My Landlord Does Not Speak Human

I met my landlord for the first time today. Of course, it happened when I was running late to class. I was hurriedly carefully and expertly backing the truck out of a parking space and the landlord slooooowly walked behind my truck, completely blocking my path. Not being in the mood to commit vehicular manslaughter, I stopped the car. She disappeared from my rear view mirror and then suddenly reappeared at my window, peering at me with beady, black eyes. I rolled down the window, intent on saying a quick hello and then doing that thing where I go to class.

But no. ‘Quick’ was nowhere in my plans.

As I rolled down the window, the landlady asked, “AND, WHO, MAY I ASK, MIGHT YOU BE?”

Dear God, I can just kiss punctuality good-bye today. This cannot be good. Okay, just act natural. 

Me: “I’m Michelle! Hi, I live here! I’m the new tenant from the west coast! How are you??”

Landlady: “You are not on the lease.”

*Crosses arms in a sassy manner*

Me: “Oh, okay. I’ll ask my roommate about it, she said that was all sorted out already.”

Landlady: *Grimaces and growls*

“How long have you lived here?”

Me: “Errr…”

*takes ten seconds to calculate basic math*

“…two months.”

Landlady: “Hrmph. And what’s this about a cat? There’s a cat?”

Me: “Um.. yes! My roommate e-mailed you about it.”

Landlady: “Hrmph. Is your roommate in the apartment?”

Me: “Yep!”

*Landlady abruptly ends conversation and walks off in curmudgeonly fashion (possibly has a peg leg)*

—— later in the day, when I have yet to print off the lease forms ——– 

*knock, knock”*

Me: “Hello?”

Landlady: “It’s ME.”

Me: “Oh, okay, please come in! I’m JUST printing off the lease!”

*Scrambles to actually begin process of printing off lease but has no idea how to use roommate’s computer and fumbles with various cables while sweating from judgmental, death glare from landlady*

Landlady: “Did you have family in the Navy?”

Me: “Um, yes, my dad. Do you?”

Landlady: [incomprehensible mumbling] “…twenty years.”

Me: “Oh, wow! [small talk about weather]“

*Continues to fumble nervously with cables and successfully plugs ONE in*

Landlady: “[incomprehensible mumbling] “ART” [incomprehensible mumbling] “… these doors in the complex cost me $1200 each!”[incomprehensible mumbling] “….and that’s the meaning of life.”

Me: “Wow, that’s… spectacular!”

*FINALLY plugs in all of the cables correctly and gets lease printed and signed*

“Annnnd, here’s that lease form.”

Landlady: *silence… vacant eyes*

Me: “Well, see you again soon!! It was nice meeting you!”

Landlady: “Hrmph.”

 

- Daughter

 

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They Have Arrived: KITTENS

My apartment is now home to a mother cat (tentatively named Ginger Rogers) and her two crazy kittens whom we have named Loki and Thor. We don’t know their sexes yet but my kittens don’t subscribe to conventions like gender roles so it’s a moot point; they’re trailblazers in borderline gender identities in the feline community.

Ginger Rogers seems very displeased about the arrangement and Loki and Thor seem confused but content. On the way home from the shelter, all three went into a cardboard carrier. Ginge was not happy about this and shoved herself into a corner of the box, asking herself how she had gotten here. Knocked up at only one year old, the father not even in the picture… what was she doing with her life? But the kittens were quite the opposite: trampling all over each other in a brave attempt to discover the marvels of this cardboard wonderland.

L and T are completely unaware of their mother’s disdain for their existence as evidenced by their use of her body as a trampoline and a launching pad. That’s their main form of exercise besides clawing their way up my body via my clothes, using their claws as tiny, adorable grappling hooks.

Below are grainy, fuzzy photos of Loki, Thor, and Ginger Rogers. Sorry about the horrible quality. They were taken at night and the kittens would not stay still and pose even when I prompted them with encouraging comments, “Show me some personality, Loki! You’re a Norse god for Pete’s sake, SELL IT TO ME!!!”

Tomorrow, expect  high quality photos!

photo (2)

Right out of the can, no manners.

Right out of the can, no manners.

NOM.

NOM.

 

- Daughter

How to Build a Kitten Fortress

Preliminary stages of Kitten Fortress

Tomorrow, I’m getting my foster cat and kittens. In order to prepare, I built a kitten fortress underneath my desk. I put down a blanket that is nicer than the one on my bed that will probably just get pooped or hairballed on. I also put one of my old shirts in a corner so they get used to my wonderful human smell. The mama cat will probably hate me and try to disembowel me but maybe, just maybe, she will sense that I will be alone forever and take pity on me.

Anywho, here are the steps necessary to create a kitten fortress (makes a great Easter gift!):

1) Gather materials. Make sure they are sturdy, but do not expect them to stay clean. Because they will not. Kittens are not known for their table manners.

2) Deconstruct a cardboard box. Place cardboard box in a niche somewhere in your house to create a cat habitat. Make the box look at horrible as possible so that your landlord will hate you when she shows people the apartment.

3) Decorate the cat fortress on the outside with pictures of castles…. so it looks more like a fortress and less like a piece of processed, dead tree. Upon completion of this step, your landlord will be distracted by the beauty of the fortress and have no room in her heart for hatred.

4) Add kittens. Do not stir; let mellow for 48 hours.

5) Abandon all social activities and barricade self in the fortress with the cat and kittens. Never leave.

- Daughter

I Be Loved!

 

Well, both Daughter and I (mainly me, actually) have referenced Dandy Dog so many times in this blog, we thought it appropriate to reveal a bit about a day in his typical life around here.  Not all of it is necessarily good, by even a dog’s measure, but it appears to be satisfying to him, nonetheless. 

We begin with Dandy sheepishly situated in the back of Daughter’s oft-maligned VW Cabrio.  Again, even if you are a dog, you have to be comfortable in your “maleness” to been seen riding around in one of these things.  As the photo below demonstrates, clearly he’s not the happiest of campers.  A Happy Camper Dandy would be perched in the back of Mom’s van, or stretched out on the floor of the same vehicle, oblivious to the clouds of white fur that permeate the cabin and everything we own.

dandyvw

Next up is “Naughty Dandy.” When we first adopted him, we experimented for weeks and weeks with trying to find a toy or chew he would like.  We discovered he is not a fan of rawhides, or anything hard, for that matter, so Mom went counterintuitive and picked up some soft toys with “squeakers” hidden inside.

Eureka!  Roughly translated into Dogdom – drool, slobber, and pointy ears.  Dandy loves his “squeakies” almost as much as Mom.  Almost.  He has been known to seek out their hiding place in Mom’s closet when we’re not home, and he scatters the stash throughout the house and yard.  He is even perceptive enough to be able to distinguish the sound of the type of plastic bag from the store where we buy them.  Again, he’s a very smart dog when he wants to be. 

All good things must come to an end, however, and the result is yet another sheepish expression as he surveys the destruction with the understanding, “Well, what did you expect me to do?  I’m a dog, and it’s my toy.  Deal with it.” 

badboy

Of course his favorite activity in the entire world is to head to the beach with Mom.  Dandy is not a swimmer.  He’s more of a wader.  And a runner.  Oftentimes it’s as if all his pent-up energy — I guess two walks a day are not enough — simply explodes in multiple sprints up and down the shoreline.  He’s very happy to run, walk, take a dip in the ocean, and then just hang out for a couple of hours.  He simply plops down in the sand next to Mom, and he surveys what he thinks is his kingdom.

mydomain

After a long day by the seaside, what better activity can there be than to catch up on all those zzzzz’s?  Dandy has several dog cushions strategically placed throughout the house, and he takes full advantage of both couches and, sometimes, even a bed (though it’s hard for him to jump up).  For whatever reason, he has always preferred sleeping with his head below the rest of his body — post-nasal drip, sinus issues, past drug use as a puppy?  It’s hard to tell.  He never stays in one position for long, but he’s always mindful to be in close proximity to Mom, no matter where she is. 

sleeping

Ultimately, it’s a match made in Heaven.  It’s hard to imagine that Dandy didn’t spend the first eight years of his life with us.  We used to wonder what kind of stories he would tell about his past, were he able.  Heck, we didn’t even know he could bark until he’d been with us for almost three months.  He was one shell-shocked rescue dog. 

When Daughter first went off to college, we mailed her a big glob of Dandy’s hair, to remind her of home. 

We don’t do that nowadays.  There’s plenty of his hair woven into every object that we own (and many that we don’t).   

In the end, I think it’s fair to say that we love him as much as he loves us.  We all be loved!

loved

- Dad

Taxes? I Know What Lord Grantham Feels Like.

taxreturn

“Well, this sucks. . . . Again.”

This week, in between surgery (“This hospital jello is well-known throughout the entire VA system.”  “Really?”  “No, not really.”) and refereeing (“Great job.  You just cost us the game.  You suck.”), I found time to actually complete our taxes for 2012. 

My week just went from bad to worse. 

To quote myself, “I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid.” 

Well, I suppose that’s true most of the time, except when it comes to figuring out our taxes or, more appropriately, how much in taxes we should be deducting from paychecks throughout the year.  No matter how hard I try, I seem to screw it up.  For the past several years, we’ve consistently been required to write the IRS a check by April 15th. 

Not a lot of fun. 

And to make matters worse, I have had to write the State of California a check for the past few years, as well. 

It’s known as “The Full Monty” of taxation in our house. 

Now I’m not about to launch into a rant regarding taxes in this country, government inefficiencies, and the looming Sequestration. 

Far from it. 

I have travelled to many countries around the world, and in my very simple way of looking at things, I believe we take an awful lot for granted here, much of which is (I think) paid for through taxes. 

Maybe not, but that’s how I rationalize it all.

I suspect I have a relatively complicated tax situation compared to many.  But to be honest, I’ve been using TurboTax for longer than a decade, and it makes everything relatively painless; except the bottom line, of course. 

Figuring out taxes online is almost too easy, I suspect.  Audit defense?  Sure.  It’s only another thirty bucks.  Convenience fee for using a credit card to pay my tax bill?  Why not?  I’m already getting screwed here anyway — I might as well get some airline miles out of the deal, right? 

And so it goes. 

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when I was able to use a 1040EZ to file.  In reality, it was a long time ago, back when I used to complete my taxes using an actual pencil and paper. 

And the more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t do much figuring on paper at all anymore.  For instance, I used to spend literally hours and hours trying to balance the checkbook.  It was a task made much more difficult because my wife and I shared the same register.  It was primarily a painful effort, but I always fervently hoped for the Monopoly-inspired “Bank Error in Your Favor” — wishful thinking that we made some kind of mathematical mistake that would result in hundreds of dollars of “found money.”

More typically I would discover we had forty or so dollars less than what we thought.

Bummer. 

If I follow my own steps back to college when I was really, really poor, not being able to balance my checking account became a matter of life and, well, eating on the weekends.  I used to drive myself nuts trying to figure out why I couldn’t reconcile the numbers.  And having two or three “extra” dollars meant at least one meal at McDonald’s — quite a treat for me then.  The dining hall was closed on Saturday and Sunday, so my options were limited and mainly hotplate driven.   

Meanwhile, jumping out of the “Way-Back Machine” and focusing on today, I recognize it has now been years — yes, years, since I’ve even tried to balance our checking account.  When our monthly statement arrives in the mail (we don’t have electronic delivery, it seems), I simply hand it to my wife, as I do with all of our bills these days.  You see, I turned this crap over to her many moons ago.

Quite frankly, I don’t know if she takes the time to balance it, and I guess I don’t care.  I feel like we have spent much of our adult lives pinching pennies at every opportunity, and as long as we pay the mortgage, invest in the future, contribute to charity, and take care of our other recurring costs, I don’t know how figuring out the bank account to the last penny makes much of a difference in the quality of our lives now.

That might change, however, if I lose my job and we find ourselves retracing our steps from thirty years ago.  But at least I can take some consolation that recycling bottles pays better these days than it did in 1980. 

I can also dream really big and hope that Daughter will become an internationally famous author, making millions of dollars, and remembering to support Mom and Dad once she makes it into Oprah’s Book Club. 

Then, again, I think the focus on cats severely limits her potential audience.  I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. 

And so, at the end of the day, we will continue to exercise Plan C — lottery tickets. 

Filling in those little ovals on the pick sheet sure beats balancing the checkbook any day!

- Dad

 

The Animal Debate — Not the Scopes Monkey Trial!

buddysleeping

“Yep, I’m sleeping here. I know I’m precious, but why is Daughter so fixated on cats, for crying out loud? All I get from her is those crummy costumes.”

 I guess I was the last one to find out about Daughter’s phantasmagoric focus on cats.  I suppose I just wasn’t paying close enough attention over the last twenty-some odd years while she was growing up, evidently in some kind of cat convent. 

From the photos that populate most of her blogs, it seems she spends about the same amount of time searching out “cute” feline pics on the internet that I do trolling the “Cars For Sale by Owner” section of Craigslist.

Scary, man. 

Our home has always featured some type of animal menagerie, even before our children invaded the scene.  We started off with two cats — one a cast-off from a co-worker and the other a stray who ingratiated himself very cunningly into our tiny apartment.  We were soon joined by a neglected lab who we tried to give away but ultimately couldn’t bear to — especially after “screening” the various miscreants and wackos who answered our adoption ad. 

It turned out that not giving away that dog was one of the best decisions we ever made, and almost, almost made up for not investing in Microsoft stock in 1986.  Of course back then, early in our marriage, investing in anything was what other people did; not us. 

Once our family began to grow, we were joined over the years by fish, birds, more fish, a hamster, cats and more cats, yet more fish, and, finally, another dog.  That would be Dandy Dog, featured in the photo above.

With few exceptions, all of these creatures were loved by all of us.  Even the fish.  My wife had the last fish conditioned to come to her at feeding time.  No kidding. 

We devote our spare time around here for these kinds of endeavors, yet none of our animals are really “trained” in the traditional sense of the word. 

Certainly not the cats.  And since we inherited Dandy Dog from a rescue society, he came to us “pre-trained” in a matter of speaking.  That is to say, he’s very good at mimicking obedience and certain party tricks, if there is a treat on the line.  Otherwise, he tends to do mostly whatever he wants to do. 

His main pursuit, focus, and dedication in life is to my Wife.  His days are spent following her, trying to figure out where she is, camping by the front door wondering if she is ever going to come home, following her (did I already mention that), watching her, and sleeping.  Occasionally he eats.

His routine is only broken by the odd delivery person or anyone who ventures to knock on our front door, at which time he becomes the US Postal Service/UPS/Fedex/Random Knocker’s Worst Nightmare.  

Thus provoked, Dandy transforms into Cerberus, the three-headed Hound guarding the Gates of Hell. 

cerberus

“That smells like a UPS guy. No, wait, it’s Fedex. Definitely Fedex.”

Of course Dandy only has one head, but he sure as shi sounds like he’s got three, especially from the other side of the door. 

Needless to say we do not receive package deliveries to our front door any longer.  We’ve worked out an arrangement with all the delivery guys so that they drop off whatever they have somewhere in the front yard.  My wife has essentially made them feel guilty (bribed them) with Christmas gift cards to ensure we do still benefit from delivery service.   

The USPS guy is made of stouter stuff.  He still puts mail in the box, but we have to be ever-watchful for him, lest he be torn limb from limb by Dandy.  Several prior USPS representatives have, in fact, made a big deal about our vicious dog, but I suppose they are mostly worried about retaining all their limbs.  So, I understand that perspective.

The funny thing is we adopted Dandy specifically for Daughter.  She wanted a dog to run with, to fuss over, to protect her, to dress up in stupid costumes. 

Is it any wonder, then, that he loves the Matriarch around here instead? 

Given these circumstances, and the fact that all the animals in our house can now be solidly classified as “elderly”, we are seriously considering our future options when they all have collectively faded away into (pick ‘em) Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven.

(Both those places do exist, by the way.  Absolutely no doubt in my mind on that one.)

The debate here is the classic “freedom versus anchor” situation. 

While these animals have enriched our lives (and soiled our carpets) beyond our wildest dreams, every activity or trip we plan has to take into account either bringing the dog with us, or having someone take care of him and the cats while we’re gone. 

I’m fairly well sick of traveling, but I am not the driver, so to speak, of this debate. 

If I’m not mistaken, the following activities are planned for some indeterminate time in our future:  cruise to the Bahamas, cruise to Hawaii, cruise to Alaska, river cruise through Europe, cruise throughout the Mediterranean, cruise to South America, multiple Disney visits, African photo safari, etc.

And that’s just the first year. 

Clearly a dog is not part of this particular equation. 

So, what to do?

My sense is that the situation will ultimately take care of itself through one of three ways:

1.  Daughter will adopt a cat/dog/something, develop an allergy to it, and Mom and Dad will just have to take it in;

2.  Son will complete some version of the same scenario, though if it’s a dog, it will be some type of pit bull/rottweiler mix;

3. Dandy, after “high-pawing” a thousand angels, will send another lost canine soul in our direction, because he knows we will devote on that canine the same care and love that we’ve showered on all the animals that have graced our home over the last twenty-seven years. 

I’m just hopeful he will have the sense enough to wait until after the Bahamas cruise before doing so.  Even I’m looking forward to that one.

- Dad 

You Were Our Best Patient Today. We Only Had Two!

hospbed

“I swear to God I’m going to pop, so stop smiling! And, by the way, who is your tailor?”

Any day is a good day when you go to the hospital in the morning for a procedure and actually leave the afternoon.  Apparently, a lot of folks are not as fortunate. 

So the good news is that I’m home today, and slept in my own bed last night.  But that doesn’t mean the Muggle Medical Personnel didn’t make it interesting for me while I visited their domain.

First, you have to admit, they’ve got all of us beat in the Clotheshorse Department.  What I wouldn’t give to wear clogs, baggy pants, and mult-colored smocks all day!  They all look so carefree and comfortable while they are busy jamming you with sharp objects and confirming for the tenth time when and what you last ate. 

“Yes, I’m being truthful.  It was popcorn at 7:00 p.m.  I thought it was okay.”

I tried to figure out if there was some kind of rhyme or reason associated with the medical togs.  Sadly, I discovered there was none, as the most senior doctor dressed the same way as the lowliest orderly — and they all looked so damned comfortable!

Second, pretty much everyone in the place who is not a patient is somewhere between 12 and 15 years old. 

“Where did you get you undergraduate degree?” I joked with one of the orderlies, thinking he hadn’t yet finished grade school.

“UT-Austin, then my residency in Dallas, and now I’m here,” he replied.

Clearly I was in the presence of some type of super-race of uberexcelling children, because this guy looked younger than my eleven year old.  If that’s the case, I thought, then why isn’t my eleven year old already practicing medicine? 

Sedation will do that to you. 

Third, there is no sound-proofing anywhere, which can be unsettling.  There I lay, post-procedure, trying to figure out why my shoulder hurt so much when the operative incision was nowhere in the same vicinity.  I spied a guy who had a purposeful look wandering around the unit examining charts.  At first I thought he was some kind of doctor, but he was dressed too uncomfortably for that role.  The next thing I knew he was talking to the old dude in the slot next to me — we were really only separated by a curtain, so I heard mostly everything he said.

“We have to live with our choices,” he advised this guy, in a very soothing voice. 

“I know,” came the reply.  “I’m not afraid of death.”

Whoa!  What’s going on here?  Guys, I’ve got a sore shoulder.  Let’s not get my mind wandering. 

“You know, alcoholics like us have to learn to experience pain, without help.”

Again, guys, I’ve got some pain going on here, without the benefit of alcohol.  Can you try to be more pleasant? 

The conversation went along in that vein for awhile, and eventually they wrapped it up and made a point to get together again real soon.  My hope was that I would not be the next one in line to be visited and, thus, become entirely bummed out.  After all, the hospital promised me lunch after the procedure, and I was anxiously looking forward to water and jello.

As it turned out, I did receive a sumptuous feast of Saltines, jello, ramen soup, a muffin, tea, and water.  It was freaking awesome because I was so hungry. 

And I didn’t have to talk to anyone regarding my thoughts on the Hereafter — exactly how do you high five a thousand angels?  I’m gonna find out!  I’m not sure how that’s going to go over with the resident counselors.

And finally, there has to be a downside to all of this, right?  Of course there is, as no good deed goes unpunished in my world. 

Not long after eating my wonderful meal, I felt the need to visit the Necessary Room. 

“Nurse, may I use the restroom?”

Turns out the Muggle Doctor who performed the procedure on me is a stickler for post-operative protocol. 

“The doctor’s orders state you need four hours in the bed, no exceptions.” 

I mean the restroom is all of ten paces away.

“If you really, really need to go, here’s a container.  We’ll close the curtains for privacy.”

Missy, I’ve got news for you.  That container ain’t big enough to hold what’s coming down the pike.

In the end, I managed to hang on until I received my bed release, so I felt doubly wonderful when I finally managed to leave the hospital just a bit later. 

The next adventure was driving home with Wife and Daughter Number Two, and in a stunning case of role reversal, I was able to comment the entire time on my Wife’s driving habits as we sped along.

A short time later, after stopping for foo-foo coffee, she asked me if I would like to drive the rest of the way. 

Of course I answered in the affirmative.  Sweet.

- Dad

Study: Kittens Impair Brain Function

My roommate and I may foster kittens because I don’t want to have to wait until after college to become a cat lady; I need to get a move on already. I am nothing if not an over-achiever, you see.

We went to a local animal shelter to meet a mama cat and her two babies. As soon as I pet those tiny kittens, everything was right in the world.

I don’t have anything to say today because this is the only thing my brain is capable processing:

 

HOW AM I SINGLE?

- Daughter

That First Amazing Grade

OH YES.

Unrelated: kitten.

Unrelated: kitten.

I love when professors recognize my genius. Seriously. It’s the best validation besides getting a high-five from your dad or your mom or an angel.

My best essays are ironically written in a hasty, half-delirious manner. Whenever I write how you’re “supposed” to write – that is, with multiple drafts and careful editing – the essay always ends up being a dud. What should be a masterpiece turns into something you’d find on the bottom of your shoe after walking around all day.

Starting is always the worst. I tend to clean everything in my room first under the pretense of “not being able to work amidst clutter”. Really, I’m hoping that my professor will be abducted by aliens and that the assignment will be canceled if I wait just a biiit longer before beginning. After I come to terms with the fact that aliens chose to fulfill some other student’s dream of professor-abduction instead of mine, I get to writing. Eventually, I get into my stride and the genius begins a-burnin’.

Not to brag or anything but my professor said my analysis of The Rainbow Fish was really ‘insightful’ and ‘subtle’. Just to remind you, I ended the essay with the words: “each fish is entitled to its own share of sparkle”. I’M SO INSIGHTFUL.

This grade was particularly special to me after my mediocre first grade.

I’m aware that grades really mean nothing. They do not measure intelligence nor do they reflect the value of who you are as a person. (Over-achieving students everywhere:  “WHAAAT?!!!”) That doesn’t mean I’m not going to dance in my socks on my hardwood floors to celebrate. Because I am entitled to my own share of sparkle. Forever and always.

- Daughter

What Do Sparkles and Broken Bones Have in Common?

Nothing. Until I made them have something in common: me.

I broke my arm twice during my years of playing college soccer and went through a series of different casts. In fact, I was in casts so much that they became a permanent art installation on my body.

In order to protect my art from the elements I wrapped a trash bag around my entire casted left arm.  Rainy days were the best because I would casually walk around on campus with my arm conspicuously enveloped in black plastic, looking like a human trashcan. Many marriage proposals were had that year in my head.

The very first cast I was given (such a special moment, Mom and Dad were so proud!!) was awesome because it was waterproof. Unfortunately, it had the side effect of making me want to chew off my arm. I thought it couldn’t get any worse than being in a cast. PLOT TWIST: it can. You can be allergic to your cast and break out in hives all over your body and almost go insane from unitchable itches. I didn’t even have time to make it look awesome before they took out the chain saw and hacked it off. In my defense, it’s hard to make time to decorate your cast when you are busy shoving rulers down it.

With each successive cast, the art matured, like a fine wine or George Clooney. My last cast – covered in rhinestones – was very tasteful and subtle. It is the crowning glory of my cast collection. I was truly the Lady Gaga of casts; a sparkly unicorn in a world full of asses. I no longer have that cast but I still like to think that inside, I am still that sparkly unicorn.

Don’t let anyone ever take away your sparkle. Shine on.

photo (43)

 

Go big or go home.

Go big or go home.

- Daughter

 

How to Recover from Embarrassment

First of all, recovery from embarrassment is impossible. You will live with the shadow of shame following you through every triumph and every defeat. In fact, embarrassment and shame will be your only companions as you slowly walk toward your death.

But, never fear! There are ways to cope.

I shall start by digging through the dumpster of my memories to scrounge up one of the most embarrassing things I have ever done, lest the fresh embarrassment from this past weekend not be enough self-inflicted torture. What happened this past weekend? That will forever remain a mystery. (‘Forever’ = until enough time passes so that the story becomes funny instead of just cringe-inducing.)

Happily, I have an embarrassing story that has been aging like a fine wine. It has been stewing for years in my memory and now, we can all chow down on this hearty… stew… of hilarious wonders. It is embarrassing but I no longer feel a desperate urge to spontaneously combust when I tell it. I’ll set the scene for you: I was a young child, but 18 years of this world. I could parrot back monologues from Hamlet, sure, but real life skills were lacking. Public transportation was totally inaccessible to me intellectually, truly an enigma. An enigma that almost took my arm off.

I was on my way home and had to take the train to the airport. I wrote down the train schedule four times. I got to the train hours earlier than I needed to. I got to the right platform, HURRAH!!! I silently congratulated myself. I was almost a real person.

Then, a train came and the conductor yelled something but I didn’t hear or try to listen in my excitement. I jumped on the train, only to have the door immediately shut on my arm, from which I could not extricate myself. My body was inside the car but my arm, still clutching my suitcase, was hopelessly flailing on the other side of the door. At this point, I panic. I do a crazy dance trying to will myself to become something – anything - else besides the flesh and bone trapped between the train doors.

Now, this particular performance would not be so spectacular if it weren’t for the fact that the platform was overflowing with people whose attention I held captive with my antics. The conductor eventually figured out what was going on and opened the doors at which point he told me loudly, “I SAID THIS WAS THE LAST STOP, NO PASSENGERS!”

I hurried off, my imaginary tail between my legs. The crowd of witnesses just stared in shock at the stupidity that had occurred before them. I actually overheard another passenger say, “I would feel bad… but she’s just sooo stupid.” Ah, that stung. Thank you, kind stranger!! You are truly a god among men. 

Yes, I almost died because I was so anxiety-ridden I became deaf. I almost lost my arm, guys. TO A TRAIN.

———

Here are my tips for dealing with embarrassment:

1) Become a Hermit: Who needs people? All they do is make you feel embarrassed and ashamed. Unacceptable.

2) Cry: A real cry. A hurricane of tears that no emergency response team can even fathom cleaning up.

3) Fetal Position: Attempt the fetal position and stay like that for three days, preferably in a closet à la Harry Potter.

4) Just Stop: Don’t do the embarrassing thing ever again.

———

Feel free to share your embarrassing stories in the comments to make me feel better about myself!

- Daughter

Attack of the Killer Cabrio – Part 2

cabrio3

Like all internet photos, this one makes the car look awesome, baby!

How do you define success? 

By the absence of failure?  By reaching 95% of an unattainable goal?

Or do you just make it up, sometimes, like I do? 

Also sprach ZarathustraDon QuixoteVW Cabrio Convertible Top Replacement — the novella Hemingway meant to write after The Sun Also Rises.  Apparently, he never got around to it. 

And for good reason. 

Good God, you have to be something of a philosopher poet mechanic to get the thing (said Top) fitted on the car correctly. 

And for the record, I did have some help the last couple of days.  My Significant Other assisted me in maneuvering the monstrosity (said Top) onto the body yesterday, and Daughter’s Little Biting Sister struck a perfect Statute of Liberty pose for me today as she held the thing half-open so I could tighten some inaccessible bolts. 

Let the record, therefore, show that the marginally negative comments I referenced in my last post were balanced by a little bit of timely assistance by sideline family members. 

Thanks, Girls!

As the photo above should demonstrate, I did manage to reinstall the new used Top onto Daughter’s car today.  I carved out about four hours (more or less) to “git ‘er done” and I just about hit the mark. 

At this point, I would characterize the job as being almost finished.  And even though I took everything apart just yesterday and thought I had a pretty good idea of where all the pieces went, I managed to end up with everything back in place and “only” five grommets left over — a couple of them are fairly large, too. 

I have no idea of where they supposedly fit, but I’m sure their absence will be felt during the first rain or bumpy road, depending on their purpose.  Until they are needed, they will slumber in the console.

On the positive side, I did note upon disassembly that one bolt used to secure the rear seat to the frame was missing.  And though I couldn’t remember the position of all the rubber bits (see previous two paragraphs), I cannily made a mental note to address this absence and source a replacement from my Spares Coffee Can. 

I did, in fact, find a correct replacement this afternoon, and I happen to know that it originated from an old Alfa Romeo of mine from years past.  For good measure, I even replaced the good German bolt (that wasn’t missing) with a second Alfa bolt, so Daughter’s VW has a tiny bit of Italian blood in it now. 

Based on my many years of experience, the next failure for the VW will have something to do with the Alfa parts. 

Trust me on this. 

So as I was finishing everything up late today, my work certainly seemed to be taking on the appearance of looking half-way decent.  A neighbor across the street emerged from his house, just as I was taking the Cabrio for a test drive — I had to make sure the Top wasn’t going to fly off at speed — and I commented to Said Neighbor, “Hey, I noticed you didn’t offer to come over and help me with the Top today.”

To which he replied, “I’ve had a headache all day, and it looked like you knew what you were doing.”

“My goal is to be semi-professional,” I shouted, and I roared off down the street. 

Actually, Daughter’s car never roars; it putt-putts. 

After a successful test drive (nothing bad happened), I pulled up to the house and began to button everything up for the night. 

Don’t be fooled — the Cabrio still needs a major, thorough cleaning, top to bottom, and I’ve got to figure out why the “Check Engine” light is now illuminated and, of course, the speedometer and tachometer have stopped working again. 

Plus, there’s the matter of making final adjustments to the Top — the last 5%, as it were. 

By my reckoning I’ve got at least another weekend of work ahead of me to conquer all the remaining tasks and to address whatever new ones pop up during the course of knocking out the old ones. 

But it’s good therapy, after all. 

So for me, success is a new used Top on Daughter’s VW that fits pretty darn well and no longer has any gaping holes around the rear window.  Yes, in a pathetic attempt to stave off the inevitable replacement hassle, I was one of those guys who used packing tape to try to patch up the Top in a forlorn quest to keep the elements from entering the cabin. 

The tape lasted about two days before completely delaminating. 

And just to reassure you that this new used Top was meant to be exactly for Daughter’s car, as I was cleaning off the rear window, I noticed not just one, but two very faded decals in the corner of the glass.

You guessed it.  They were cats. 

Hope does, indeed, spring eternal, and tomorrow is, indeed, another day. 

Daughter, I want my truck back!

- Dad

Attack of the Killer Cabrio – Part I

cabrio2

“Yeah, I think I can fix that.”

Let’s face it.  I’m cheap.  Really cheap, but not as cheap as I used to be.  After all, the women in this household have gotten me hooked on a variation of the foo-foo coffee they seem to consume in ever-increasing quantities.  I’m sure there was some cunning master plan involved there, but maybe not.  To be honest, I can’t even understand what they order most of the time (double-pump soy what?), so I just let it go. 

Just let it go.  However, I digress.

Anyway, since I mentioned being frugal, when it comes to Do-It-Yourself projects around the house, I usually step up to the plate if I have any time at all to spare.

I look at it as therapy.  And saving money, of course. 

But I’ve also been known to get in over my head with a few of these deals over the years.  The kitchen remodel comes to mind.  The head gasket replacement on the old pick up –things of that sort.  It’s not that I don’t have the intellectual ability to complete the projects; it’s either the real-world know how or the particular tools necessary that I usually lack. 

While Zen-me’s War Cry is “No Professionals!”, I’ve learned enough over the years to apply what I euphemistically call “The Rule of My Father” to any potential project I contemplate tackling.  That particular benchmark was developed as I was growing up, and it roughly equates into whatever time span I think is going to be required for project completion, I simply multiply by three to achieve an estimate much closer to reality. 

By now you’ve probably guessed it came from my Dad and his inability (planned or otherwise) to provide a best guess for knocking things out around the house. 

“Go ahead and clean the garage, son.  It’ll take about an hour,” (I knew that meant three minimum, and so on).

Well, I’ve made mention previously of Daughter’s prime time ride — a VW Cabrio, which she has orphaned this semester since she kidnapped my truck and brought it to school instead.  To be fair, I wouldn’t allow her to take the convertible cross county because:  a)  I didn’t think it would make it out of California, and b)  See a). 

The convertible top on her car, no doubt, helped give rise to the phrase “rag top,” because it is, indeed, very raggy.  Very raggy, and holey, and ripped. 

Rather than spending seven hundred bucks for someone to replace it, I bought a decent used one a few months ago for one-third the price, and I’m now just getting around to trying, yes, trying to install it. 

Today was the day — at least part of the day.  To prepare myself mentally, I watched some show on the Discovery Channel last night about excavating tombs around the final resting place of King Tut.  When the Dog Archaeologists finally opened the main sarcophagus, it did not contain a mummy.  Rather, it held a cornucopia of trinkets, jewelry, and eleven herbs and spices.  Far from being disappointed, the Diggers were overjoyed, because it provided important historical context for the entire complex. 

Removing the top off of Daughter’s car today was something like that.  Applying the aforementioned RoMF, I figured this job was going to take two, multiplied by three, so six hours. 

I’ll know more in 24 hours, but I think that estimate is fairly accurate.  I’m about half-way done today. 

I jumped into the thing head first, and as I peeled back layers of carpet and unhooked seats and panels, various objects of wonder came to light.  In no particular order, I found a complete set of blue earrings, a remote control for a solar system mobile, eleven cents, three pens, two bags of clothes in the trunk that were supposed to be given away several months ago, one pencil, one Nintendo DS2 stylus, a cassette tape iPod adapter, one pair of sandals, and one pair of shoes. 

Sure, the objects provide a somewhat sad commentary on Daughter’s transportation life, but the main lesson I took away is the entire automobile exuded a slightly musty, filmy vibe.  Maybe not as bad as Hoarders, but getting there, I think. 

After much wrangling and gnashing of teeth, I did finally manage to remove what was left of the old convertible top.  And because I had a few hours of sunlight left, I launched Plan C, which was to get a head start on tomorrow’s work by at least nominally installing the frame for the new (used) top.

At this point, my Significant Other wandered by, looked and the expanse of tools and bits and pieces scattered about and commented, “Don’t you need a book or something for help?  Do you know what you’re doing?  Wouldn’t you rather pay someone to do that?”

Great encouragement around here, I tell you.

My reply was simple:  “The book is on my shoulders.”

However, that doesn’t take into account the 2,359 nuts, bolts, and fasteners that are now strewn around the driveway and car. 

I think I remember where most of them go.  Maybe not.  But time will tell.  Stay tuned. 

After all, tomorrow is another day. 

- Dad

What a Horrific Weekend It Was!

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“Maybe I’ll be reincarnated next season. Probably not, but there are always residuals.”

Yes, that title is past tense.  While I was on the road a couple of weeks ago, I experienced the unique opportunity of having an entire weekend to myself, unattached to any of the normal commitments I usually have at home.

So, I lived it up during my “dream” weekend.  Saturday was the fullest day.  I slept in to 7:00 a.m. (gasp!).  Treated myself to some foo-foo coffee and a muffin.  And then. . . . headed out to the local “Pick ‘n Pull” junkyard.

I didn’t have any tools, and I wasn’t dressed properly, but that didn’t stop me.  You can never really tell what kind of hidden treasure lies rotting away in these places, and my strategic plan was to identify any really great find during my initial visit, and the return the next day to extract it.

As it turns out, this particular yard, being somewhere below the Mason-Dixon, featured more American iron than the foreign crap I usually drive.  There were not many exotics (none), but the trip wasn’t entirely wasted.  I did find two screwdrivers under the back seat of an old VW (one of the few there), so they were worth approximately what I paid for admission ($2.00 – I really don’t keep track of these things — really).

By this time it was early afternoon, and my next adventurous stop was at one of the largest used bookstores in the country.  It’s the kind of place that has more than a whiff of mold lurking about, and where there used to be a resident cat who prowled the bookshelves (and relieved himself wherever his heart desired).

Sure enough, the mold was still there, but I didn’t see the cat.

I spent a couple of happy hours trolling among the tomes, and ended up in the philosophy section, where I thought I might source a nice volume on Buddhism or Zen, or something along those lines.  As luck would have it, the more I looked, the more confusing the titles became, and then my back started hurting from standing around for so long.

I decided the best course of action was to indulge in a nice dinner, which I promptly did.  I won’t tell you what I ate, but I did drink two glasses of Sweet Iced Tea.  Sweet!

To finish off the day, I visited the 24-screen multiplex theater at the mall down the road from my hotel, and finally got to see Skyfall.  Even though it’s been out for several months now, I didn’t know much about the plot or action.  I was just looking for some mindless 007 entertainment, because I really like Daniel Craig in the role.

Do I imagine myself as Daniel Craig?  Nope.  But I certainly can envision myself in an Aston Martin, driving my own personal Soccer Mom (read, my wife — please) around.

However, in the meantime, I have to settle for my Beater Miata, in which my wife hesitates to ride (because of its size; not my driving, I think).

SPOILER ALERT:  Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie and intend to.

I have got to tell you I was almost completely bummed out regarding two aspects of the overall Skyfall experience.  First, I don’t go to James Bond flicks to see the main character deal with the problems of getting older.  If I wanted that, I would just stare a few more minutes longer at the mirror in the morning when I get up.

I want to be entertained, damn it!  I want spills and thrills and chills.  And high-class Soccer Moms driving Ferraris and not minivans.

And, second, what did I get?

M dies.

That just really sucked.  As James’ eyes teared up during that final scene with her, mine did, as well.

Not really.  But I didn’t like it.

By the time I returned to my room from the cinema, it was well after midnight, and I slipped off to sleep trying to figure out if I even cared to watch the Super Bowl the next day.

When I woke up the following morning, I knew I wouldn’t be following football.

Because I was in luck.  The local PBS station was carrying back-to-back episodes of Downton Freaking Abbey, so I would not only be able to catch up with the previous episode I missed, I would have an entirely new one to watch, as well.

SPOILER ALERT:   If you are one of the three people in this country who has not watched any Downton Abbey episodes this season (but intend to), stop reading now.

Let me fast forward to a conversation I experienced on the following Monday morning just a day later:

“What did you think of Beyonce’s halftime show (I actually had to look up how to spell her name just now — man, am I out of it, or what)?  It was one of the best things I ever saw.”

“Didn’t watch it.  Didn’t care.  I was watching Downton Abbey.  It’s got girls, too.”

What I failed to mention is how gut-shot I was because, damn it, Lady Sybil died.  I didn’t know.  Had no idea.  Hadn’t prepared myself.

So there I found myself, late Sunday night, pondering the loss of two characters I episodically cared about now and again, over the past few years.

But then I realized.  Another Bond film is already in the works, and Downton Abbey continues for at least one more season.

Hope, indeed, does spring eternal.

- Dad

I Guess I’m Supposed to Write About Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again. No, not another colonoscopy. No, not another endoscopy. NO, NOT FOR AN ENEMA. Is your digestive system okay? Like, seriously. That’s a lot of procedures. Eat some more fiber or something.

Anyway, it’s Valentine’s Day! I guess I’m supposed to write a hilarious blog post or a cynical, sarcastic one about this day dedicated to love, but the problem is, I don’t have an opinion about Valentine’s Day. I like cats and act like a crazy cat lady on all days, so this day doesn’t particularly resonate with me.

I was literally banging my head against the wall screaming, “WHY AM I NOT FUNNY?!!!!!!!” when I was attempting to brainstorm a blog post about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps because of a concussion, I had a realization. The problem is, you see, that everything funny that could be written about Valentine’s day has been written. And everything saccharine and cutesy about Valentine’s Day has also been written. So… what’s left? I’m left. I’M LEFT. No, I’m write. I mean, right.

If for some reason you are a weirdo who gets sad on Valentine’s Day, I have come to bring you good cheer. Here are cute animals having a worse Valentine’s Day than you:

 

 

 

- Daughter

 

Brownies from Hell

Sums up my type of cooking.

Sums up my type of cooking.

Brownies are supposed to be a combination of everything that is good and sacred in this world. Second to the Pope, the Brownie is revered across cultures as a spiritual leader. I’m not sure why my roommate and I were messing with perfection.

We attempted to make “healthy” brownies. Worst idea we have ever had.

First, we made two trips to the grocery store and then scoured the internet for a few hours to find a suitable recipe that met our qualifications. After an informal group interview, we narrowed down the recipes to the most delicious-sounding. And in the final interview round, the brownie recipe that ended up with the job was especially appetizing. He sounded great on paper. Unfortunately, he wasn’t right for the position and we had to terminate him after his first day for being repulsive.

After a suspiciously short time in the oven, the brownies came out and smelled delicious. We didn’t even wait until they had cooled, we just  shoved them down our indiscriminate gullets like hungry pelicans. Unfortunately, they were the worst things in the entire world. I started chewing and my face lit up with the enthusiasm only baked goods can inspire. Then, my face slowly dropped into a grimace as the sensory data from my tongue went to my brain where it proceeded to freak out from utter disgust and revulsion. Despite the initial horrible taste, I wanted to be an Equal Opportunity Brownie Employer and gave it another chance. If it is possible, it tasted even worse the second time. My roommate and I had built up so many expectations for brownie greatness and then this atrocity showed up instead. We just couldn’t take it.

We laughed to keep from crying. It was honestly one of the most disappointing things that have happened to me in recent times. Probably means I’m a spoiled, privileged brat… maybe. But it mostly means I suffered severe disappointment in the form of crushed brownie dreams.

I have a fever and the only prescription is brownies that taste like brownies and not like something that came out of the butt of a dog.

- Daughter

Little Coffee Shop of Horrors

This is a self-portrait of me drinking coffee. Just kidding, it's some guy.

This is a self-portrait of me drinking coffee. Just kidding, it’s some guy.

Sunday was designated as a “homework day” but really, everyday is a homework day. Especially when you have to stand up in front of the department chair and other intimidating faculty and orally defend your thesis at the end of the term… it’s a good motivator to get things done. Fear, anxiety, and stress are the healthiest ways to go from “to do” list to “DONE AND DEAD” list. It is better to be feared than loved, after all. I don’t know how that applies to anything I just said but it felt right. That Machiavelli, what a guy.

But I digress.

I am a huge fan of going to coffee shops to do homework during the weekend because libraries stress me out. It’s hard to focus when there are so many books leering at you, like they own the place. Anyway, getting out of the library means I can explore Philadelphia and do things like rub Benjamin Franklin’s belly for good luck. Or run around pretending to be Paul Revere and screaming, “THE VEGANS ARE COMING!! THE VEGANS ARE COMING!!”

This weekend, my friends and I found a coffee shop that met our standards for homework-doing. It was edgy and cool and I obviously didn’t belong.

Unfortunately, it was also a suffocating 1000-degrees Fahrenheit and crowded. A stormy sea of Apple products, beards, and glasses met our arrival. We were the conquistadors of this coffee-drenched land and scavenged for seats, listened to the stories from the indigenous people, and claimed the end of a long bar-table for the Spanish Empire. It was uncomfortable and awkward but you know what, I was at a cool coffee shop and I had a chair – things were looking good in spite of being forced into an advanced yoga position to get into my chair.

After doing some table-vulturing, (where you stalk people who look as if they are leaving their coveted tables with a wider work-space than the three inches we were given) we landed a table. It was a triumph. Not just for us, but for Spain. My friend enthusiastically slid into her seat, an antique wooden bench, and then started making loud noises indicating discomfort. That vintage bench, it turned out, was not conducive to human butts. It splintered off straight into said-friend’s backside. I had to force her into the bathroom and perform minor surgery by pulling out wood chips embedded in various areas of her body. It was a true bonding experience.

Finally, after all of the tree remnants were removed from my friend’s epidermis, we settled into our work. Of course, this was not the end of our trials and tribulations.

The coffee shop was loud and I was already having trouble concentrating but on top of that pre-existing loudness, a folk band started playing. This was randomly punctuated by the sound of coffee grinding and the existential sighs of so many failed writers and actresses. I enjoy a good folk tune and I’m especially partial to the sound of acoustic guitar so that part was nice. But then, there was an hour-long banjo solo. And the banjo player was really into his music which I can appreciate but not when I’m analyzing literature. Homer, Hesse, and Hemingway don’t go with Hoedown.

You can only get hit by the elbow of an over-enthusiastic, bearded fiddler so many times before you give up and call it a day. And that’s just what we did.

And then we immediately went to another coffee shop across the street decidedly banjo free. Success.

- Daughter

The Rainbow Fish was a Confederate

WordPress just up and died on me. I can’t access the main site so I have to use my phone to update today. I apologize for the brevity of the post and will serenade you with my regular ramblings tomorrow when WordPress rises like the Lazarus of the Internet.

———————

Today, I wrote over one thousand words about The Rainbow Fish picture book by Marcus Pfister. You know, the one with the fish with the shiny scales and a bad attitude.

I mention this only because I ended the paper with the most bizarre sentence ever that included the words: “each fish is entitled to its own share of sparkle.” I’m practically Mark Twain. Ok, it makes more sense within the context of the paper but still, what the what?! The only way I could have ended it better is if I just used various emoticons in place of words… :) :/ :( :?

It seems my blog writing habits are in the midst of a coup to wrest power from my academic writing habits who have held my authorial voice hostage for decades. It’s a civil war. And it will be a bloody, ruthless fight. Parody and humor are hacking away at academic seriousness like an ax to a tree.

I hope they can reach an armistice and just agree that we are all entitled to our own share of sparkle regardless of our relation to the Mason-Dixon Line.

- Daughter

Zen Doesn’t Always Work, or Does It?

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They don’t pay me enough to put up with this sh . . . .

After being gone from home for the past two weeks, sleeping in my own bed last night, among my own clutter, felt great.  Becoming unconscious around 8:00 p.m. because I’m still on east coast time was not so, but you have to take the good with the bad most days. 

This morning I left the house early for an 8:00 a.m. soccer match, which meant assembling all my crap as noiselessly as possible so that I didn’t affect the nascent Pajama Day by waking everyone up before 9:00 a.m., including Dandy Dog. 

Just before I made a successful departure, Dandy did bother me for a quick trip outside.  We took him running on the beach yesterday, and by the looks of him today, it seems his joints and mine share the same sort of creakiness the day after.  But he is endlessly happy as long as he is in the company of his Momma, so I bailed relatively guilt-free and with enough time to stop and pick up a foo-foo coffee before the game. 

For context, one of the few outlets I have remaining for real exercise on the weekends is through refereeing soccer games.  I handle all types of games, from kids to adults, and have been out there on the “pitch” for well over a decade now.  I really should be riding my bicycle now, but it’s embarrassing being passed by pedestrians while peddaling. 

This morning’s game was a perfect segue back into the mix for me, since I’ve had barely enough time to eat and sleep lately, much less engage in any sort of activities outside of work.  I was really looking forward to running around for a couple of hours though, honestly, I’m not really in the best shape of my life right now. 

Nevertheless, this particular soccer league consists of older men, and it has basically two rules:  no profanity and no slide tackling.  Violating either results in a five-minute send off. 

It’s the kind of environment where I worry more about the potential for player heart attacks or strokes, rather than fouls; where my hair color (gray) is probably the only natural one there; where there are more Ace bandages and knee braces than in an orthopedic clinic; where the average gut size makes my own look really ripped; where player substitutions (due to a general lack of condition for everyone) are more important than scoring goals; where the after game gatherings for snacks and beer have more participants than the game itself; and where it’s not unusual for a substantial number of players to legitimately park in handicapped spaces in the adjoining lot.

Get the picture? 

It’s not exactly challenging — at least physically.  But that doesn’t mean everyone out there isn’t killing themselves to give it a good effort.  They are simply doing it at one-tenth the speed compared to ten twenty thirty forty years ago, and for five minutes at a time, if they are really well-conditioned.

In short, the biggest obstacle facing me is usually keeping tempers at bay.  Just because these guys now suck don’t play as fluidly as they once did, doesn’t mean they don’t want it just as bad.  It’s the perfect case study for the phrase, “The mind is willing, but the body isn’t.” 

Almost without exception, these bodies haven’t been willing for decades. 

So just before kick-off, I announced we were ready to get going, and one of the goalkeepers wanted to know if it was eight o’clock.  He’s a big, mostly friendly fellow, who I knew fairly well from previous seasons, so I was a bit perplexed he would challenge me on such a small detail before the game even started.

“It’s game time,” I replied. 

“Is it eight o’clock?” he repeated.

“It’s game time,” I said again.

“Is it eight o’clock?”

Clearly, this was going nowhere.

“Yes, it’s eight o’clock,” I lied (it was about 7:58 a.m.). 

“Okay.  That’s all I was asking.”

Play began.

But not more than ten minutes later, I made a call that necessitated a penalty kick against the same keeper, and as we were lining up for the kick, he chastised me.

“You’ve got to use your judgement out there.  That was no penalty.  The trajectory of the ball was straight.”

“The trajectory of the ball is not an issue.  The hand was away from the body.  Unnatural playing position.”

“Still, that was terrible.  The trajectory of the ball wasn’t affected.”

Whatever.  We lined up for the kick, and — the shooter missed.  No harm done, it seemed.

Five minutes later, I called a corner kick at his end, which was confirmed by the linesman.

“That’s your quadrant.  You’ve got to make that call,” he strongly advised.

“Hmmm?” I thought to myself.  I did make the call. 

So, I decided to apply a little Zen to the situation.  After all, I wasn’t upset, but this goalkeeper was becoming increasingly so, no matter what I did. 

“You are being uncharacteristically negative this morning, my friend.  I’m not used to it from you,” I soothed, as I put my arm on his shoulder.

“That’s your quadrant.  The ball was tipped.  You missed it.  You’ve got to do better.”

All this for about a $28 dollar game fee to me.  I just decided to carry on and not worry about it, because even though Zen may not have worked, Zen-me was still nominally in charge of the game.

As things turned out, this goalkeeper’s team lost pretty handily, 3-1.  After the match was finished, a drizzle began as I shook a few players’ hands before leaving the field.  Most of these games are friendly, and it is rare that real, lasting conflict ever occurs.  Today was about the same, for the most  part.

As I packed up my bag to leave, the goalkeeper in question was busy helping break down the goals and gathering the corner flags for storage. 

The last flag was near me, and he came over to shake my hand.

“Good game,” he said.

“Well played,” I replied.

And we shook hands. 

Maybe Zen does work, after all — in mysterious ways. 

- Dad

 

 

Well, It Happened Again….

seatbelt

Exactly how does this thing work?

 I don’t go lurching into each and every day desperately seeking out new experiences.  They are out there, all right, but I ain’t really looking for them.  Most of the time I’m perfectly happy having a cup of coffee in the morning while scanning the Cars For Sale By Owner (yeah, right) listings on Craigslist. 

That may be a sad standard of satisfaction for most people some people a few people, but I’ve reached the stage where I really don’t give a sh care much what other folks think anymore about it. 

And you think Daughter is a cynic?  I’ve got her beat most of the time, but I prefer to think of it as “being realistic.” 

Yep.  That’s sounds plausible. 

Well, with that lead in, you might be wondering what happened to me today.  The answer to that drama is I witnessed something I have never, ever seen before in my life.

And the implications were frightening.

It all started innocently enough as I headed to the airport this morning for yet another cross-country flight.  All this travel is really, really starting to get old, but at least I was flying in the right direction this time.  That is, I was going home. 

Mild “Yay” for me.

Because I have accumulated so many miles with one particular airline, I try to fly with Southwe them exclusively.   

I’ve described my travails with passengers previously, and once again, we were jammed together in the cabin, much too close for personal comfort, if you ask me. 

By the way, what’s the deal with “one carry-on and one personal item”?  I might have been bad at math in school, but the universally loose interpretation of that luggage restriction harkens back to Bill Clinton’s famous retort of, “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” 

For the love of God, folks, leave the Sbarro boxes back in the terminal!  And for context, you better believe I’m stashing both my laptop and my jacket in the overhead.  It’s either that or someone’s Urban Sombrero up there. 

I’m sorry, since I know that’s not how Zen-me usually acts, but, after all, it’s a five-hour flight, and it’s dog-eat-dog in the air these days. 

Okay.  I’m better now.

So I decided to score an aisle location for this journey, mainly because I knew that huge cup of foo-foo coffee I already downed was going to hit me about two hours in, and I didn’t want to wake up/step on/climb over my fellow inmates travellers to get to the lavatory.

As is was sitting in my seat watching the mostly forlorn Muggles file past me, I gave a little bit of thought to why we have bathrooms and not lavatories in our homes, but I quickly tired of that rumination and I busied myself with a two-day-old copy of USA Today.  I just couldn’t handle the Wall Street Journal because my brains was so fried from the last two weeks of work. 

Then a little old lady sat down next to me in the middle seat.  To be honest, she didn’t look that much older than me, but I don’t know how else to describe her.  She was a tiny thing, seemed nice enough, and was apparently going to Colorado on a ski trip.  I picked up all this travel information, by the way, from sneaking glances over at her reading materials.  Sadly, I did not engage in any actual conversation.

And then it happened. 

The flight attendant began reviewing all the safety features of the Boeing 737, including a lengthy description of the location of the lavatory paper towels (“they are for your hands”) as opposed to the tissues (“they are for your noses”).  When she got to the seat belt part, my Fellow Passenger in the middle seat was completely flummoxed. 

She didn’t know how to use the seatbelt. 

Seriously.

Since I was paralyzed by shock and awe, she turned to the dozing seatmate at the window, who graciously demonstrated for her how the clasp worked. 

I’d never seen this before. 

Heck, with enough time and canine treats, I figure even Dandy-Dog could figure this one out on his own. 

But not this nice little lady (and to re-emphasize, she did seem really nice). 

It gets better.

Turns out she’s a nurse, and a senior one, at that. 

“Nurse, please start the patient on 10cc’s of Alblutify, stat!”

“Sure, doctor, but how does this IV thing work?  And these syringes.  What are they for again?”

And several hours later, I observed at least two passengers in a state of complete befuddlement trying to figure out where the forward lavatory was located.  And they were young, like in their twenties! 

I mean, come on, there’s a cockpit, a kitchen, a hatch, and a bathroom, folks.  How hard can this be, for crying out loud?

But just to be certain that you don’t leave with the impression I’m judging my fellow man too harshly, I did pick up the airline magazine and spend about twenty minutes on the “Warm-up” Sudoku puzzle.  After guessing at figuring out about seven numbers, I cheated and looked at the answer key, which revealed I’d gotten most of them wrong.

Yes.  I am a moron, too. 

- Dad

 

 

Let’s Stay Focused on the Storm Troopers

boots

“Yeah, I know it looks stupid, but I’m wearing them outside of my pants anyway. What are you going to do about it?”

I’m not sure how I got mentally waylaid during my last post, but it is easier to drift off topic these days since I’m no longer being tested on most of the content I write any longer — at least formally.

“Where’s your thesis statement?” Daughter might ask. 

“Stream of consciousness doesn’t require one,” I might counter.  It’s an easy out. 

Back to our story.

We have had some really wet weather (for us) the last few weeks, and it’s made the females in the house absolutely giddy with delight because it gives them the opportunity to wear Actual Rain Boots, as opposed to the numerous pairs of Puss ‘N Boots they seem to favor normally. 

Admittedly, I may have the following timeline a bit skewed, but on those occasions when I’m actually allowed to comment on such things, I’ve tried to make the point that the blossoming boot fad of the last few years will surely date everyone to approximately Year 2010, just as platform shoes does the same for the 1970s.  To this day I am still unable to banish from my mind the image of gigantic soles and heels, combined with 100% rayon print shirts.  It’s a sartorial mental albatross I carry. 

As far as I’m concerned, the same holds true for Crocs and Uggs.  My point is that 500 years from now when a well-preserved body is pulled from a Southern California peat bog, the Dog Scientists of the future will date the pickled corpse to the late twentieth century based on the footwear alone. 

The online virtual news account might read something like, “In the process of excavating the new parking lot for the San Diego-Mars Spaceport, a body was unearthed yesterday.  The initial assessment points to a well-fed female of average height.  Of note, the fingernails were painted with a number of designs, apparently in color, which are perhaps spiritual in nature.  Based on the appearance of the images, the cat may have been an object of worship for this person.  The body itself, however, was marred by the all-synthetic nature of its attendant clothing which melted or “bonded” to the skin.  However, the footwear was remarkably intact, and scientists were able to discern the word “Crocs” on the soles of both shoes, which definitely links the find to the late twentieth century.  The shoes were remarkably well-preserved, but their construction indicated they may have been used as some sort of punishment.”

It is with some dismay and not a little befuddlement that I have observed the Rise of Boots in our society during the last couple of years.  I didn’t even really notice boots when they were tucked inside the pants leg.  Isn’t that where they belong?  I don’t know, but they seemed comfortable there.

But like that scene out of 2001 A Space Odyssey when the monkeys (I realize they aren’t monkeys; give me a break here) discovered they could use bones for killing, the transition of boots from inside to outside the cuff crossed some magical threshold.

I’m sorry.  The first thing I have a small problem with is that so many people are wearing boots these days.  It’s like a bad western movie everywhere, and I think it looks really silly. 

And it seems to be getting sillier by the month.  In fact, it’s becoming downright goofy.  I even saw a guy recently wearing Uggs in such fashion, and a tiny little part of me wanted to slap him out of it. 

“Get real, man!  Have some respect for yourself.”

But Zen-me intervened, and I just went back to drinking my coffee.  I figured he was publicly celebrating his own personal Pajama Day ™ — not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

Which brings me back to my own casa and the aforementioned Actual Rain Boots, worn by my Spousal Unit.  Never one to miss an opportunity to wear a new pair of boots during our nightly Dandy Dog walk in a Southern California downpour (what the east coast would term a “mist”), I was instead joined by a jack-booted member of the Waffen SS and not my wife.  I mean these things she was wearing came right out of some 1935 Wehrmacht barracks in Berlin.  I felt like shouting out a few “Seig Heils” while walking my (uh-oh) German Shepherd (Dandy Dog). 

See a pattern here? 

“Dear, you realize those boots are pretty funky looking, right?”

“It’s the style and they keep my feet dry.”

“Have we paid our National Socialist Party dues this year?”

That’s about where the walk, or at least the conversation, ended.  Probably a good thing, at least for my own well-being.

The fact of the matter is, in some respects we are somewhat surrounded by Storm Troopers, Actual Rain Boot wearers or not. 

For instance, there is the Home Owner’s Association Observation Team, which prowls my neighborhood looking for Jews non-standard architectural deviations.  Over the years, we have received a few letters from these Nazis well-meaning miscreants citizens regarding weeds (I think we’ve had as many as three at one time) in our front yard — all the while with a neighbor two doors up whose plot consists entirely of dirt and two boulders.  And there’s another house up the street that was recently repainted in — get this — pink. 

It’s unique, but it’s not that big of a deal because, apparently, their yard has no weeds.  

Whatever. 

So, my big plan for the summer is to paint the house purple, rip out the front yard and probably the back, as well, for good measure. 

And leave it all as plain dirt. 

My fervent wish going forward into the immediate future is that a Sensible Boot Uprising occurs, and they all go back under cover where they belong.  Thus, we will collectively recover our wardrobe sanity, and I can worry about other, more meaningful things like should I drink Bold or Blonde this morning and how did I miss Daughter’s unhealthy fixation with cats all these years?

- Dad

A Boyfriend Named Insomnia

Insomnia, my old paramour, has come for an extended stay. He’s a bit of a jerk as he tends to keep me up until daybreak. I have told him over and over again that I need my beauty sleep, to which he responds, “No amount of sleep will help you with that, honey.”

Not me.

Not me.

What is really unfortunate about not sleeping is that the world does not care. The day continues whether you are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed or bleary-eyed and scraggly-tailed. I’m writing this now at 2am in the morning, laughing maniacally as I calculate for the millionth time how much sleep – or rather, how little – I will get. My mind is bouncing around like a newborn joey but my body is tired… because it just gave birth to a joey. Those interspecies births are killer.

These are the thoughts I tend to ruminate on when Insomnia tries to make our relationship work again by showering me with wakefulness:

MORTALITY

THE MEANING OF LIFE

LOVE

HEART-BREAK

FAMILY

CATS

WHAT TOMORROW’S BREAKFAST WILL CONSIST OF

Except for cats and food, my thoughts tend toward the melancholy when I find myself in Insomnia’s uncomfortable, restless embrace strangle-hold. It’s not enough that I can’t sleep, I must also grapple with unanswerable ontological questions that are deeply unsettling and thus, not conducive to sleep.

Luckily, I have coping mechanisms! One is to read and do homework because being productive is generally a GoodLifeChoice ™.  Another way I cope is meticulously painting my nails with the likenesses of the first ten U.S. presidents. I also generally get up at some point and eat my feelings in the form of a gallon tub of hummus and some hippie flax seed crackers. If I really can’t sleep, I will cry. Usually while rolling around and sobbing, “I DID MY BEST…I DID MY BEST.” It sounds very theatrical. And it is.

"This would be ever so restful if I weren't deathly allergic to pollen and grass."

“This would be ever so restful if I weren’t deathly allergic to pollen and grass.”

There is nothing quite like the hysteria of a mental breakdown from Insomnia. But maybe when I finally fall asleep and wake up in the morning, I will find the emotional strength to break up with him. He was never good enough for me anyway and always brutally murdered those sheep I am so fond of counting. That jerk.

- Daughter

That First Mediocre Grade Hits Hard

I just got my first assignment back since my return to college after a year off and I am… displeased.

My professor called my assignment ‘thoughtful’ but wanted me to flesh out my argument more.

I’M SORRY, OKAY. I AM SORRY I AM WORTHLESS IN YOUR EYES. I AM SORRY THAT I ONLY HAVE A THIRD GRADE EDUCATION. I AM SORRY.

Me.

Me.

The grade I received brought up some dark memories and academic insecurities. How will I get a job if I didn’t get an A+++ on this assignment? Who will hire me when I’m a degenerate basically failing out of school? Oh look, a B, how nice… oh wait, no, it’s not, go sit in a corner and stop thinking so highly of yourself, YOU ARE MADE OF MEDIOCRITY.

See, I expect myself to be an Einstein in school so when I don’t get a million percent and get, say, an 89%, something is wrong. And that something wrong is ME. My poor excuse for a GPA currently has its tail between its legs and is shaking in a corner, hoping it will get adopted by some nice family but knowing that it will probably not. My GPA will die without ever knowing a family’s love and live the rest of its life behind the cold, metal bars of academia, never to be freed.

It’s not like I even got a bad grade. I got what many consider a “good” grade. But is ‘good’ what I’m aiming for? I might as well be ‘average’ if I’m just going to aim for ‘good’. I like to think I am a special, pristine snowflake in a world full of dirty snow and sleet. Therefore, I need to up the ante in terms of grades to reflect this truth.

You could say I’m an overly sensitive student. You could say that I need to relax. You could tell me to work harder to get that perfect grade. You could say all these things and I would just say: YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE, MOM, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.

- Daughter

I Only Watch “Serious” Reality TV Now

The Real HouseCats of Disney

At home, I was a fan of the worst, trashiest t.v. shows I could find. Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, The Forever-Alone-Cat-Lady (oh, actually that’s just a documentary of my life), Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, Toddlers and Tiaras… I am too embarrassed and ashamed to go on. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I lived vicariously through these ridiculous caricatures of human beings who drank too much, loved too much, and ate fried, unidentified objects (F.U.O.s) mostly composed of chemicals and the tears of Mother Earth.

But I’ve made a serious transition, a “mature, wise investment in my future” you might even call it. How? Intervention and Beyond Scared Straight. In case you’re my Dad: Intervention = the show about drug addicts who get one last chance at help and Beyond Scared Straight = the show about troubled young kids who spend a day in jail to learn about the inspiration for that Elvis song.

Where are the housewives? In their houses, doing various drugs in between ironing and starching their husbands’ suits. Where are the toddler pageant contestants? Probably somewhere along the path to becoming heroin addicts. These lessons and more I have learned. I think college is edumuhkating me and turning me into a smart person. I don’t know why or how… but it is happening. It’s as inevitable as the sun rising or cats.

Besides the fact that they increase my intelligence exponentially (learned that word from one of those shows, by the way) I think I watch Intervention and Beyond Scared Straight because they help to confirm that I am making GoodLifeChoices ™ rather than PoorLifeChoices ™. It especially helps assuage any guilt I feel for skipping assignments for classes. It’s not that bad I didn’t finish the book, I’m not doing meth!!! Whoops, I forgot about that meeting with my thesis advisor because I overslept… at least it wasn’t because I was on a coke binge!!! Oh man, I just spend $40 on quinoa…. at least I’m getting protein and not toxic overdoses!!! Etc.

I also haven’t been to jail much, so there’s that.

 

Related:

I want to go to wherever this jail is, TAKE ME MEOW!

Copawrnicus – jailed for heretic teachings about heliocentricity of the solar system.

Jail is like… the best. It makes me feel so… aesthetically pleasing. 

Moral: drugs are bad but catnip is good… it’s an herb, okay? It’s like different, man, it’s natural - don’t be so close-minded.

- Daughter

What Driving in the Snow Feels Like as a SoCal Native

My life.

My life.

In a word: TERRIFYING.

There was a flash blizzard yesterday (that’s a real thing, right?) and I was unfortunately wandering around on campus at the time and had to trudge barefoot, uphill to my car and then drive to my apartment. I seriously needed a Sherpa to guide me back to the truck. It is a harsh, unforgiving land. I saw others fall behind and yell for help, but I did not look back. You should never look back.

Anyway, I finally made it to the summit of Mt. Everest my truck, which was covered in snow and ice. The ice had crept up the windshield so as to completely obstruct my vision. I briefly admired the crystalline patterns of the ice before crying silently to myself. My side windows were frozen in place but with great difficulty, they rolled down allowing the snow to slide off the windows and into my lap. Success!!

It was still snowing at this point so I turned on the windshield wipers. MISTAKE. The wipers smeared ice all over the windshield thus obscuring my view even further. It was like looking out from a submarine porthole. A FOGGY submarine porthole. No, it was like looking out from a foggy submarine porthole while the Kraken shakes the submarine from the outside. Yes, exactly like that.

I drove at a breakneck speed of 5 miles per hour. Sometimes 6 mph when I was feeling dangerous (I never felt dangerous, FYI). I was preparing to go flying into an embankment because I have watched far too many YouTube videos of cars sliding around on icy roads like Michelle Kwan at the 1998 Winter Olympics to expect otherwise.

Between my expert driving and my clever manipulation of windshield wipers, I got back to the apartment in one piece, if a bit anxiety-ridden. Nothing like the East Coast to make you hate winter.

When SoCal people see snow for the first time:

 

The millionth time you see snow:

- Daughter

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