He got game

I am sorry that I never learned to speak Chinese.

There are always some tell tale signs that the weekend is winding down. There is animation on the Fox Network. The dishes has been washed and put away, not that this was especially difficult considering that lunch was take-out and dinner consisted of PB&J.( Heck it was a day of rest for the resident cook too). The last bits of remaining homework are completed and the backpacks are all ready for Monday morning. The next week’s clothes are laid out and ironed. And the self delusion lies, about the “projects” we are going to tackle “next weekend” and how we are going to have to get to church next Sunday, are in the air. Inevitably, with all this completed, attention turns to a way to have a wholesome evening of family fun before the hideous specter of Monday morning is able to make its appearance. Since grabbing our torches and pitchforks and heading down to the outskirts of town in order to torment the town witch is considered passe’, we find the something just as wrought with anger and vitriol……. Family Game Night.

Now I have long professed my love for the wonderful human beings with whom I share my home and I do thoroughly enjoy the mind building exercises offered by many table top gaming enterprises, but for some reason when you combine the two something always goes awry. Not that there have not been some wonderful times spent while gathered around the dining room table rolling dice and moving various pieces of plastic around a thin piece of cardboard.During those times together, you learn some very powerful lessons about the members of your family. These lessons reveal what type of people your family has become. Unfortunately, what you learn that your family has become……is a group of people who cheat at board games. And despite what all the Mafia movies have taught, there is absolutely no honor among thieves.

The games always start with the greatest of intentions. Everyone greets each other warmly and makes some passing comment about how great it is to turn off the t.v. and be together. Then it begins, there is the sudden jockeying for the “good” chair, you know, that one piece of furniture in the house that doesn’t require a thrice folded piece of cardboard to prevent it from rocking like a three legged table on the deck of the Andrea Gail. Then there is the customary battle for the right to go first. Is it by age? By sex? By assigning  a number value to each letter of everyone’s name and using those values to determine whose name contains the most prime numbers? It is at this point that what began as a peaceful sojourn into the dining room has now become the War Room scene from Dr. Strangelove. Either that or the yard at San Quentin. This is the primary reason why I am opposed to plural marriage. Going through this once a month is bad enough. I refuse to repeat this chaos three fold at my Sister Wives’ homes.

I can’t really blame my family for going somewhat bonkers at these events, the true culprit is a timing issue. The timing issue is that it happens to be Sunday, and Sundays just plain suck. Now one must understand the dichotomy of the  Lord’s Day in order to fully comprehend the inherent problems that the day brings. For Sunday is actually two different days rolled up into one. And like all twins, one is good and the other is pure evil . Good Sunday begins in the morning. And let’s face it, any morning that features the consumption of bacon is a good thing. Then as a bonus, there is usually the opportunity to sleep in. There is another large and usually home cooked meal just around the corner at lunch, keep racking up the points don’t ya Sunday. And then, like an extra order of unpaid for wontons in your bag from the Takee Outee, there is FOOTBALL. What a blissfull and wonderful day, for Sunday has become the king of all days. Then about 5 o’clock it happens. You hit the wall. You come to the realization that in a matter of hours you have to return to work/school/ correction facility and you see the evil that Sunday morphs into. For not only is the joyfulness of the day ruined but now you have to bust your ass to get bathed, clothes laid out, meals planned, and mentally prepared for the workweek. All activities that you could have been doing instead of eating bacon, gorging on fried chicken and gambling the kids college fund in the company office pool. ( Friendly tip: Never wager on anything at work. If you lose, they know the exact day when you will have the money to pay up).

Sunday is like a spa retreat. It begins as a soothing massage while listening to the cool sounds of free form jazz. The afternoon ends,however, feeling like you are in the middle of a ukelele, kazoo and vuvuzela concert while your mouth is stuffed full of poison ivy and ghost chili peppers. So you can understand why a game of parcheesi is so difficult to endure.

It’s not just the end of the weekend psyche that makes pulling off game night a challenge, the games themselves are also to blame.While the toy industry continues to keep itself fresh and new to keep pace with kids ever changing needs, the basic method of play has remained essentially unchanged. Whether it’s Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoy, or Legos, building toys all have similar play methods. G.I. Joe or Darth Vader, action figures are action figures. And, I don’t care if its Barbie, Ken. Bratz, Monster High, Winx Club or even Kim Kardasian and Ray J’s anatomically correct “Make your own Internet video” play set, little girls don’t need instructions to know how to play.

But, oh no, not board games. Each new board game is more complex and confusing than the one that came before. It isn’t just the complicated ones that are the problem, the new simple ones are just plain stupid. There is Cuponk, a game involving the speedy stacking of plastic cups. We had a game like that when I was younger, it was called,”OH MY LORD! Grab and hide all those plastic cups full of booze cause I just saw Mom walking up the driveway.” And for every Checkers or Bingo there is some new completely illogical, unnecessarily confusing game that I need a P.H.D. and a decoder ring just to set it up. Even if you try to stick to the classics, something bad always happens. If we haven’t played a certain game in a while, when we pull it out, we can never remember exactly how to play it. If the game has 3 boards, 156 plastic pawns and 18 different sized dice, there will always be one thing that got lost…the directions. So you dump out the box and see a small piece of white paper go fluttering under the couch. You dive for it like Indiana Jones in the night club scene from Temple of Doom and thrust your hand under the aforementioned davenport. After extracting more dust bunnies that the cast of Watership Down, you retrieve the directions.. You thrust it into the air like the Stanley Cup and then you realize that it is page 5 of 212. Oh yeah, it’s in Chinese because a game with multiple action cards written in English, is such a huge hit in Beijing.

Just the other day, we decided to play The Game of Life. We all sat down, set up the game and were ready to get it going when we discovered that the directions were missing. So here we were, playing The Game of Life without any indication as to the best way to go. It felt like a great metaphor for something. That’s right, it was a metaphor for…….Monopoly.Since we didn’t have the rules, and you can’t play without rules or you get board game anarchy, so we made up our own. So if you find yourself a little lost in The Game of Life, feel free to use my rules:

  • Tails never fails.
  • If you break it you buy it.
  • If you chip it, just put the bad side in a corner facing the wall.
  • If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.
  • If you are cheating, you really don’t have to be trying that hard.
  • Eating is cheating, so no late night ice cream if you are on a diet.
  • Women, men hate it when you fake it. So if you line up to punt then you better  kick the ball away.
  • Time doesn’t fly when you are having fun, money does.
  • Nothing good happens after 2a.m., but your friends don’t need to know that.
  • You were born with two eyebrows, try to keep it that way. Women: that doesn’t mean 0. Men: that doesn’t mean 1.
  • Saying,”but I have a black friend” makes you more racist not less.
  • You one vote doesn’t count.Sorry,it’s called the Electoral College. Look it up.
  • If you are that miserable, tell a therapist not Facebook.
  • There is no macho way to talk about the stuff you find on Pinterest.
  • Math matters.
  • Language and grammar matter.
  • Science matters.
  • But without History, you won’t know why they matter.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right but three rights will take you around the block.
  • If you can’t cut the mustard, that is because it is a liquid.Use a spoon.
  • It isn’t how fast you run, it’s how good a lead you started with.
  • Christian Gray is a fictional character. I’m sorry about that, maybe next time.
  • Don’t count you chickens before they hatch. Because before they hatch, they aren’t chickens they are eggs.
  • Excuse my French, you are a bout to hear another “f” word.
  • Rolling doubles three times will not get you out of jail, but it will get you an invitation to the prison Yahtzee tournament .
  • Idle hands are the devil’s tools, and so are left handed scissors.
  • Rome was not built in a day, but it was destroyed in one.
  • Variety is not the spice of life, garlic is.

Well, those are the rules we came up with and now it’s my turn to roll the dice…………………………………………

Can I sit in the “good” chair?

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The Rabbit was the lucky one

Well, welcome back class. I hope you had enough time to fully absorb all the nuggets of parenting wisdom that we covered yesterday. I am sure you have lots of questions about yesterday’s lessons on the whole lecture involving pregnancy and childbirth. Questions like: “What’ the hell is wrong with you?” and “Don’t you have better things to do that fill the interwebs with your incoherent ramblings?” I am sorry but please save all questions until the end of the lesson.

You have somehow managed to survive the whole ordeal that is modern-day childbirth. You now have a beautiful addition to your family. However you notice one minor problem. In all the hundreds of sheets of paper that the hospital gave you at check-out,  each one containing the words,”Please remit.” There was nothing that could be interpreted as operating instructions for your little one. Hell, even Ikea gives you instructions when you buy something. Fear not, noobie. I am here to guide you through the minefield that is parenting. And just like an actual minefield, changes are that you will lose a limb by the time you emerge from it. So before we get into the nitty-gritty of the decisions that will ultimately decide which direction  your child’s life will take, we need to cover somethings about how your life has changed.

Sleep

You ain’t getting any, so deal with it.

Sex

Refer to comment about sleep. Sorry Mr. Stud, but after spending a day of heating bottles, strapping herself into a piece of equipment that is usually reserved for dairy farms and learning that the infant body can produce solid waste in every color in the spectrum, the last thing she wants to do is put up with your ham handed advances. So do her a favor, take the baby for a walk and leave her alone with her copy of “50 Shades of Gray”.

Trust

In order for your family to function properly, you must have  firm trust in each other. But since you get to go back to work and she has to stay at home feeling like the understudy to the lady on “19 Kids and Counting“, it is best if you not tell her the complete truth. If you feel the need  to tell her about Cinnamon, the new girl in accounting or how you were stuck in traffic because the bus for the Swedish Bikini Team broke down, you might want to remind yourself that this is a lady under a lot of stress who both knows where you sleep and where you store the big knives in the house.

Postpartum depression

This is basically just buyers remorse. You bought a car without the carfax report and now you are not sure if you can return it before the first payment is due. The voice of experiences tells me to inform you that hospitals do not offer cash refunds nor do they offer store credit. Hell, it’s easier to return an open d.v.d. at Best Buy than it is to send a baby back. Babies are like purchasing swimwear. Once you leave the store, it’s your forever.

O.k., now that those little details are covered and you and your partner are confident in the guidelines to your new relationship, it’s time to cover what you need to know in order to raise a child that won’t be featured on “America’s Most Wanted“.

Twins

Perhaps you have been lucky enough to have been blessed with a double dose of baby bliss. Although your joy has been doubled, there are some special considerations to concern yourself with. The best things about having multiples is that you now have the ability to apply the scientific method to your parenting process because you have one to act as the control group and one as the experimental group. You also have the bonus of doubling your chances that no matter how badly you screw up one of the kids, the other one has a pretty decent chance of surviving intact. You are also a very considerate parent if you have twins because you have given each child someone to fight with, without leaving the house. And nothing does better for a kid’s self-esteem than having someone they hate that looks just like them. Unfortunately, therapists do not offer any kind of “Buy one Get one free” offer.

Child proofing your home

Having a little one in your house now means that you must ensure that your home is a haven of safety and security. It’s a great time to cover that gaping hole in your living room floor because toddler’s don’t have quite the depth perception that they need. I highly recommend that your put quality locks on all bedroom doors because there is nothing more awkward that trying to convince your child that what he walked in on was just you and your spouse preparing for the Olympic sport of “naked wrestling”.  Also I should probably remind you that a child’s toy box makes a really crappy gun safe, but it makes a great place to keep your pet snake while you are cleaning the cage. Additionally, I know they are great containers, but refrain from using old Enfamil  containers to store rat poison. They are too big.

Daycare

When you finally do return to work in an attempt to fill that sucking void that is your bank account, you will need to find a quality professional to care for your child. A warning: do not think that leaving your kid in your car with the windows cracked is a good alternative to daycare. Spit-up really ruins the resale value. You want to choose someone who is warm and loving, but not better than you. You have to ensure that in the wolfpack of people who know your child, you must always maintain alpha-dog status. Daycare is expensive so you have to find ways to cut costs. If you have a big family,  passing the kid off to random relatives on a daily basis may help alleviate some of the costs. Check out the local police blotter and see if any daycare are currently under investigation because that really increases your bargaining power. No matter how great the deal may seem, you should probably not trust the guy on the interstate off ramp with the “Will babysit for  food” sign.

Mythical Figures

There is always a lot of debate on whether you should allow your child to believe in figures like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. I find these characters to be harmless to children so I advocate the belief in them. However, I also believe that you should create mythical characters unique to your own home because these can teach valuable lessons. I use Sprinkles the Meth Addict Clown to show the dangers of drugs and Spectre the Invisible Flying Zombie that will steal your soul if you don’t eat your peas.

Older Siblings

I know that this is your first child but do not undervalue the benefits of referencing some unseen older child to keep your kid on the straight and narrow. Children will always obey your wishes if they have a reason to believe that you murdered and/or  sent away a previous child  for failing to do so.

Sports

Why be the only one that gets that gets to yell at your child? Children need to learn at an early age that we live in a Darwinian culture where the strong torment the weak for others amusement and nothing teaches that lesson better than sports. It also helps with the youth’s vocabulary to hear you blast obscenities at the referee/umpire/ opposing coach/own coach/ priest who gave the opening prayer.

There are so many things that one needs to know to successfuly raise a child but I hope these give you a good foundation to work from(testify about) and I wish you many happy years of parenthood( I hope the trial goes well).

The Rabbit Died

Everybody has a calling. No matter how many “joe-Jobs” one must endure in life, there  is always that one occupation or volunteer assignment that is absolutely tailor-made for you.  Hollywood is full of stories of waiters and busboys that toiled in anonymity until that one moment when the stars aligned and they were thrust into the national spotlight due to a movie or television role that was just right for them. There are, unfortunately, just as many stories of starlets and wannabes who jumped at the wrong opportunity and these are the stories of drug addiction and despair that the Lifetime Network loves to make movies about.

It would be great if these stories of trying to find one’s perfect fit in an occupational sense were limited to the tales of Lalaland, but everyday people also have to struggle to find the exact role in life that they are to play. Today while listening to Sports Radio, which is a great way to reinforce the fact that there are bigger losers in the world than me, I heard an ad that spoke to me. I didn’t know that the job it described even existed, but now that I know it does, it seems a perfect fit for me. No, I am not going to travel the country buying back broken gold chains from penniless widows in seedy hotel banquet rooms. Nor, am I going to travel this far land selling products for “male enhancement”. The job I heard described is perfect. It is called a parenthood advisor. These people serve as a kind of Nepali guide to those about to climb the Mount Everest that is raising a child. The ad mentioned that these people guide you through the whole experience from pregnancy through the toddler years. Apparently, no one has ever thought to actually write down their ideas about raising children and this business has arisen to fill the void.

This is perfect. I have two kids, one boy and one girl so I have a varied knowledge base from which to operate. I also haven’t killed either of these kids nor the other kids I come in contact with, so I believe that makes me an expert. I don’t wish to be bothered by some newbie parent who doesn’t know which end of their baby is the food hole at 3 in the morning. Therefore, I am going to layout my painstakingly researched expertise for you here. So get out your notepads, cause here we go:

Eligibility

Before you decide to  bring another living creature into the world you must first decide if you and your mate, and any potential surrogate, are qualified for this endeavor. There is a rigorous licensing procedure  that one must pass in order to procreate. Oh, wait that’s driving a car. And based on the line at Wal-mart anybody can have a kid. However in order to make sure neither you, nor your partner end up on The Maury Povich Show there is a short quiz that I think you should pass.

  1. Are you between the ages of 18-35? I understand that you can reproduce at ages both before and after this date range but you must be sure that you never can be asked the questions,”Are you on Teen Mom?’ nor “Are you (your child name)’s grandma?”
  2. Do you have money? Even if you have lots of money, you can’t afford a kid so buy a dog. If you have no money, you also can’t afford a kid but since the U.S. outlawed debtor prisons in the 1790s, go ahead and reproduce like a hopped up Xerox machine.
  3. Are you insane? If yes, you are qualified to be a parent. If no, you will be as soon as you have a child.
  4. Do you and your partner have the same religious beliefs? If no, you are qualified to have a baby that gets two different sets of holidays, lucky little bastard.
  5. Did your parents raise you in a way that was healthy and wholesome resulting in you being a well-balanced human being? If yes, you are not qualified due to the fact that you have no reason to try to use a child to get revenge on your parents.

Note: Please be aware that preceding questionnaire and any directives that it containing shall be ruled null and void if either you or your partner had that extra round of margaritas with your chimichangas.

Pre-Natal Care

Did you wake up hung over and utterly regretful and can’t find your pants? Congratulations you may be pregnant. But to be sure you must have your partner pass a simple test. Have her watch a few hours of random television with you. If she cries at any inappropriate time, she is either not pregnant and a  complete psycho bitch or she is pregnant and will be one for the next 9  months. As the pregnancy progresses nothing will bring a couple closer together than those early visits to the doctor together because there is nothing more romantic than watching the father-to-be be completely and totally mortified from embarrassment by witnessing what goes on in an O.B.G.Y.N’s office. I swear that the first time I accompanied my wife to her women’s health professional I realized that I was a pilgrim in an unholy land. When my wife got on the table, I was o.k. but when they started bringing out a collection of tools that looked like what my mechanic uses to change the distributor cap on an 84 Buick, I knew I was in a place I didn’t belong. I also learned that the Obstetrics office has some iron-clad rules. No food. No drinks. And if you have a y-chromosome, keep your damn mouth shut. While it may sound hilarious to you to ask the doctor during the pelvic exam if he found your keys and/or the remote, unless you have a really comfortable couch, you best keep them jokes to yourself. However, the best part of the doctor’s visits is that you get free samples of pregnancy related medical supplies. The bad news is that you have to actually thank a complete stranger for ‘”the nipple guards” and the “udder cream”.

Labor

Despite what you may have learned from every single sitcom since the dawn of television, there is absolutely nothing wacky or humorous about the entire delivery process. Any attempt to insert any levity into the drive to the hospital on that fatal day is likely to result in you experiencing as much physical pain as a woman in labor can administer.Once you arrive at the hospital, the non-pregnant member of the equation must be given the same advice a promoter would give a local band opening for The Rolling Stones, “You did your act, now just stay out of the damn way.” First time fathers frequently make some rookie mistakes, so here are a few pointers:

  • Don’t talk about what “we” decided that “we” would do during the birthing process. There will be no “we” until you hop up in the stir-ups and have probes shoved in your nether regions.
  • Avoid natural childbirth. Actually encourage the administration of morphine and even pentothal if they have it. When her pain threshold starts to fall and the amount of drugs in her system starts to rise, there is the greatest opportunity to find out the actual paternity of the baby about  to arrive. This will just give you a couple of hours to make up a convincing reason for the amazing similarity between your son and the guy who comes by and sells meat out of the back of his pick-up.
  • Remind yourself that your job at the hospital is to call relatives and keep them up-to date and to keep the ice chips coming. Odds are that you will screw up either one or both of those jobs.
  • Hey Knute Rockne, leave the stopwatch and “birthing class” flow chart at the house. If you want to keep track of time, just count how many of your habits she has told you she hates since you arrived at the hospital.
  • Telling her,” that it’s going to be o.k.” is about as effective as the pilot of the Enola Gay shouting out ,”Heads up” as he flew over Hiroshima.

The Baby

Behold your little bundle of joy. Enjoy your first few hours together. You know, those hours when you can just press a button and some medical professional will come get the baby and take care of it for a couple of hours, but don’t get used to it. Once you get home you will not get that same luxury. You will learn that your beautiful baby, that shiny golden child that warmed your heart as you looked upon them in the nursery is now some sort of sleep-sucking soulless creature of the night that finds pleasure in making bodily fluid messes for you to clean up. But that comes later , for now just enjoy the blissful ride, similar to what one feels before they are thrown from an airplane sans parachute.

Names.

It is a weighty responsibility to assign that perfect moniker for this child to carry through his life, or at least until he can avoid a good lawyer to change it. One must be very careful in the naming process. It is kind of like walking on slippery river rocks. One wrong step, and you will drown in a sea of your child’s contempt and scorn. Be careful to not get too cutesy with the name. I don’t care how many silent “p”s you want to put in little PPPPhank’s name, you must resist the urge. Also remember that at some point your child will enter middle school so don’t make it too easy on their future bullies. Avoid all verbs( Ben, Neil,Bob) and definitely never combine any two verbs. If your surname is Futch or Johnson, you are legally restricted from using the first names of Hugh or Anita. Also remember that we don’t live in Petticoat Junction so just go with one first name. Finally, the world is also in the need of strippers and porn stars, so feel free to name your daughter Cinnamon or your son Rod Steele.

The trip home

You have  been released from the hospital and have arrived home. Isn’t it great to be home, but don’t get too comfortable because you need to return to the hospital and pick up the baby that you left in the car seat siting on the curb at the hospital. Once you return back home, this time with the child, the true adventure begins.

This concludes part one of the lesson. Part 2 is coming tomorrow. In the mean time highlight all the great things you have learned and why don’t you spend this evening practicing the whole process  until you get it right.

Milk,bread, cheese, cereal, sarcasm

I thought I had raised my kids better than this. I thought that my constant preaching on the subjects of not being overly concerned with the material things in life would make them better people. However, it seemed my offspring are too focused on the luxuries of life. They are so spoiled that they actually require food. They make these requests as many as three times a day. And since I have a really low tolerance for their whining about things like,”I am Hungry. I can feel my ribs. Please Daddy I am starting to pass out”, I have decided to feed them. I know. I know. I really do give in to them too easily. But that’s just me. I am a giver.

Since science has failed to perfect the Star Trek type food replicator, the decision to feed the kids means that someone has to prepare the foods and since Gordon Ramsey has not yet responded to my pleas to become my personal chef. I guess that means the responsibility to concoct their dinners falls on my shoulders. Now, I have no real problem with my refrigerator being used for nothing more than a way to store the left over Chinese food and the stove just being the the place where we stack the pizza boxes when the delivery guy brings them. But due to the state of Florida’s failure to select the correct lottery numbers( my numbers are the right ones and everybody else has the wrong ones), the economic pressure of eating out every meal means that some food will(gasp) have to be prepared in the big white room where we keep the beer. I think its called a kitchen.

Unfortunately, the food industry has conspired to complicate the whole food obtaining process. Apparently, just standing on your front porch and yelling,”I need meat!” will not result in a delivery truck from the the local grocer appearing at your door. It will however get you a smile and a wink from the well dressed single guy that lives across the street. This means that one must make a pilgrimage to one of the local freakshows that we call grocery stores. The conspiracy that the food industry has put upon us is not happy with us having to visit their putrid little hell holes once. No siree bob, they make it so you have to go back again and again. Can someone please explain to me how this is fair: The average livespan of a domestic chicken is 3 years. However, when you remove the feathers and you know…..life..from that that same chicken the remaining meat won’t last on the kitchen counter more than 2 days. And don’t give me that crap about having to refrigerate poultry. To the best of my knowledge, most chicken ranches, not to be confused with the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, are not located in the Arctic Circle. If a noisy smelly bird can take the heat of a South Georgia summer in a hen house, it should be o.k. to sit on my counter for at least a week. Hell, at least I have central air. Secondly, I spent a lot of freaking money for that Corian counter top and I need to use it for more than a place to bang my head against when the crushing misery of my life becomes too much to take, but alas that is a story for another time.

As I have referenced before I live in a lower middle class neighboorhood in North Florida. While we may be a retail wasteland in dire need of new shopping opportunities. I am talking to you Macy’s and Ikea. Prior to recently we have had a good selection of quality grocery stores, but that is before the 200 pound gorilla that promises low prices everyday came to town. I remember fondly shopping with my mom when I was younger at the local small independent grocer. I would sit in the small cart while my mother would would make her selections.  I can still hear the clink of bottles as she put her purchases into the buggy. Shopping with my mother was also educational as we would use our trips as an opportunity to learn and improve my vocabulary skills. I  was a smart child and learned to quickly recognize the words that identified the distinct items offered. I could spell,”whiskey” and “rum” and “vodka” and “cognac”. And if I was really well behaved, mom would get me a little package of plastic swords to play with that they sold at the check out. Oh wait, maybe that wasn’t a grocery store after all.

Thanks to large corporate super stores, we only have two major grocery store chains to choose from here. One is a well lit, clean and organized, store full of fresh selections with a plentiful staff of knowledgeable employees who carry your groceries to your car for you. The other store is the one I shop at. I am not saying that I live in a poor neighborhood, but the free samples at my grocery store are often generic cigarettes and malt liquor. My store puts two boxes of Fruit Roll-ups on a display and calls it the produce department. Let’s just say that the majority of the brands they offer feature the word “valu” in the title, and yes they do spell it that way. My store is staffed by a combination of rejects from the local halfway house and apparently the majority of the students from the nearest middle school. I know that kids need to learn the value of work, but could we first teach them the value of not putting 10 pounds of potatoes on top of the Merita bread. The young baggers also fail to assist you out to your car with your purchases. This is probably for the best because none of them are quick enough to keep up with the serpentine route I have to take to avoid the various meth addicts and other sob stories that the loiterers in the parking lot use to try to extort the last two dollars out of me as I try to  load my groceries. Apparently there is a rash of long distance travelers traversing this nation, and every one of them seems to “run out of gas” in the parking lot of my grocery store.

Although I may complain about my store, I feel comfortable there. However, every once in a while I decide to prepare a meal that requires more ingredients than ramen noodles and a flavor packet. This translates into the need for me to visit a store with more diverse grocery offerings. Recently I decided that it was time to shop at one of the better stores in town. I had heard of this large natural grocery store that had been opened on the other side of town and decided to check it out. To not be unfair, we will just call it Hole Foods. They must have named it thus because “the grocery store for stuck up douche bags” wouldn’t fit on the sign. I should have known that I was in for trouble when I spotted “Buffy” and “Chad” lamenting how they ever were going to fit two bags of groceries into their Smart Car. Maybe you should have bought a vehicle made by somebody other than Matchbox. Anyway, I made my way across the parking lot and into the store. The first thing I noticed was how small the carts were. Little did I realize that filling a standard sized shopping cart with items priced as they are at this store would result in a grocery bill larger than the G.D.P. of most developing nations. You enter the store through the produce department. At least I think it was the produce department. The bananas were so small that if I am not sure if they were actually bananas or if I was looking at a pregnant plantains sonogram. I understand that there is a slightly higher cost for things that are organic, but come on people. The last time I paid this much for things that grew on bushes, I at least got high. I swear that if I bought the ingredients for small fruit salad, the amount would be higher than the amount I have in my 401k. I also noticed that they fancy themselves as a charitable business. They had a display set up where you could buy a pair of shoes to be shipped to the underprivileged in Africa. The shoes that they expected you to buy and donate were TOMS, at $70 a pair. Listen, I accept the fact that the Kenyans kick our ass in every marathon that they compete in but if they are going to do so I am just going to send them L.A. Gears if that is alright with you.

I can tolerate the high prices if I could at least recognize some of the brand names. For goodness sake, I know that the point behind this store is to provide healthier alternatives for people but any store that doesn’t carry Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes is not a store. It’s a communist plot. I did love the holier than thou attitudes that all the other shoppers had at the store. You are right Mr. Birkenstock, when I am not shopping for Oreos at my regular grocery store, I am busy cutting down rain forests and clubbing baby seals. The attitudes were especially bad around the bulk food display. Bulk foods is where you fill you own bags from big barrels of various nuts and other grains. I have shopped in this manner before. The last time I had to bag up my grains and nuts, the sign on the store front said, “Feed and Seed”, so save me the self righteousness.

The only redeeming value, or so I thought, about this store was that they have hot food bars that are sort of like a Golden Corral for the unshaven legs crowd. The food was just like Golden Corral in that it was average in every way. I actually was enjoying myself until I pointed out that they needed to add a chocolate fountain and a cotton candy machine. The management at that point had had enough of my suggestions and asked me to leave. So here I am back in line at my regular grocery store behind what looks like the touring version of the Maury Show and, oh goody, its WIC check day. Well at least the cashier seems nice and to speed things along I might point out to here that she is looking for the code for cantaloupes under “k”. Nah, I will just wait…and eat my Frosted Flakes.

 

Hail Marys and other prayers

When I first started experimenting with this whole blogging thing over on Facebook, a friend of mine who is not known for offering advice, gave me some. He said to write what I wanted and believed in but, no matter what, to never talk about politics nor religion. So I sit here thinking to myself,”Since when do I follow good advice?” Now, politics are something that I will continue to shy away from due to my medical condition. You see, I was born with a special genetic syndrome that makes me incapable of being a hypocrite. It has this strange side effect in that it makes me reason  out issues fairly and rationally instead of just going in lock step with whatever political ideology is most convenient for me to cling to.But don’t worry about me, cause I am seeking treatment and someday I will be like all the rest of the close minded neanderthals. So buckle up for a very spiritual “the things I have learned”:

I am a southerner as were my parents before me. If you are not from here you will have difficulty understanding the southern religious frame of mind because religion here is unlike what it is anywhere else. In reading the rest of this you must hear the voice of the classic southern preacher. It is full of accent and vernacular. A word of warning: I am referring to the classic southern preacher/warden voice that says things like ” What we have got here is a failure to communicate” not the southern voice that says,”Boy you sure do have a pretty mouth”. So please hear the voice that drops all the “n’s” and “s’s” at the ends of words and pronounced all the vowels like they have 18 syllables.

Some of us worship on Saturday nights and some of us do so on Sundays. The truly devout worship on both days but there will always be one day of service that they value more. We build vast gleaming shrines made of concrete and steel so that we may all worship with our like minded brothers and sisters in unity.We even welcome those of opposing faiths to join us but we make sure they sit on the pews opposite from ours. We even welcome those of other faiths to convert to our way of worshiping but that rarely happens. For the faith that you were born into will likely stay with you for all of your life.

Our religion draws vast pilgrims to our holy sites from areas both far and wide. These pilgrims will sometimes be forced to camp in cities of tents and r.v.’s due to their numbers swelling beyond what the local hotels can accommodate. Our religious leaders dress in distinguished fashion in a manner that suits their lofty position not like some of the “newer” faiths whose leaders where polos and hoodies to tend to their flock. We gather in small prayer groups before the services begin and start to motivate the faiths  of ourselves and others. After a particularly moving service, we will take  to the streets to proselytize any non believer that we meet and point out to them the error of their ways. This sometimes leads to vast physical conflicts for we will not tolerate disrespect to our faith.

We have great hymns that we sing throughout the service and sometimes long after the service has ended. These hymns are played by grand orchestras and accompanied by the choirs of those with the voices of angels. These holy songs bind us to our brethren and reinforce our faith. We even mark our vehicles with special insignias so that our fellow believers can recognize us wherever we go. Unlike some lesser faiths, we don’t have to pass the plate for collections. Our fellow church goers gladly give till it hurts before they have even entered into the main body of the church. We tithe to the fullest extent but never complain for we know that the funds are needed to keep the church growing.

We are holy warriors. We are the holy. We are the devout. We are southerners and our religion is football. For those of us who worship at the altar of Saturday afternoons and the College game we will go to towns with names like Tuscaloosa and Chapel Hill .  We will go to many of these similar places, towns with one stoplight and two Whataburgers. The school you root for is a serous matter and there is more animosity between fans of rival schools than has ever existed between Jew and Muslim. Think that is an exaggeration? In the south true “hate ” is reserved for perverts, wife beaters, and the criminally insane. If you are a college football fan, you read that last sentence and immediately added the name of the fans from your rival school. Need more proof? Only in college football is there an entire industry of people writing books just to denigrate their opponent and its fans. A disclaimer: I am a dyed in the wool, bleeds garnet and gold, Bobby Bowden loving, calling Doak Campbell Stadium “God’s County”, Charlie Ward cheering, Tallahassee missing,Steve Spurrier hating, Burt Reynolds mustachioed  SEMINOLE.Hell, I even plant a burning spear in my front yard before I write my blog every morning just to psyche myself up. However, you can just insert the name of your rival school and these little nuggets of joy will work just as well:

  • How do you get to Gainesville? You go south until you smell it and then west until you step in it.
  • Why did Florida pick orange as its color? So its fans could go hunting on Saturday morning, go to the game on Saturday afternoon, get arrested and go to jail on Sunday, and go straight to their job on the back of the garbage truck on Monday and never have to change their shirt.
  • What do you get when you cross a pig and a Gator cheerleader? Nobody knows because there are somethings even a pig won’t do.

Just to be charitable, I will give the Florida fans a peace offering:

  • What do you call a F.S.U. grad in a suit? The defendant
  • What do you call four F.S.U. grads in a Cadillac? Grand Theft Auto

As you can see, we treat this whole college football thing with a level of seriousness that most people reserve for family relationships and religions. If football is our religion then Fall is our high holidays. It starts as the players report to school and two a days begin. The information slowly leaks out of campus and to the fans as to what the season will bring. We can’t wait to get to the season opener. Until kickoff, everything is possible. Every team is a contender for the national championship. Then, the first game is played and you lose your star running back to injury and you find out that the q.b. can’t read a blitz and your defense has one flaw in that they don’t know how to tackle. Do you lose hope? Hell No. You just start talking about quality losses and next spring’s recruiting class. Then you state the mantra that has been keeping the hopes of mediocre programs alive for decades,”Wait ’til next year.”

Some people cite the pomp and tradition of the college game for the reason that they love it so. They call it more family friendly than the pro game and talk about the purity of the “amateurs” who play it. Sure they are amateurs just like the Olympians except I don’t see the 18 year old hopeful on the luge team driving around in an Escalade that his single parent family living in the projects just magically figured out they could afford. Others talk about how they love that there is no alcohol allowed at the games.NO ALCOHOL?  College football is single handedly responsible for keeping the flask and plastic baggy industry solvent. If you see the t.v. shot of the student section at any college game, and you don’t see any drunks then you have accidentally turned on the B.Y.U game. If you see a group of college students and half are dressed like cowboy/prostitutes and the other half have painted their body in glitter while wearing a cape and a Centurion helmet, they are not drinking applejuice.

Speaking of out of control drunks, there is no better way for a former alcoholic to see the folly of this addictive ways than to take him to an N.F.L. game. This is an event where they have cordoned off entire decks at the stadium just to give people special places to get plastered. God bless ’em. The pro games are more than about drinking, they are about Fantasy Football and drinking. I love Fantasy Football because nothing makes me happier than having to cheer for the opposing teams’ q.b. because I started him this week and if I drop down another place in the standings the other guys in accounting will be riding my ass about it for the rest of the winter. And don’t even mention the office pool, that I didn’t have enough money to enter so I took Junior’s lunch money and dammit if Dallas isn’t covering the spread and I should have taken the over on the Tampa Bay game and WTF are the Browns doing scoring this late in the game just to kill the 3 and a half I laid on them..AAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG!

They should change the slogan to,” The N.F.L., cause you ain’t got enough emotional conflict in your life.” But I do love the N.F.L. game because of the family aspect of it. Coming out and enjoying the game as family really seems to bridge the generation gap. It is a proven fact that nothing brings people closer together than all three generations of a family dropping “f-bombs” on a referee because he missed a holding call.

Some people claim that the N.F.L. game is in decline. They say that the outrageous ticket prices and concession prices that make the movie theaters blush with embarrassment have finally caught up with and are destroying the fans’ ability to attend the games. I don’t think that’s the problem. I just think they need to come up with more exciting ways to engage the fans at the stadium. I have a few ideas. Get your pen and paper ready Mr. Roger  Goodell:

  • Quit moving the kick off line. Make the kickoff more exciting by combining it with the flyover. Imagine the excitement as the F-16 hurls the football out the bomb bay doors while doing mach 3. The good news is that even if the return man makes contact with the football at the twenty yard line, the force of impact will result in a touch back every single time.
  • Old timers always lament about the rules to protect the quarter back.” Just put them in a dress”, they will moan. Exactly. Imagine how Payton Manning would look in a flowing little Dolce and Gabanna number or think how great Aaron Rodgers would look wearing a lacy piece from Christian Lacroix. Not only would this give the game another marketing opportunity it would open the game up to an entire segment of the population that aren’t currently known for their love of sports.
  • During a replay challenge, don’t have the referee go look at the video under the hood. I propose that we have the previous play acted out on the field by the local improv troupe. “OK, it is a running play performed in the style of…..anyone?….ok  kabuki theatre!”
  • Eliminate the Pro Bowl game and replace it with a  skills competition.  Not skills like running and catching but the true skills that N.F.L. players possess. There could be a wife/girlfriend beating contest. We could play a rousing game of “Are you my daddy?” We could gather all of the DUI offenders in the league and have the most kick ass demolition derby ever. We could have the running from the police 40 yard dash , and my personal favorite  we could have a quarterback impersonation contest. Apparently Tim Tebow has been practicing for that for years.

Oops, I forgot! I wasn’t supposed to talk about religion.

Recipe for Love

I remember my first time. I was confused and excited and didn’t really know what I was doing. I started doing it on a regular basis when I was a teenager. The more I did it, the better I seemed to get at it. I thought that once I got married I would do it less but the truth I do it more now than ever. If I do it more than twice a day, I tend to get achy muscles and if I do it too much in a week, my hands get callouses.I like to do it when nobody is at home to distract me and I get nervous when I do it in front of other people. So please join me for “the things I have learned” about cooking: What’s with the funny looks? What did you think I was talking about , ya sickos?

I love to cook. From the shopping for that extra fresh ingredient to make a recipe really work to the sitting back and watching some one enjoy the work I have done, I enjoy the entire culinary process. And due to the fact that there has not been a single call to Poison Control, I guess I am getting pretty adept at throwing together some food.You will notice that I refer to myself as a cook, not a chef. I am not a chef now nor do I ever intend to become one but I love being an amateur cook.

The layman may ask as to what is the difference between the cook and chef. A cook is what you do and a chef is who you are. Ask anyone that works in a restaurant what the difference is and they will tell you that is is about $20000 a year.Obviously the most basic difference is the responsibility and pressure that a chef is under is way worse than any, even professional, cook experiences. Although I only was employed briefly in the restaurant biz, note to self: Mussolini jokes don’t play well at Italian joints, I have been delivering to restaurants for years. Let’s face it, I have been in more kitchens than the Florida State Health Inspectors, explains that tummy trouble you have every time you order Moo Shoo Pork. In those visits I have learned a thing or two about what it means to prepare food for other people.

I know that I am not alone in my, probably undeserved, pride of my culinary skills. We have all been there. You are in front of your stove, whipping up a pretty good version of fried pork chops and you say to yourself,”hey, I am pretty good at this. I bet I could be a chef.” Well, you are pretty good at putting a band aid on, but I don’t think that qualifies you to perform open heart surgery.Lots of people have tried to parlay their skills at cooking turkey dinner for Grandma and Uncle Joe into the actual business of running a restaurant.  These businesses are easy to recognize shortly after they open. They are in dark buildings that have signs out front that say things like “Vacant” or “For Lease”. No matter how kick-ass you may be at whipping up appetizers for the last P.T.A. function you went to, the truth is the game changes when you are doing it for a living.

When I am fixing dinner at the house, the worst distraction I have to deal with is being summoned to the living room for a particularly brutal groin shot on America’s Funniest Home Videos, yet another reason to outlaw the pinata. A chef has to deal with a wine delivery who shows up two hours late, has to translate “sweep the floor” into 6 different dialects of Spanish, has to find a way to cover for the 3 waitresses and a hostess aren’t showing up because they got arrested and has to break up a fight between two hot-headed line cooks who accuse each other of sabotaging their” mise en place “. And this is before the chef even gets out of the parking lot. “Real chefs” have to deal with these type things every day. I said “real chefs”. Sorry “slop dispenser” at Golden Corral I wasn’t talking to you.

The hardest part about being a chef for a living  is…..being a chef for a living. At my house, if I burn the rice or the roast is too dry I have 4 different magnets on the fridge with pizza delivery numbers that will bail me out. I will have to suck down a few slices of Pizza Hut but other than my pride nothing is harmed.If a pro has a flame out he literally could have a flame out. If I screw up the Independence Day family meal, the worst I will have to deal with is being relegated to bringing cups or plates to the Labor Day BBQ. If I truly screwed up, I will get the family kissoff,’ No, you don’t have to cook anything. Why don’t you just bring the ICE?”

One spectacular screw up by a chef,and they will be so blacklisted that their next job will involve knowing the difference between hash browns that are “covered” and “smothered”. Or they spend their days talking to three toothless waitresses, and they are all named Judy. My biggest risk in cooking is my pride. A chef is risking the livelihood of everybody in the restaurant if he isn’t the best. So even if you think you got “skills”, you still may not be good enough for people to bet their bank accounts on you.

Here are a few more pearls of wisdom I have picked up about the culinary enterprises:

  • The weekend means nothing. In restaurants, Friday is their Monday, Saturday is their Monday, Sunday is their Monday…..
  • There are no clean Chinese food places. The only way to think the Chinese  food place seems clean is if you are comparing it to the Indian restaurant next door.
  • If a restaurant’s bathroom seems dirty, you definitely don’t want to see the kitchen.
  • Workers at Olive Garden are more likely to get carpal tunnel from opening cans and frozen packages that from burning them selves on freshly cooked meals.
  • If a person comes to your table and says they are the sommelier, it means they were too much of an asshole to be the maitre d.
  • Captain Dee’s is a fine seafood restaurant, if you have never actually seen a fish before.
  • Yes that waiter does smell like booze.
  • If your food is not the way you ordered it, just exchange it with someone at your table. Sending food back out of your sight and into the kitchen is an exercise in blind trust and  I am not even that much of a believer in human nature.
  • You can never pay too much for a great meal nor tip too much for great service because in life you will have far too many times when you will get neither.

Now that we have covered restaurants, I want to tell you what separates me from the less talented home chefs.. First of all, it is feedback. My family has developed a complex judging formula similar in complexity to that which governs Olympic diving. To make it easy for me to understand, they have translated it into simple to comprehend verbal clues. Apparently the top of the scale is,” I am eating it, ain’t I” and the bottom rung is the much feared” This tastes like ass”. I am not sure what falls between those two categories but the family says they will let me know when I need to.

The other secret to my success  is that I only use the finest ingredients. I insist on using Top brand ramen instead  of the more pedestrian types and find that when I splurge and use 2 flavor packets that the dish is just amazing. I also insist on using the fish sticks shaped like dinosaurs cause it makes us feel like we are a fine dining restaurant, that serves fish sticks shaped like dinosaurs. You may ask which cheese does this gourmand recommend. Gouda? Irish Swiss? Fine Havarti? They are all too plebeian for my taste. You have to think big to cook big and there is no bigger cheese than Velveeta.  It must be a fine product or why would the grocers put it so far from the refrigerated cases that contain the other lesser cheeses. I know some may argue over the wonder that is “cheese in a can” but I guess that is what separates the masters from the apprentices.

Well I guess you now know why I could never be a professional preparer of meals, but a professional drinker? That, I could do.