  • ·         The office gives you the option of paying with livestock.

Even if you have the good fortune to have selected a quality medical care provider, you will learn as I have that as bad as being sick as a kid was, being sick as an adult is even worse. When you were sick as a kid, Mom always gave me the best care. She let me keep my room a little messier than usual. She made me grilled cheese sandwiches and I got to drink root beer from a straw in my room, activities which were verboten when I was healthy.  She would bring me extra pillows if I wanted and was always trying to do the little things that made me feel better. To a kid suffering from pneumonia, these little things made all the difference in the world. Best of all, eventually I would fall asleep, and while a neighbor came over to watch me,  she would go to the store. It never failed that when I awoke there would be a new toy sitting on the pillow next to me. It may have been only a Matchbox Car, but that little gesture made all the difference to me. These memories made such an impact on me that I adopted my own  ”if you are sick you get a present” policy at my house. The kids love this so much that when we go visit a friend in the hospital I have to make sure they are not licking the doorknobs just to get something new. So as bad as I may have felt as a kid, the love that I received made it not seem so bad.

However, I know that being sick as an adult just plain sucks. There is no chance to stay home if you are sick, not in this economy. No one makes you grilled cheese. You just get to feel bad and yet still have to do all the things that you do when you are feeling well. No one brings you root beer with a straw in it and I haven’t seen a toy car on my bed yet. You also get to worry about how you are going to be able to get better before the deductible on your insurance resets and you have to shell out your Christmas money just to keep well enough to stay out of the hospital. It is sickening and depressing. I always make it worse for not letting anyone do things for me because I feel guilty for being sick. It all seems like just too much to handle. It was in the middle of my current bout with Bronchitis and self doubt that I fell asleep last night. Late in the night, I felt my wife put her hand on my back and checked the rattling in my lungs. It was just a little gesture but it made me happy that she cares enough about me to check on how I was doing, even late at night. It made all the difference in the world……………but I still would like some root beer.

Back in Black

It starts so innocently. We are all there gathered around the dining room table, the remains of a huge Thanksgiving feast occupying our plates. Perhaps it is the overload of tryptophan coursing through our veins that dulls our senses and makes what comes next inevitable. Someone will turn the conversation from the empty promises of never eating so much in one sitting ever again, a promise only to be broken on Christmas Day, to a census of who is actually working the next day.  As the number reaches a socially acceptable level, some will blurt out a suggestion. It is a suggestion wrought with peril and unbelievable danger. But in our full bellied stupor, we are oblivious to the risks involved. So we all agree to embark on this fools’ errand. We are going Christmas shopping together.

Blaque Friday. Even the name sounds ominous. I know that you may recognize it by its traditional spelling ”b-l-a-c-k”.  There are two reasons for spelling it as I do. First, I refuse to refer to that apocalyptic mayhem that will occur in the wee hours of the day after Thanksgiving by the same term that describes the color of my daughter’s favorite t-shirts and the last name of that master thespian that starred in such masterpieces as Nacho Libre and Shallow Hal. Secondly, I get sick and tired of losing every “friendly” game of Scrabble that we play at our house because I can’t get rid of the stinking Q, U and E tiles so I am committed to expanding the list of words one could spell with those letter tiles that I am convinced are direct from the fiery pits of Hell.

Anyway, back to my disdainful assessment of Blaque Friday. I guess it isn’t the complete embodiment of evil. I reserve that designation for the guys that invented Instant coffee and the accordian. It was bad enough when Satan’s shopping day started on Friday morn. But now, we can experience this crap-fest on Thursday night. I guess the Freemasons that run the secret world government( sorry turkey also makes me less resistant to outlandish conspiracy theories) have decided that it is not enough to have hordes of people descend on the local discount retailers as they elbow and pepper spray their way to purchasing a substandard flatscreen  television or $5 size smedium pajama bottoms. And based on the people lined up outside the Wal-mart last night, I would say it has been many a Christmas since they could fit into a smedium anything. No they have to start this retail trip to Thunderdome before the last serving of pumpkin pie has been eaten. There is even a term for this yearly advance, or Retail Blitzkreig.It is called the Thanksgiving Creep. It’s funny that I heard that term as soon as I pulled up at my in-laws house yesterday, probably just a coincidence. My biggest issue with this premature shopulation is that it has served to completely disrupt my Thanksgiving schedule. Here is the way things are supposed to go:

5:00am       Ignore one cat scratching on bed room door.

5:10am           Ignore both cats scratching on bedroom door.

5:11am           Explain to cats that I am not working today

5:11am           Realize that cats don’t care about my work schedule

5:12am           Remember why I hate cats

5:15am           Get out of bed

5:16am           Slam toe into edge of door.

5:16am      Release string of 37 obscenities

5:17am           Hobble into kitchen and get out coffee beans

5:18am           Miss coffee grinder reservoir and pour beans all over floor.

5:19am           Look for broom and dustpan

5:20am           Find broom

5:22am           Give up looking for dustpan and kick coffee beans underneath refrigerator.

5:23am           Grind new batch of coffee beans and pour into coffee pot. Turn on coffee pot.

5:24am           Walk into hallway to turn down heater.

5:25am           Notice burning smell.

5:30am           Realize forgot to put water in coffee pot. Drop “f-bomb”. Unplug coffee pot

5:35am           Decide to go out for coffee.

5:36am           Consider brushing teeth, taking shower, getting dressed and combing hair.

5:37am           Put on baseball cap and grab car keys.

5:40am           Arrive at donut shop.

5:41am           Recognize former high school classmate entering donut shop that I haven’t seen in years

5:41am           Make u-turn. Head home to brush teeth, take shower, get dressed and comb hair.

6:00am           Return to donut shop.

6:01am           Talk to former classmate. Make empty promise to keep in touch. Remember reason hadn’t talked to classmate in years. Vow to keep it that way.

6:20am           Return home with coffee and newspaper.

6:21am           Realize I forgot to grab house keys

6:22am           Start to ring doorbell to have other family members unlock door for me.

6:23am           Remember reaction to last time woke up family members on holiday.

6:24am           Decide to crawl in through window.

6:26am           Explain to policeman that I live here and why I am breaking in to own house.

6:35am           Get called idiot by civil servant. Remember not to contribute to Police Benevolent Society this year.

6:45am           Finally sit down to newspaper and lukewarm coffee.

6:46am           Wonder who Luke is and why the heck he got a temperature named after him.

6:47am           Promise to never make that joke again.

6:48am           Begin to read newspaper for only time this year.

6:54am           Finish reading newspaper. Realize newspaper sucks.

7:00am           Log on to computer.

7:01am           Send birthday greetings to person I barely know.

7:02am           Realize that have lots to do so will just check email and get off computer.

9:35am           Get off computer.

9:36am           Head to kitchen to make gourmet breakfast.

9:37am           Eat cold Pop-Tarts from wrapper.

9:45am           Begin preparing desserts and side dish for taking to Thanksgiving Dinner.

10:00am        Head to store to get items for desserts and side dish that I forgot to buy.

10:30am        Arrive home and put items in fridge.

10:35am        Realize there is no room in fridge.

10:36am        Remove six pack of beer from fridge to “make room”.

10:37am        Decide it is a holiday so I can drink one beer at noon.

10:39am        Drink entire six pack.

Noon               Wake up in bathroom floor.

12:10p.m.      Stagger back to kitchen to continue making desserts and side dish for taking to Thanksgiving Dinner.

1:00p.m.        Begin to consider if 2 bags of Cheetos would make appropriate side dish.

2:30p.m.        Complete cooking and load food into car.

2:32p.m.        Slam hand in door and scream obscenities.

2:33p.m.        Apologize to Reverend neighbor for language.

2:35p.m.        Depart for in-laws’ house.

2:43p.m.        Return home to pick up child that was left behind.

2:44p.m.        Make bad Home Alone joke .

2:45p.m.        Get dirty look from spouse.

3:30p.m.        Arrive at in-laws’ house.

3:35p.m.        Explain to spouse that it is headache not hangover.

3:36p.m.        Get dirty look from spouse.

3:40p.m.        Open in-laws’ medicine cabinet to search for aspirin.

3:41p.m.        Slam medicine cabinet shut. Vow to never open relatives’ medicine cabinet ever again.

3:45p.m.        Fix plate of food.

3:47p.m.        Am asked to lead family thanksgiving prayer. Begin to thoughtfully express my feelings of gratititude.

3:49p.m.        Get bored and so I start to chant ,”Kali ma” and pretend to rip heart from nephew’s chest.

3:50p.m.        Pick up plate and go eat outside.

3:55p.m.        Make fun of homely kid playing next door.

4:00p.m.        Learn people at table are homely kid’s parents.

4:01p.m.        Pick up plate and head in to sit inside.

4:02p.m.        Realize sliding glass door was closed wehen I tried to walk through it.

4:03p.m.        Clean up mess.

4:10p.m.        Listen to wife’s family talk about relatives that I have never met. Think those relatives are probably glad.

4:20p.m.        Begin to size up which relative would survive the longest in zombie apocalypse. Decide it is creepy ex-con uncle. Decide to go pick up survival tips from him.

4:30p.m.        Push away plate and swear to never eat again.

4:40p.m.        Eat again.

5:00p.m.        Retire to living room to watch football game I don’t care about.

5:15p.m.        Make fearful comment whenever team scores and pretend to call “bookie”

5:18p.m.        Get bored with it and just decide to watch game.

5:25p.m.        Hear in-laws snoring on couch. Ask wife for feather and shaving cream. Wife responds to “grow up”.

5:26p.m.        Decide to go outside and play ball with kids.

5:30p.m.        Tells nephew he throws like girl.

5:31p.m.        Discover that I am playing with niece. Vow to get eyes checked.

5:35p.m.        I miss ball and try to plunger out dent in car door.

6:00p.m.        Start to say goodbyes in order to leave.

9:00p.m.        Actually leave.

9:15p.m.        Return to in-laws to pick up spouse I left behind.

9:17p.m.        Spouse begins to google search for lawyers.

 

On second thought, maybe Black Friday can’t come soon enough.

THNKS FR TH MMRS

“Thank you India, thank you terror, thank you disillusionment “-Alanis Morrisette

I was raised in a southern house. The food was generally fried and featured a meat product in every dish. It was a house where you cleaned your plate before you had dessert. You learned that you could live without a heater but not air conditioning.  You had grits instead of hash browns, you called them sweet potatoes not yams and the only tea was sweetened and iced. You never took yourself too seriously and you learned more lessons at home than you did at school.  The most important of these lessons was a rather simple one: Mind your manners.

You addressed adults as mister or misses. You blessed people when they sneezed. You patted them on the back when they coughed. You looked someone in the eye when you shook their hand. You wished them a good day. You said, ”Yes sir” or “No Ma’am” even if the person you were addressing was the same age as you. You said,  ”please”. But most of all, you showed your upbringing was proper by saying “thanks”. Thank the waiter who was just doing his job. Thank the stranger that said   ”God Bless you” after you sneezed. Thank you for not smoking. Thank you for your business. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  It becomes so routine to thank people that the actual concept of gratitude becomes lost in what become nothing more than empty words. I would like to think that I have a strength of character that the words mean something to me but know that the reality is that just are a vacant gesture. The question is how to put some gratitude back into my thank you’s. I guess Thanksgiving is a good day to start.  So here are the things I am grateful for:

·         I am grateful to my wife for not killing me in my sleep although I often deserve it.

·         I am grateful for having the patience to extend the same courtesy to my children.

·        I am grateful for friends that treat me like family and relatives that treat me like strangers because they both prove that it is the bonds of affection that bind us not genetics.

·        I am grateful for sci-fi and sports for giving me something to occupy my time with because otherwise I would be spending it making myself a more productive human being.

·        I am grateful for the bad job I no longer have and the good job I do.

·        I am grateful for free Wi-fi.

·        I am grateful for one hour lunches.

·        I am grateful for the cafe at work because it gives those lacking the culinary skills to work at a public school lunchroom gainful employment.

·        I am grateful that I have not yet eaten at that odd smelling Indian restaurant.

·        I am grateful for baseball games with my son and concerts with my daughter.

·        I am grateful for my wife giggling when she reads what I write.

·        I am grateful for Facebook for letting me see the psychotic ramblings of the people I know.

·        I am grateful that after 20 years, I sometimes still refer to her as my girlfriend.

·        I am grateful for kids that act their age and adults who don’t.

·        I am grateful for chocolate, marshmallows and gummi bears.

·        I am grateful that I live in a Navy town because when I talk about “the men in uniform” , they are real people.

·        I am grateful for Moon River and Dahlia’s.

·        I am grateful for good coffee and great beer.

·        I am grateful for Saturday mornings at Edgewood Bakery and Sunday afternoons at Dreamette.

·        I am grateful for my kids’ good public schools and the teachers that actually care.

·        I am grateful for the strength certain people show when faced with illness because it reminds me how easy I really have it.

·        I am grateful that the seventh grade girls on the bus like my boys hair.

·        I am grateful that the 20 year olds at FSCJ haven’t noticed my daughter’s.

·        I am grateful for Family Guy, Regular Show, and Walking Dead for proving that quality t.v. shows still exist.

·        I am grateful for the word “swag”, because it just sounds cool.

·        I am grateful that I still believe that things will get better.

·        I am grateful for Target for giving me somewhere to go when Wal-mart pisses me off.

·        I am grateful that the bruises healed.

·        I am grateful that our Krispy Kreme is coming back.

·        I am grateful that Krispy Kreme left because if not I would weigh 600 pounds.

·        I am grateful for the morally upstanding people I call my role models and the morally questionable ones that I call my friends.

·        I am grateful that they haven’t “Baker Acted” me, yet.

·        I am grateful that my bank doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement.

·        I am grateful for the people who give a damn.

·        I am grateful that I work for a company that gives to charity.

·        I am grateful that I have a job.

·         I am grateful for my imperfect family at my messy house, on a lousy street, in a crappy neighborhood, in a boring town.

I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Thanks…for nothing

I am not quite the religious scholar that I frequently pretend to be. Kind of like my knowledge of the Twilight series, I know the major characters and have a thumbnail understanding of the plot but some of the subtle nuance escapes me. Unfortunately, my having a small amount of knowledge prevents me from completely keeping my mouth shut when asked the more complex questions about religious dogma. The resulting open mouth awe at my utter stupidity does lead to some socially uncomfortable situations. For example the other day, I was having a fascinating conversation about sin, when my intellectual opponent challenged me to list the Seven Deadly Sins. Apparently, wearing white after Labor Day is not one of them and neither are Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy and Doc. Personally I am not so quick to discount Sneezy from the list because there is something inherently evil in his red nose and bloodshot eyes, but I digress. My opponent in this intellectual game of tiddlywinks pointed out that the actual Seven Deadly Sins are: Lust, Greed, Envy, Pride, Anger, Gluttony and Sloth. Now the first six, I am not so sure of but I can’t argue with the last. I hate sloths. I will not tolerate any animal that spends that much time upside down. So you better watch your ass, opossums.

What? It means laziness? Darn you public school education. You let me down again. Let’s see. Where was I? Oh yes. Laziness, Lust, Greed, Envy, Pride, Anger and Gluttony. Or as we like to call them….the seven steps to a Happy Thanksgiving. Now I love my family and it is amazing how well we can behave when we go out together. But it seems that we always get mistreated when we do. Oh so sorry Waitress from Denny’s that we weren’t as classy as your normal clientele. O.k., everybody knows I just added that last line as hyperbole because we all know that the ability to use the word “clientele” in a sentence automatically disqualifies you from employment at Denny’s. Even our recent pilgrimage to P.F. Chang’s was a bit of a challenge.  Now don’t get me wrong, Chang’s is a fine establishment but I did have a few issues with the meal. First of all, and I don’t mean to be culturally insensitive here, but it’s hard to view the food as authentic when there is not one single employee of Asian descent anywhere in the restaurant. I am not saying that they should hire people solely based on ethnicity but there should not be more Asian-Americans at the Orange Tree in the mall than there are at the place that serves Mandarin Duck. My only other complaint is in the food. No, it tastes fine but the portions were just a wee bit small for our liking.  I understand that due to the cost of duck and beef that the entrees’ size may need to be limited, but rice? Was there some sudden change in food costs that makes rice super expensive? Last time I looked, you could get a 50 pound bag of the stuff for like $1.79 and yet it was treated like some rare luxury at our dinner Sunday night. There was more rice in the cuffs of my pants on my wedding day than there were on our table that seated 6 people. I guess the lesson learned is that our family should just stick to gathering for meals at our homes and not restaurants.

And everyone knows that the best meal to gather as a family and eat is Thanksgiving. I love Turkey Day. It is truly the greatest confluence of the things I love in one gravy covered bowl. Let’s look at the basic elements and why they are, as the Chief Massasoit called them, ”Freakin Awesome”.

TURKEY.

I think turkey is the greatest of all barnyard animals. It’s slow and stupid and easy to catch, and unlike the name for the male of the chicken variety, it’s impossible to turn its name into a sexual double entendre. This last point is especially important in our family since most of the men cuss like sailors because they were all at one time…sailors. It is also a superior meat to be the focus of a holiday due to the pure size of it. It’s not like everybody keeps 3 or 4 turkeys in the freezer for any random week night dinner. The fact is that I am not even sure if you can buy a turkey outside the month of November. I also have a special place in my heart and on my plate for turkey due to turkey’s prominence in one of Benjamin Franklin’s greatest public defeats. It is a little known historical fact that Benjamin Franklin was a staunch advocate of naming the turkey as our national bird. He had some beef with the Bald Eagle and said its character was not worthy of being our national bird. Now the turkey is a fine animal but I don’t think your national bird should be one that can drown itself because it lacks the intelligence to shut its mouth when it rains. Another little known historical fact: I hate Benjamin Franklin. Always have and always will. And the fact that the turkey is an example of Mr. Franklin being publicly embarrassed is all the more reason for me to love it. It also explains my complete hatred for the pot bellied stove, bifocals and the public library system and why I refuse to own any coin published by those fools at the Franklin Mint.

 

PRESENTS.

 

Best part about Thanksgiving presents? There ain’t none. No shopping. No wrapping. No “I wonder if this will fit”. Cook a meal. Eat a meal. Take a nap. Now that’s a great holiday.

 

PARADES.

 

Now, as a general rule I am not that huge a fan of parades. Oh goody, another high school marching band murdering the hits of John Philip Sousa is not exactly riveting entertainment.  I guess the thing about parades that makes them so boring is they are a form of entertainment that is completely devoid of risk.  I like to be entertained by something that could go unbelievably wrong at any moment and may result in injury or even more preferable, abject humiliation. And you don’t get more bang for your buck in the risk department than with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. It all seems so wholesome. It comes on television at 10 a.m. on the day when everyone is home, so there is nothing risky about that right? Wrong. Even the introduction is a gamble. The intro is the most dishonest two minutes of television history. The silky smooth baritone of the voice over guy announces ever celebrity’s name like it’s the second coming of Laurence Olivier performing Hamlet. I love how he sums up all of the gravitas that he can muster to introduce a reunion of the cast of Perfect Strangers or actor who played Skippy on Family Ties. I also thoroughly admire his professionalism as he feigns enthusiasm as he introduces every has-been actor and no-longer cute enough to be on Disney Channel ingénue that will be featured for a grand total of 18 seconds sandwiched between the next four hours of  bad lip-synced performances and performing proofs that Broadway is dead. I also love the way they haphazardly assign the celebrities to the various floats they will be riding on. At our house we like to turn it into a great drinking game. You take one shot for a mildly awkward pairing and two shots for a completely bizarre parade match. “Oh my lord! Did they just say that next up is the Teletubbies float featuring the cast of 50 Shades of Gray? Somebody hand me the bottle.”

And for pure unadulterated danger, nothing beats giant inflatable cartoon characters being controlled what by looks like the cast of Degrassi. I just love how no one finds it reckless that they take these gigantic animated versions of the Hindenberg and try to maneuver then down one of the busiest streets in the United States. Even better yet, remember what happened when Snoopy collided with a building a couple of years ago and the chunks of concrete that fell off and killed someone. The response was that the following year they put guidelines in that only certain balloons could be flown if the winds were more than 25 miles per hour. 25 m.p.h.? The school zone in my neighborhood is only 15. Maybe no one has realized the danger of gas filled balloons in an urban parade. Apparently they never saw the end of the first Batman movie.

Most of all I love the pure aw shucks awesomeness of the entertainment that the Macy’s parade provides. It is like entertainment paella, lots of really weird ingredients that combine to make something utterly delicious. There is the joy of watching marching band after marching band stroll by and know that everyone of them probably go to a better high school than you went to. There is that complete train wreck of the coverage by the cast of the Today show and the belief that at any moment Ann Curry may show up and deal out some morning show justice. There is the slight feeling of sadness every time that Al Roker is on the screen. Boy I sure do miss the fat Al Roker but at least I now know that no matter how much weight you lose that your head stays the exact same size. Most of all, there is the magic, even at my age, of the appearance of Santa and the ushering in of the best time of year. Christmas still has some magic left in it and it gives me an excuse to be nice without the usual sarcasm I employ to protect my ego. Most of all, I know that the parade must be awesome, or else how could they keep using it to fool people into watching the dog show that comes on after it and think that is entertainment.

 

FOOTBALL.

 

Thanksgiving without football would be just sad and pathetic. And we already have a holiday that is sad and pathetic, we call it my birthday. I love football and no amount of tryptophan can take the luster off these feelings. No I am not talking about the NFL triple header that fills the t.v. screen but rather the game of sand lot football that breaks out each Thanksgiving Day with out fail. It always starts out as a relaxed and friendly game of catch but soon evolves into final act from The Longest Yard. It’s good to get out in the cool air and engage in some healthy competition with the people you love, but why when we start the game up do I always end up covering my 18 year old varsity football playing nephew. He ends up being more open than a 7-11. After I fake my umpteenth asthma attack of the game I finally get someone else with that special “it” to cover him…yeah it’s called athletic ability. That’s when I get to settle in for the position that I was born to play, head hunting middle linebacker. I don’t care who are. If you are going to run a crossing route across the middle, get ready for some pain. “Jeesh Grandma!  Stop you whining! I will buy you another cane.” Ultimately the game winds down so that means its time for our other physical activity, eating.

 

HISTORY.

 

Thanksgiving is above all, the ultimate American holiday. It involves family, food and fun. It is a holiday that at its center is about being grateful for the freedoms we enjoy and that particular thing that made our country what it is today, having the Indians help us survive and then stealing their land.

 

So Happy Thanksgiving everyone…………………………………..everyone but the sloths.

 

Jingle Balls

“I like Jesus very much, but he no help with curveball.” –Pedro Ceranno

If you are one who celebrates the season, then you know what it feels like. The date on the calendar tells you it’s over. All the markings that celebrate the season have been removed. The lights outside have been turned off. The particular foods that are synonymous with the season are no longer being eaten. It seems like it will last forever but it has now ended and only when you discover a discarded list or card do you come to terms with its finality. You are tired and odds are you are broke from the overspending that accompanies the daily attempt to fully enjoy it. Your house is a mess from the lack of time to clean it properly because of all the late nights and travel. All the little irritations and annoyances that accompany the season seem forgotten in the warm glow of accomplishment that you feel once it is over. The truth is that you are more than a little sad to see it end. Although you have seen this season come and go numerous times, each year it seems different and unique. It is a time for children, but you know that the adults enjoy it as much as their offspring do. And as the years pass, you realize that a time will come when your kids will outgrow it so you attempt to make each one as special as possible. As soon as this one ends, you start making plans on how the next one is going to be even better.

No. I am not talking about Christmas. I am talking about youth baseball and to those that partake in these high holy days, it is a far more spiritual experience. However, upon review it has far more similarity to that December holiday that I had previously realized. Witness the evidence:

·        Christmas is a season involving a costumed man in red, Santa, that many kids both love and fear.

·        Baseball is a season involving a costumed man in blue, The Umpire, that kids love when he calls them safe and fear that he is going to call that ball that just bounced across the plate a strike

·        Christmas is a season where parents spend $100 for a bike that their kids will leave out in the rain.

·        Baseball is a season where parents pay $100 for a leather glove that their kids will leave out in the rain.

·        Christmas is a time when people who love each other will scream at each other due to the stress of the season

·        Baseball season is a time when people who love each other will scream at each other because of the stress of watching a kid take a strikeout looking with the bases loaded in a tied ball game.

·        During Christmas there are people whose sole job is to stop people from stealing, they are called security guards.

·        During baseball season there are people whose sole job is to stop people from stealing, they are called catchers.

·        During Christmas, adults go to church and quietly say words like “Son of God” and “Mother Mary” in a voice only God can hear.

·        During baseball season, adults come to the park and quietly say things like “Son of a <bleep>” and “Mother <bleep>er” in a voice that they hope the kids can’t hear.

I guess the one thing that makes both things so similar is the way that marketing companies and commercials have completely violated the celebration of both. While Christmas has recently become a victim of the attempt by retail to push the season earlier and earlier so that it is now possible to have your inflatable Santa holding a Jack-o-Lantern on Halloween night , baseball has fallen victim to equally nefarious schemes that seem destined to separating the “volunteer” coaches from their money. Consider the following scenario: A parent decides to coach his son’s tee ball team but has never run a baseball practice before, so logic dictates he goes to the interwebs for some advice. He googles “free baseball drills” and the results display at least 50 different listings for “free” practice plans for $19.95. Apparently in the baseball world the word “free” has a different definition than in any other segment of society.

I have been involved in coaching my son’s teams for the past 12 seasons( in Florida there is such a thing as Fall baseball) and have learned a few things in the process, so if you want to coach or just pass yourself off as one at the local bar, here are a few tips:

·        If you want the mothers to come to the games, treat the kids with respect.

·        If you want fathers to come to the game, make sure the Team Mom is hot.

·        It’s only called tee ball because the term “herding cats” was already taken.

·        Every kid says that they can pitch, 99% of them are lying.

·        Use the following terms in your coaching instructions: Bend your back, follow through, back of the box, split the plate, roll a pair in the middle.

·        If you actually know what those terms mean there is no need to read this article.

·        “Take one for the team” only applies to other people’s kids.

·        If you believe that winning doesn’t matter at all and the kids only care about having fun, baseball may not be the best sport for you. I would recommend unicorn rodeo or perhaps dragon racing.

·        Baseball will remind you how much you love kids and detest their parents.

·        The players’ health and safety is important. If your star player is bleeding out of less than 75% of his orifices, then leave him in the game. If the cricket chaser in right field hiccups, then you need to give him two weeks off to recover.

·        A ball off the fascia is live…every time.

Finally, enjoy the madness.  You will never celebrate louder than you do when you see a great group of kids succeed.  It’s better than meth without the facial sores and tooth loss.  Coaching and working with the kids is the best feeling in the world and I wish ever parent could experience it.  Well I gotta go and get ready for next season.