I’m Certified; But That’s a Good Thing.

referee

No self-respecting referee really gesticulates like this guy, but he looks to be a bit of a dandy anyway.

For various reasons, most of them bad (complete and utter lack of time away from work being primary), I have been unable to become re-certified as a soccer referee for 2013.  I usually knock this process out some time either in November or December for the following year.  But four or five months ago, I absolutely could not spare even a few moments to schedule, much less study for, my recertification test. 

As a result, I have been working on an occasional basis what we call in the trade “unsanctioned” games.  That’s a fancy way of saying the particular soccer league at issue does not enjoy inclusion into the United States Soccer Federation umbrella or any other similar organization.  It’s not really a huge deal to me, but to give you an idea of the level of adult competition involved, no slide tackling is allowed and audible profanity results in a mandatory five-minute send-off. 

I have to watch my own mouth as much as the players, as in, “I can’t believe I’m fu freaking doing this.” 

The games aren’t particularly challenging, but they are somewhat enjoyable in a laid-back sort of way.  I don’t even take the time to warm up before taking the pitch (field).  I simply stop for a foo-foo coffee on the way over to get my “caffeine on”, and I’m pretty much good to go by game time. 

In a way, it’s sad, because I’m used to working much higher level, more violent and demanding matches.

So, since the cauldron at work has recently begun to cool, I decided to schedule my referee recert test and get back in gear. 

I reserved my place online about a month ago, and yesterday morning was the exam session.  I had a solid plan in place for the week prior.  Starting on Monday, I was to study just a few pages each night so that by Friday evening, the bulk of the prep work would be complete and I would be good to go for Saturday.

You might have guessed what really happened. 

I only managed to crack my study book after supper the night before, and I managed to review the necessary text while simultaneously watching the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

Note to Daughter:  Don’t try this methodology at your Lesbian Cult College.  It is proven to deliver mediocre results, at best. 

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, but it was only because the test site was about a 40-minute drive from home.  I had to build in enough time to pick up a foo-foo coffee on my way over.  Just like working a real game, I knew I needed that caffeine boost to encourage the gray matter to kick it up a notch during the test. 

The first bad sign was when I rolled up to the elementary school where the test was scheduled; it looked like about a thousand cars were parked all over the place.  I just wasn’t really up for a group cluster. 

All I wanted was an easy multiple guess choice test, and an instructor who wasn’t shy about giving away the answers ahead of time. 

The second bad sign was at the registration desk, after I finally found the correct room.  Yes, I was on the list, but, no, I had no idea what the guy checking off names was talking about.

“Yes, sir, I’ve got you on the list.  Now I need your $20 facility fee.”

“My what?  I already paid for all of this online.  Are you saying I owe twenty more bucks?”

“Sir, you’re the only one who didn’t get the word this morning.  No one else has had a problem.”

Well, I already was not in the best of moods, and now this.  I really had no choice but to pay the piper.  Thank God I had more than the usual two dollars in my wallet, but this was really beginning to piss me off upset me. 

This day was not starting out well at all

Once inside what appeared to be the school cafeteria, I grabbed a seat right up front, since it seemed there was going to be some kind of presentation which I was going to have a very difficult time seeing, since I forgot my glasses.

In fact, I was woefully unprepared, not even taking into account the lack of studying.

To wit, I was supposed to bring a couple of pencils — nope, I brought one pen.  Note taking paper was encouraged — nope, I figured I could write the really important stuff on my hand in ink.  The instructor had some kind of pre-test lesson planned — nope, I left the good ole hearing aids at home, too. 

Geez.  This was shaping up well, I figured.

I had been sitting at the table for all of two minutes, when another older dude plopped down beside me, either because he was as disadvantaged as I was, or because almost everyone else in the room was fourteen years old.

He did seem to have a lot of notes with him, so I casually asked if I could use him to cheat.

“What kind of work do you do?” he asked me in an Australian accent.

I told him I was a program manager.  I just as easily could have said architect or veterinarian, but I didn’t feel like I could pass for either at the moment.

“I just needed to make sure you weren’t a lawyer.  These notes are from the pre-marital agreement with my new wife.  We just got married, and now I’m reviewing them.”

Clearly, I did not have a monopoly on issues this morning.  In fact, this guy turned out to be really nice, and he spend the better part of the next two hours whispering to me about not only various refereeing problems, but his new marriage, as well.

Since I didn’t have my hearing aids in, I understood maybe, maybe about ten percent of what he said.  I just smiled, nodded my head frequently, and occasionally gasped “really?” to any comment that seemed especially important, or so I guessed.

When it came time to take the actual test, we broke up into groups, and we could actually talk and reason through the answers together.  Since I was one of the few adults in attendance, I was saddled with assigned a group of four teenagers to mentor through the exam.

This pimply convocation of hungry ennui was a life-saver for me, because they both studied and remembered the answers to last year’s exam, and could cite specific problems for reference.  However, the kid at the end of the table was only a little more clueless than me.  He, in fact, didn’t have a clue, but was clearly benefiting from the brainpower around him. 

As was I.

Long story short, we managed to complete the exam in about 45 minutes, and then spent 30 minutes waiting in line for it to be graded. 

We all passed, and we only missed two or three questions. 

The Pimpletons pulled me through.  Hooray!

Second Note to Daughter — do what I say; not what I do.  Prepare, study hard, write outlines, revise, and then revise again.

Or find a damn good graduate student tutor to help you out.  It only gets worse as you get older.

- Dad

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The Great and Powerful Credit Card

oz

“Magic. I need magic now! Or a credit card. And, yes, my shoe is glowing.”

Let’s face it.  I’m cheap.  Or put another way, thrifty.  But the kids consider me cheap, though I like to think of it as being sure to obtain good value for my dollar, no matter what the deal. 

Like I said, cheap.

These facts all become important because of what we didn’t do this week during Middle School Spring Break.  We took no trips, and we really did nothing special as a family.  I had to continue to visit the Salt Mine every day, and Daughter Number Two and my Spouse spent a lot of time running errands and conducting partial Pajama Days. 

We kept on meaning to go catch Oz The Great and Powerful, but we never made it to the theater until Thursday night.  And since we hadn’t blown megabucks on some type of California Vacation Adventure, I figured we could splurge and have a nice restaurant meal before the flick.  Fortunately, the theater is flanked by a number of eating establishments, but we passed up the affordable alternatives (Rubio’s and Panera) to try out a new (for us) Italian place.

I’ll call it Buca de Beppi’s, but that’s not really its name.  My wife indicated that our son and one of his girlfriends used to eat there on occasion, so it at least passed the “someone we know has actually gone there” test, though I couldn’t seem to remember him ever mentioning it. 

Hmmmm.

The landscape inside the restaurant was something along the lines of Shabby Chic Italian.  And supposedly the chain’s claim to fame is all the dishes are “family style” and meant to be shared.

Translation:  Lots of carbs and a mega-buck per plate price, at least compared to Denny’s, or In-N-Out. 

One look at the menu, and I already calculated we were in for at least an $80 meal — for two adults and an eleven-year-old. 

The food was nice enough, but when the check came, I asked my wife to guess the total.  When I told her it was $79, her reaction was something along the lines of, “What cost so much?”

That was an easy one to answer:  two adult entrees, one kid’s meal, one appetizer (cost as much as one meal), one coffee, and one non-alcoholic beer (bummer).  And no dessert. 

To translate the above total into Denny’s Dollars, that would equal four full meals there, or seven bags of food at In-N-Out, or lots and lots of fish tacos at Rubio’s.

Lots. 

I mean if the food had been truly outstanding, I would try to craft my impression of the bill into something along the lines of, “Wow, we received great quality and lots of really tasty morsels.  We’ll definitely be back.”

Well, unless they have some kind of Value Menu, or Kids Eat Free Deal, we ain’t going back. 

But the place was fairly crowded, so clearly there’s some type of broader appeal.  Apparently, I don’t fall into that demographic, however.  You could term my demographic as, “cheap is good, but free refills are better.”

Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy ourselves, because we did.  And I would gladly pay almost $100 for one meal there than $1000 to camp out at DisneyLand for three days — keeping in mind (as I always do) that the best comment I ever heard about about Disney was from a Fellow Father many years ago, sitting on a bench at the park entrance, late in the afternoon, as he lamented to his wife, “But I didn’t know there would be 50 million people here today!”  

Yep.  Compared to that, I figure I came out ahead — way ahead. 

But I knew better than to buy the movie tickets myself after dinner, because it would only lead to me sliding more beads on my mental financial abacus.  My Lovely Spouse made the purchase for us, and she even used discount coupons. 

And while Oz might have been a charlatan, at least he had access to a huge storeroom of gold in the Emerald City. 

Though that gold would be nice, I figured that, unless we ate at Buca de Beppi’s every night, my good old MasterCard would suit us just fine. 

What value! 

And, yes, I’m okay with that.

- Dad

 

When You Spend Your Friday Night Wiping Poop Off Kittens

Literally, every day, one of the kittens is covered in its own feces. HAVE YOU NO SHAME, KITTENS? It gets really old giving a wriggly kitten a bath. It’s not even a real bath and it’s still traumatic for everyone involved. I have to wet a washcloth and pin him down and then scrub off the dried cat poop. It’s very humiliating for him, I’m sure. Definitely not a pleasant experience for me.

And the only way I know if one of the kittens have been playing in his own poop is if he comes close enough to me where I will either smell or see poop, not exactly the way I want to wake up in the morning: with kitten poop and it’s fragrance wafting around the room.

Today was no different from every other day the kittens have somehow managed to be lint-rollers that attract poop instead of lint. I turned on Storage Wars, put on yoga pants, and got ready to relax. And then, I saw it. One of the kittens, who has light orange fur, was suddenly transformed into a brown, ugly mess. There was poop. All over his head. He must have been trying to imitate one of those dung beetles he saw on National Geographic. You really shouldn’t let children under two watch television because this is what happens: they will imitate the actions they see on t.v. and make poor life decisions. Like play with poop.

There are other things I could be doing on a Friday night – bar-hopping, going on a date, going to a movie. Instead, I am chasing around a kitten who is tracking poop all over the room with each step of his poop-covered paw. And the chase ends on my bed, where the poop transfers from his paws to my clean sheets. Ah, yes. Namaste. Happy Friday.

- Daughter

I am a Carpenter

I am taking a theater carpentry class currently and it is honestly the best decision I have ever made in my life.* Especially right now as I struggle through my thesis word by word, it feels good to start and finish something successfully, even though it’s nothing more impressive than a basic wooden structure.

Not to brag but I can wield carpentry tools like  a young, precocious Jesus (he was a carpenter, FYI – and, yes, I just compared myself to Jesus.) Avoid run-on sentences? No. Cut a piece of wood with a table saw? Yes. Structure a logical framework for paper? No. Sand down the edges of wood successfully? Yes.

My carpentry partner, a good friend, “cannot do math” and therefore, according to her, “cannot make measurements”. She also claims that she is unable to read. So, clearly, I had to take the reins and make a lot of the executive decisions in class today. It really tested our friendship. They say travel is the best way to know if you’re really friends with somebody but I think that taking a shop class together that involves saws and other dangerous power tools is the true test. Trust falls? Hah, try running a saw within inches of someone’s fingers – now that’s trust. Good thing I don’t have fingers.*

One of the executive decisions I made, however, ended up ruining a piece of scenery that’s going to be used in an upcoming show. Whoops. But we fixed it. Sort of. I was supposed to be cutting a straight line but it ended up squiggly. My professor came over, looked at it for a second, and burst out laughing at our handiwork.

After a little sanding and praying to Jesus (the god of carpentry), the piece of wood looked less like a spaghetti noodle and more like a straight line. I guess you could say I’m a carpentry genius, but I don’t want to be immodest.

- Daughter

*Hyperbole alert.

*I do have fingers.

That Moment When Your Academic Advisor Tells You Your Writing Sucks and You Want to Curl Up and Die

Oh, how the great have fallen.

I am currently in the process of writing a thesis. It will end up being around 30-40 pages of writing about a subject in art history. I was not concerned about it really until today, when my advisor told me that she couldn’t follow the logic of my paper. I mean, I did turn in a horribly rough draft of my thesis but I had good ideas. Just because of most of it is in Spanish and Mandarin doesn’t mean it isn’t good. And just because I let a four-year-old come up with most of the ideas in the paper doesn’t mean it’s illogical.

The problem is, I am one of those “creative” people who works in a haphazard, irrational and slightly schizophrenic way. I feel and hear and smell (?) all of these  ideas in my head and get wrapped up in trying to do justice to all of them.

This is how the paper-writing process goes: I write a bit, dance to Beyonce, and then sit down. And write more. And then make coffee. And then sit down on the floor. And then make a poster with a flow chart of key terms in my paper. And then I get up to dance more. And then I eat a brownie. And then I lay on the hardwood floor and slide my body around it pretending to be a human mop. Of course, all of this activity only happens intermittently. Inevitably, there’s a few weeks after the initial buzz of ideas where I stare blankly at a very empty Microsoft Word document. I’m at that point.

I haven’t cried yet over my thesis but I am getting there.

My advisor said she was “concerned” and said in no uncertain terms that I needed a writing tutor. It’s not like I’m too good for a writing tutor – okay, I totally am too good for a writing tutor. OH, THE INJUSTICE.

Perhaps my thesis is taking up so much time and energy because it revolves around Lindsay Lohan. It’s soul-draining work. But somebody has to do it.

Well, not really. Nobody has to do it. Except for me because it’s a major requirement.

- Daughter

No, I Will Not Be Your Groupie, Spin Instructor

I have an on and off relationship with exercise. I’m either training for a half-marathon or eating my feelings via vegan brownies and watching Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo on repeat. I avoid exercising sometimes because it tends to exacerbate old injuries from my glory days as a varsity college athlete. Not there was ever any glory in those days.

But then something happened this weekend. I woke up feeling like Mary Poppins. I floated out of bed and danced my way through a music playlist before deciding that today would be a good day to start running again after my long hiatus away from workout clothes and uh, working out.

There are many problems with this decision. First of all, running where I go to school is like playing a game of Russian roulette.  The odds are against you.

People in cars: “Oh, walk signal? No, you must be confusing the walk signal with my green light, which trumps all pedestrian rights. MOVE ASIDE.”

I almost got hit twice WHILE IN A CROSSWALK. I’m assuming it’s because they just didn’t see me but really, I think they just wanted to hit me.

The point of that rambling was to say that I’m on an exercise kick. And today, that kick continued. I took a spin class which was embarrassing in about 3294821 kinds of ways but for the sake of time I will only describe two.

Embarrassment #1: I never know the right height to adjust the bike seat. I’m sure I could ask the spin instructor or simply Google it, but I am much too proud to resort to such plebeian ways. Today, I seemed to have adjusted the seat too high and felt like I was riding a unicycle. Not that I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding a unicycle to confirm this.

Embarrassment #2: Because I’m more of a random-spurts-of-exercise person than a steady, daily exerciser, I am totally and utterly out of shape so within five minutes of the spin class, I was out of breath and staring at the clock, willing the hands to move faster. Pretty sure they went slower.

At one point, the spin instructor took off the outer layer of his outfit and extended it out to me, jokingly asking if I would hold it for him. I wanted to laugh and make a witty retort, like I am wont to do, but instead, I tried to quell the overwhelming nausea from eating an ill-advised amount of eggplant right before class.

He also pointed to my roommate and I and said we were his groupies. I wanted to say, “No, I shall not be your groupie and I resist your labels,” but my brain was focused on not allowing my body to die so I couldn’t say anything. He then commented on my orange shoes which really offended me – they are hot pink. Nobody likes orange. Again, I said nothing because I was having a Near Death Experience.

I barely, barely made it through that spin class and the only reason I did was because every time the instructor said, “Okay, turn the resistance up!” I turned the knob waaay down. And then put on my best grimace and pretended it was on a high resistance level. It was scientifically proven that if you pretend to be working out harder than you actually are, your body will believe it and burn more calories. (This is false.)

When the class was finally – thankfully – over, I breathed a sigh of relief. Well, it was more like hyperventilated but I WAS DONE! I DID IT.

But then, there was a core class  to “get a six-pack”. I seem to have been confused because upon finishing the core session, no six-pack of beer was in sight. How disappointing.

- Daughter

Does This Make Me A Bad Person? Or Father?

popcorn

“No. There’s not enough for both of us. Isn’t it your bedtime? If not, it should be. Go away. I love you.”

One of our favorite movies, and lots of it is not even very funny, is Wild Hogs.  For the uninitiated, the storyline is about some suburban guys who spend their weekends (and male bonding time) as pseudo-tough guys riding their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. 

In our little suburban enclave here in SoCal, the weekends are littered with the same types of riders who meet up at the local foo-foo coffee house where they engage in tough-guy antics while sipping their double cappuccino frappe lattes, or whatever. 

The whole phenomenon is very amusing to me, and their omnipresence affords me the opportunity to shout “Wild Hogs” whenever I catch a glimpse of them riding around the neighborhood.  Of course, I never really make that reference in an environment where they might hear what I’m saying; say, in the coffee shop itself — who knows, maybe they would try to beat me up, and it’s not worth taking the chance.

However, I am quite confident I could still outrun most of them (have you seen the girth on some of these guys?), so I suppose it’s not that big a risk. 

I still have a lot of fun with the whole Wild Hogs thing; it’s basically the adult version in my house of calling “shotgun.”

In the motion picture, I mostly relate to Tim Allen’s character.  In an early scene, he is seated with his lovely family at the dinner table.  They are indulging in a wonderful meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes (or something like that), while Tim, the father, has to eat a salad because of his health issues. 

That’s me, all right.

I can really relate to that feeling, as I have been sentenced now live in a gluten-free, organic, non-carb, non-HMO non-flavor healthy household because everything that ails us begins “in the gut.”  So, we have to keep that gut well. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I really appreciate the diet within which we all live and, truth be told, we all feel much better for it.  Plus, my Better Half does an extraordinary job making it all tasty as well as beneficial for us. 

And I guess I could cheat, if I really wanted to, but I don’t for the most part.  Why?  I do feel better these days because of what I’m not eating anymore, and I can thank my Spouse for that.

But it doesn’t mean that sometimes it can be difficult to stay on the sober food path.  In fact, it can be downright challenging. 

On a practical basis I now come to appreciate, no, cherish those foods that harken back to the days when I pretty much shoved anything I wanted down my gullet. 

Ah, the Good Old Days.

One of the remnants from these Days of Yore is popcorn.  I consider it a treat, and it is also something I look forward to as an evening snack.  Apparently, popcorn can be loosely characterized as somewhat healthy.  But because of the numerous, evil ingredients contained therein, microwave popcorn has been banned in our house for ages now. 

So we now make popcorn with an extraordinarily loud hot air popper that not only cooks a solid bowl of corn, it also scares all the pets living with us and causes everyone else to either retreat to another room or turn up the television so loud our next door neighbors get a good idea of what we’re watching.

Yep.  It makes a lot of noise.

Here’s the less savory part that I’m somewhat ashamed to admit. 

I don’t like sharing my popcorn. 

With anyone.  Not Dandy Dog.  Not my eleven year old.  Not the ornery ancient Mama Cat, who likes the (unhealthy) salt.

The way I look at it, I’m getting screwed in general with the guilty food items I just want to enjoy an entire bowl to myself. 

Is that so wrong? 

Before condemning me, please consider that not only do I work like a slave most days, I’m evidently also aging and have to deal with regular mailers from AARP and other indignities, not to mention I just feel like crap a lot of the time seem to be growing grayer hair by the minute. 

“Daddy, can I have some popcorn, please?”

How do I resist a plea from my own child?  With Daughter, it’s easy.  I just tell her to make her own.

With the eleven year old it’s a bit trickier.  And to be honest, I used to share with her, but then she started eating half the bowl when I wasn’t looking.

With her, I have a measured response protocol, depending on the circumstances:

a)  After bedtime, “I’ll save you some.  Go to bed.”

b)  Before bedtime, “Yes, you can have a little.”  Followed by, “No. Not that much!  Stop!”

c)  All other times, “Is the eleven year old home?  No?  Okay, I’m firing up the popper!”

Wild Hogs, indeed.  I’ve got those guys beat, even though I ride a Honda and not a Harley.

And to my Family.  I love you and all that you do for me.

Just let me eat my popcorn in peace.  Thank you. 

- Dad

 

I’m Not Cool, Except. . . .

breakfast

“Wait. There aren’t enough carbs here. Please add pancakes and grits to my order. And some more toast.”

The kids have reinforced my uncoolness for years now.  In fact, I think it’s fair to say I embarrass them on a routine basis.  And if I’m not conducting myself in a manner which does embarrass them, I certainly try to do so.

Suffice it to say I have firmly established my uncoolness with them, and I’m not ashamed of it.  I consider it my parently duty anyway.

How do it do it?  By just being myself.  I wear the same clothes from twenty years ago (they’re still good after all), listen to the same music on the same radio stations my kids do (I don’t have an iPhone or Pandora loaded on anything, unfortunately — I’ve admitted previously I can’t discern most lyrics), and I generally express myself in a hip way — “Hey, mon.  I dun’t dig that.” 

To which I receive this typical retort:  “Dad, you sound like an idiot.  Don’t say anything else to my friends, please.  They are afraid of you.”

So it was with great pleasure last night that our family remnants, very tired after a day of working in the yard and rebuilding the motorcycle, became determined to experience a nice meal out on the town, and not at one of our usual spots — Rubio’s Fish Tacos or In-N-Out Burger.  We piled into the van and drove over to the only “cool” restaurant area in out little suburb for some semi-exotic fare. 

You know, I used to wonder why the parking lot next to the post office was so full on Saturday nights, and I soon received my answer.  All the cool, hip, “in” eateries were packed.  Our first stop, a gastro pub, was full.  I don’t really frequent “gastro-pubs” (the description sounds vaguely Pepto-Bismalish), but the wait for a table for three was over an hour.  And there were lots of neat, upscale people seemingly enjoying themselves there.  I wasn’t sure I would fit in wearing shorts but, no matter, we weren’t going to hang out that long for a table.  Next up, in quick succession, were a Japanese restaurant and upscale Vietnamese next door. 

Same story.  Packed, with elegant people, clearly looking down at us lesser mortals looking for open seats. 

After a quick family huddle, our collective hunger made the next choice quite obvious:  Denny’s!

Denny’s!  Yay!

We all could have breakfast, and it wouldn’t cost $120 for three of us to eat.  Wonderful.

Plus, Denny’s has the added advantage that neither of the older kids like eating there, and they think it’s Old School and uncool.  I could add to my legacy. 

Whatever.  We were headed to Denny’s.

Even though this particular location is about two minutes away from the restaurants I just listed that boast hour-long waits, there was no waiting at this Denny’s.  Super.

But I noticed something funny when we were being escorted through the main dining room.  Everyone there, and I mean everyone, was clearly 70 plus years old.  Suddenly, my Spouse and our eleven year old were the only two patrons in the place without gray hair.

This was getting scary, and I began to feel uncomfortable.  For crying out loud, did I belong with this crowd?  Would I be going to bed at 8:30 p.m. tonight?   What was going on here?

And then the hostess seated us at our table, which was on the other side of the establishment.  And the funny thing was, as I looked around us there, it was an entirely different crowd.  It was a bunch of young families, with several babies present. 

This Denny’s separated the Young from the Old, and we were placed with the Young!  Forget the obvious age discrimination issues here.  Yay, Denny’s, and thank you!

And after our hearty breakfast/dinner, we also found out that kids eat free on Saturday nights.  Total bill was about $20.  Take that, Gastro Pub! 

At the end of the day, I might be cheap, and I might not be as cool as I once was, but I had a full tummy and I made it back home last night in plenty of time to walk the dog while some of the beautiful people elsewhere were still waiting for their tables. 

Thanks, Denny’s. 

- Dad

I Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

carbs

“Okay. These are fixed. Let me screw something else up.”

Probably a couple of years ago, I picked up an older Honda motorcycle to work on and keep me off the streets most weeknights.  It had been sitting in someone’s back yard for quite some, and the owners just wanted to get rid of it.  Total price for the (running) bike, helmet, and jacket was a lofty $500. 

Sweet. 

The nice folks selling the Honda even loaded it up in their pickup and brought it to my house.  They were either really, really sick of it, or were, in fact, great people.  I actually think it was a bit of both.

Well, the bike has somewhat languished in my yard since its purchase, with the prime culprit being clogged carburetors.  Son and I made a go of cleaning them out one weekend awhile back, but our primary success was managing to reassemble everything properly and getting the bike to start again. 

Of course, the carbs were still plugged after all that.  The bike ran better, but not as it should.

Time to call in The Professional and pay the piper.  My last motorcycle was similarly afflicted with the impacted carbs, and I randomly chose a guy off of Craigslist to provide service.  As it turned out, he was marvelous.  He did a great job, the bike ran superbly after he finished, and he was very affordable. 

Luckily, I still had his business card years later, and when I phoned him this week, I found out he was still busily engaged with being a Mobile Motorcycle Mechanic.  The way he works is interesting.  He charges a flat rate per carb, comes to your house, and usually finishes in four or five hours. 

So while I trudged off on Friday and spent a day at the corporate grind, he disassembled my Honda and put it back together again.  And true to form, the engine now ran flawlessly.  I was very pleased.

So pleased, in fact, that I thought I would spend some time attending to a few of the other niggling details that had been bothering me about the Honda — primarily the tachometer, which didn’t work at all.  As is usually the case with these types of things, I have a tendency to:  a) think they are easier to repair than they really are, and b) take way too many things apart to try to find the root of the problem. 

In this case, both a) and b) were true.  By late afternoon, I had taken apart almost the entire front end of the bike, and not only did the tachometer still not function, but also I somehow managed to knock out of commission both the turn signals and the brake light. 

This was going wonderfully. 

I was dead certain the tach was not working because of a broken wire somewhere.  Rather than finding that wire, I was heavily engaged in breaking every other connection on the bike during the troubleshooting process.  At that point, I prudently decided to quit for the day and think about things, before I did any more damage. 

I will tell you that, not so many years ago, an experience like this would drive me absolutely nuts.  I would obsess over the details, lose sleep worrying about how much my amateurism would cost me, and get extremely upset at myself for being such an idiot.  But with the luxury of age and mental fatigue, I now boast a more sober approach, which includes trying to stop while I’m ahead, having a nice cup of tea in the evening while thinking about things, and delaying further activity until I’ve recovered my wits. 

So, with a decent night’s sleep behind me, I started afresh today.  First stop was a guy I contacted on Craigslist earlier in the week who, incredibly, had a used tach for sale for my bike.  What were the odds?  I figured I would swing by his house, pick up the used part, and use it as a baseline to finish troubleshooting and finally fix things on my own motorcycle. 

The first hitch occurred when I showed up in his driveway and he produced a really nice — speedometer. 

“Dude, you said you had a tachometer.”

“Oh, no, I’m sorry.  I already sold it.  I guess I got confused.  I hate that you came all the way over here for nothing.  Go ahead and take something for free.”

Which I did, though I didn’t know if I’d ever need the part I took. 

I tried to stay positive as I drove back home, but I feared I was looking at several more potentially fruitless hours of electrical continuity testing. 

Well, I figured, what else could go wrong? 

In my heart of hearts, I knew the answer was “plenty”.

When I pulled up to my driveway, I calculated I could spend probably two more hours on this thing max, before I would have to put down my tools and kill somebody — most likely the closest family member.

I proceeded to uncover the bike and reveal its guts strewn here and there.  Forget the tach, would I be able to put everything together again, or was Humpty Dumpty Honda doomed to stay separated?

Then, I began to think about my bike’s symptoms and what I’d done the previous day.  Surely one broken wire couldn’t cause all this drama, could it? 

Do motorcycles have fuses? 

What an idiot I am. 

Next steps on Resurrection Road:  a) locate fuse box, b) determine if any fuses are blown, c) repeat constantly, “I am and idiot, I am an idiot.”

Well, you might have guessed the end of this story.  Yes, a fuse was blown, and replacing it magically “fixed” all the mysterious lighting problems on the bike.  I then reassembled everything and only had one screw and one clip left over.

I fired her up and proceeded to embark on a thirty-mile ride, and I enjoyed a wonderful late California spring day. 

And when I returned home and parked the bike for the night, I chalked the experience up to age and karma.

And, no, the tachometer still doesn’t work.  I’ll save that one for another day. 

- Dad

 

Just Give Me My Shoes, Man!

shoe

“You. Come back tomorrow. I busy today. Go away.”

First, I should warn you.  This post has not been written by a kitten or other member of the family pet kingdom.  Still, a blog authored by a pre-adolescent feline has its attraction, I admit.  However, it needs to be articulated in a language understood by some percentage of humans or else it runs the risk of just not being that funny. 

Sorry, Daughter.  Maybe next time you’ll take my advice and park TheDailyTripBlog.com on hiatus while you struggle with college writing college theses and other miscellaneous scholarly crap. 

Can you say “all-nighter”, or is that phrase no longer de rigueur at you expensive Lesbian Cult School? 

End of Fatherly Rant, and back to the Matter at Hand.

In a fit of Presbyterian-inspired thrift (and incredibly sore feet), last week I decided to have my favorite pair of “business” work shoes repaired for the second time during my ownership.  I don’t remember how much I paid for the things six or seven years ago, but I’m into them for at least one hundred bucks in “maintenance fees” now. 

Heck, I’ve spent so much that I probably should have bought a really expensive pair in the first place, and maybe they would last a bit longer than these.

Probably not. 

But push came to shove for me in the footwear department when my “back-up” pair recently got caught in the wiring under the Miata dash and nearly caused an electrical meltdown.  And after all the trouble I went through to replace the stupid flasher, I didn’t want to lose the entire car to fire because of too-long shoe toe extensions (Yep — not sure what that really means, either). 

So, off I went to our local friendly shoe repair establishment in order to obtain a repair on my primary pair, which had worn completely through the soles. 

Yes, I visited a Cobbler’s Shop.  I feel like Will Ferrell writing that, by the way. 

The first time I went to this place was about three or four years ago, and it was out of necessity because of its location.  I asked a few local merchants (mainly the dry cleaner) if they could recommend it, since it was the only shoe repair place within ten square miles of where we live. 

I didn’t receive any resounding endorsements.  But I didn’t hear anything really terribly bad either. 

I decided to take a chance. 

My first visit to the small shop was somewhat uneventful, except that the proprietor wanted me to pay for the repair up front. 

Okay.  No problem.  I went ahead and paid, and he gave me my claim ticket.

A little over a week later I returned to pick up my “fav” shoes.  The conversation went something like this:

“Hi.  I’m here to claim my shoes.”

“You give me ticket.”

I then handed over my ticket.

“You pay now.” 

“Uh, no, I paid you last week when I dropped them off.”

“Where’s receipt?”

“I don’t have it.  Just the ticket.  Don’t you guys keep records?”

“Where’s receipt?  You need to pay.”

Okay.  Now I’m starting get a little upset.  I’m thinking I paid cash, and I don’t know where I put the crummy proof of payment.

In the meantime, while the voices inside of me were debating my predicament, the dude behind the counter picked up the phone and, evidently, called his partner who manned the store the previous week.  After a brief conversation in a language I didn’t understand, he turned to me and handed me my shoes.

No sorry.  No apology.  Nothing like that. 

Yes, sir, I’ll be sending all kinds of business your way in the future.  I guarantee it. 

It was with some trepidation, then, that I returned again for necessary repairs. 

Much like my recent junkyard journey, where there were no prices posted and each customer subject to the whims of the counter girls, this shoe shop doesn’t advertise, doesn’t list how much any of their services cost, and apparently, is doing quite well, thank you. 

The proprietor took one look at my shoes and said, “Fifty dollar.”

Now, had I been walking around the Grand Bazaar in Izmir, Turkey, I would have spent the next two hours haggling him down to, say, $47.50.  As it was, I did a quick time versus hassle versus quality of life calculation, and I determined I could live with the cost.

“Sounds good,” I replied.

“You pay now.” 

“Uh, I left my wallet out in the car, but I can go get it and give you some money.”

“No.  You pay when you pick up.  One week.  Same time.”

Pretty simple to return in a week.  I could survive five or so more days wearing my clodhoppers, I thought.

Except that when I came back, my shoes were nowhere to be found.

Really.  You’re kidding me, right?

The guy behind the counter (yet another different guy) spent a few minutes looking around the shop, digging through bins, and looking in closets. 

It was not an awe-inspiring performance.

“What color your shoe?”

This was starting to get better.

“Black and brown,” as I started to peer around the shop myself, wondering where in God’s name they put my shoes.

Finally, he located them hanging up in the “active cobbling area.”  They weren’t ready, of course.

 “You come back tomorrow.  Same time.”

Sure.  No problem, I thought.  No sorry.  No apology.  No regrets.

So, as Fate, or Luck, or Zen would have it, they were, in fact, ready the next day.  I would be rockin’ and rollin’ in my newly repaired footwear!

“You pay now.”

“Sure.  No problem,” as I handed him my credit card.  Yes.  They accept credit cards. 

And I’ll see you again in another four years, Allah, or Buddha, or God, or Gepetto willing.

Now, I fully recognize that Gepetto was really a Woodcarver and not a Cobbler, but this whole episode was like a Fractured Fairy Tale anyway, so I figured I could get away with it. 

- Dad

 

 

 

 

Guest Post by My Kittens

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They Didn’t Teach Me This in Driver’s Ed.

I was out in Philly, driving around, pretending I knew where I was going. The usual. However, this time, things went terribly wrong and I almost died. Not to be dramatic or anything.

Here I am, in my truck, trying to figure out how to get to a grocery store parking lot that I could see but failed to actually find an entrance. It was one of those optical illusion parking lots. Or a mirage. Or a mirage of an optical illusion. Regardless of what it was, I could not get to it.

My roommate suggested I follow the cop driving in front of us, surely the cops knew their way around! Indeed they did. I followed them down to an underground police station parking lot. Internally panicking, I executed a three-point turn and  screeched drove quietly away.

Upon exiting the parking garage, I took a right as per my roommate’s suggestion. I thought to myself as I drove along the road: My, this road is awful narrow… they should do something about that. 

Of course, it was a one-way street and I was driving the wrong way down it. Luckily, there were no other cars except for a car that was about to turn down the street. That is, until they saw me whereupon they honked and made unhappy faces. There was also probably swearing.

In driver’s ed, they teach you defensive driving techniques. I was told to always assume everybody else on the road is an idiot. But what if the idiot is you? How can you defend yourself  against yourself? That, my friends, should be added to the driver’s education curriculum.

- Daughter

 

 

Allergies versus Hurting a Waiter’s Feelings

Sometimes, I ignore the fact that I am an unemployed college student and go out to dinner where people make food for me. This reduces the risk of me setting fire to things as I am wont to do.

My roommate and I, intrepid city explorers that we are, picked a trendy restaurant neither of us had tried. We were seated at a table overlooking the kitchen so we could watch everyone else’s food be made while waiting for ours, tantamount to torture when you’re hungry.

Eventually, we got our food and ate our way through three courses very successfully. So successfully, in fact, that at the end, we didn’t have room for dessert. And because of inconvenient food allergies, I couldn’t eat anything on the dessert menu anyway.

And this is where comedy ensues. The waiter handed us the bill for the meal in addition to a crème brûlée on the house. My roommate and I  looked at each other as he handed us the dessert;  we both happen to be allergic to dairy.

Our shared dairy allergy doesn’t veer into the “life-threatening” category so we occasionally have a bit of ye old cow juice and cow-juice derived products. But only after judging whether or not the food is worth the inevitable stomach ache and digestive issues that follow. However, this was not “a bit” of dairy, it was an entire crème brûlée.

It was culinary blackmail essentially. (Except for the fact that the waiter had no idea, but whatever.) If we didn’t eat it, we’d look like ungrateful jerks. If we did, we’d be consuming something knowing our bodies would ultimately reject it.

We decided to plunge in and eat it because we didn’t want to hurt the waiter’s feelings. He’d been too nice and accommodating to snub him in any way.

The drive back from the restaurant was what could only be expected: misery. My roommate and I  exchanged pep talks encouraging each other not to waste our money by throwing up the food we had just paid for. Positive thinking worked! We managed to keep and digest every last cent. We paid for that meal in more ways than one, however.

- Daughter

 

I Almost Burned Down a Hotel

Being the unprepared person I am, I brought my own food along on my three-day trip out to central Pennsylvania because of my various food allergies. (Food allergies are so hot right now – I’m right on trend. #fashionforward)

I was so happy to have my bagel with me at breakfast one morning that my joy washed away any sort of rational thinking, exacerbating my already-lackluster awareness that comes with being awake before noon.

In case you forgot, I am not a morning person. I stumble around blindly in the light of day until finally I realize that this is no nightmare, I am truly awake in the real world. Because of this, my decision-making skills in the a.m. are not exactly on par with, say, my afternoon and evening decision-making skills.

The fire in question was caused by a conveyor-belt toaster which had a very small opening between the conveyor belt platform and the heating implement. I’ve already learned once that I should not be trusted to cook things. I haven’t learned anything, apparently because what follows is the height of culinary idiocy. I can almost hear Gordon Ramsey banishing me from the kitchen on one of his reality t.v. shows.

I thought that my bagel –  a hulking Godzilla among tiny, weak breakfast foods – would fit into the toaster perfectly. In a fit of naive optimism I thought things would work out for me. Surely this bagel will fit! I will just cut it up into multiple pieces and push the bagel down so as to fit it according to the confines of the space!!!

My dreams of toasty, bagel-y perfection would be destroyed, however. Or rather, set aflame and turned to ash and dust.

By smashing the bagel into the conveyor belt, I did indeed make the bagel smaller. Unfortunately, I was also ensuring that huge pieces of sticky bagel bread clung to the wiring of the conveyor. I had also cut the bagel up in an effort to ameliorate the toasting process, quite unaware that those very pieces would congeal into a mass of horror at the back of the toaster. This mass completely jammed the conveyor belt and stopped it from moving. At this point, the crumbs on the wiring caught fire.

I nervously attempted put the fire out while simultaneously attempting to remove the congealed bagel from the back of the toaster. Another guest, slightly bemused at my horror and unease at this growing inferno, blew out the flames. SUCCESS!

But no, there would be no success on this day.

The fires came back with a vengeance. At this point, I call over my aunt who smartly turns off the heat. But, the flames continued. Eventually, I flagged down a woman who worked at the hotel who put it out without much fuss. She tells me it happens all the time and that she “doesn’t want me to feel bad”.

I looked around, the smell of acrid smoke completely enveloping the downstairs main lobby, and stared back at her and said with a straight face, “Oh, I don’t feel bad.”

And I didn’t feel ‘bad’. That is not the correct word for the feelings I felt. “Shame”, “embarrassment”, and “horror” are more apt.

I misjudged a toaster, what else am I misjudging? Whose crumbs have I crushed onto toaster wiring? What friends have I set aflame in a rush of ill-judgment? We will never know.

- Daughter

I Guess I Should Write About St. Patrick’s Day

irishcoffee

If beer is bad for you, Irish Coffee is probably worse.

After yesterday’s drama at the junkyard, it was a welcome break to spend some time with old friends last night celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  The honest truth is we don’t really commemorate the holiday, unless we’re invited somewhere.  The alternative is to stay at home and hope we’ve checked out a dvd from the library that is not Brokeback Mountain. 

Yep, it can get really crazy around here on Saturday nights. 

To illustrate how sad it’s gotten, I can’t even imagine trying to stay up to watch Saturday Night Live “live” anymore.  And to think, I can still remember rushing home from wherever I was in the late 70′s so I could be sure to catch Chevy Chase and John Belushi and friends.  It was that groundbreaking and motivating. 

Now, the only thing I get that even that remotely excited about (even that description is relative) is watching the Men’s National Team (soccer for those of you not in the know) play during the World Cup.  But even then, there’s a limit to either how early or how late I will stay up to watch those Underachievers perform, or not.

Back to the matter at hand, at least some percentage of my family’s lineage can be traced back to Northern Ireland.  In fact, we had a stimulating discussion last night about what actually constitutes First Generation versus Second or Third Generation Americans.  According the dinner party experts, I’m Third Generation, which makes Daughter Fourth Generation.  On the very, very rare occasion I could get one of my own parents talking about the family tree, it was revealed that one of our great aunts watched the Titanic being built as she walked to work in Belfast.  No doubt over time, that story will eventually be transformed into we had family members actually help build the Titanic.  Maybe a couple of generations from now, someone in our family will have sailed on the Titanic.  I expect it to get better and better as the years roll on. 

titanic

“One of my great great great Grandparents was a passenger on the Titanic. And he starred in a movie!”

After all, who is going to check the facts anyway?  It’s more fun making this stuff up. 

Meanwhile, returning to the dinner party, I immediately broke my “no alcohol vow” by ingesting not one, but two Stella Artois beers.  For some reason still not entirely clear to me, Stella is okay to drink in that particular house (our host’s) because it is wheat-free.  Since my palate is basically sophisticated enough to distinguish water from alcohol, I was fine with the choice. 

Which was then followed by a wonderful Irish dinner, featuring Irish Coffee with dessert.  It was all very excellent because we didn’t have to cook, the food was great, we met some new folks, and our hosts were marvelous. 

Until. . .we started talking about house decorations — an odd subject to be sure, but which happens when there is plenty of Irish Coffee being served. 

By way of background, we’ve known our hosts since we moved to California thirteen years ago.  We spent a lot of time together watching our daughters grow up on the soccer field together, and they are truly nice folks.   

My Spouse made a comment about what she thought were some Japanese-themed items adorning their home, which would be linked to our host’s wife and her ancestors, to which she replied,

“Japanese?  I’m Chinese.  My family is from South China.  You thought I was Japanese?”

How long have we known each other? 

What followed was an ethnic-centered discussion about Chinese home remedies.  And, of course, I took the opportunity to compare Chinese versus Japanese traditions whenever possible, even though I know nothing about either. 

I can do my part in these things when I’m motivated.

That after-dinner talk soon turned to politics, and I thought we were headed for disaster but, fortunately, the Irish Coffee took to the edge off of everyone and no one cared too much, at that point. 

In other words, it was a fun evening.  And much like the late 70′s, we rushed home later so. . . we could get to bed before 10:00 p.m. so that we wouldn’t fall asleep on the way home in the minivan

I’m already looking forward to next year.  Who knows what will happen?  Maybe I’ll have more information about my Irish heritage by then.

Probably not.

- Dad

The Eighth Festivus Miracle!

junk

Even here, Jesus is watching you.

 This story all begins with my inability to make (legal) left turns and being cheap.  You see, I drive a twenty-one year old Mazda Miata with almost 182,000 miles on the clock.  Though in human years my car would be a young adult, the more appropriate analogy is dog years, I think.  She’s a gettin’ old.

But what value, I remind myself. 

While other friends and co-workers are dumping tens of thousands of dollars into new and newer modes of transport, I toodle around in my $1500 bargain basement claptrap jalopy — which has been perfectly reliable and gets great gas mileage, to boot. 

That’s not to say things don’t go wrong with her.  They do, and that seems to be happening with increasing regularity because she is, in fact, getting to be quite elderly, in car years. 

Her latest malady has been an unwillingness to signal left turns.  The blinkers work fine on the right side, but they at first became intermittent and then finally gave up the ghost on the left.  I feverishly sought out the wisdom of the on-line Miata community, and the general consensus was that a soldered joint on the flasher circuit board had broken.  It’s a relatively simple matter to heat up the solder and reconnect the circuit.

Since I don’t have a soldering iron, and I couldn’t tell a good connection from a bad one, I quickly migrated to Plan B, which was to run to the trusty local parts store and pick up a new, generic replacement.

After all, turn signal flashers cost about five bucks.

Except for this particular model.  It’s not carried by any place other than the Mazda dealer.  And the price?  About ninety bucks. 

Time to shift to Plan C or D.

Plan C consisted of continuing my recently developed driving strategy of either minimizing or avoiding left turns altogether.  I have found that on a routine basis about 90 percent of my turns are of the right-hand variety.  The other ten percent not so. 

Without that left turn signal, I was slowly becoming one of those drivers I don’t particularly like — changing lanes without signaling, merging onto the interstate without signal, taking all left turns without signaling. 

I was really becoming a moron. 

Time to enact Plan D, which necessitated a visit to the junkyard.  As my cunning online research revealed, I discovered this particular flasher could be found on several other Mazda models, and not just the Miata.  Of course, I failed to write any of them down before departing, but I figured I could wing it once I got to the yard.

And for good measure, I pulled out my old flasher when I arrived and wrote the model number down on my hand for reference. 

Now in my way of thinking, junkyards are one of the happiest places in the world for me to visit.  I can spend hours walking the rows, experiencing the tangible detritus of the lives of hundreds of vehicles just waiting for me to explore.  It’s almost like an archaeological expedition, with the difference being I can buy the artifacts and take them home with me, if I remember to bring the correct tools for the excavation.

A visit to the junkyard even has its own moral quandaries.  For instance, I was rummaging through a car once and a very nice St. Christopher medal was still clipped to one of the sun visors. 

Hmmmm, let’s think about that for a moment.  Generally speaking, I would classify St. Christopher as a protection talisman, but what happened here?  It was in a smashed up car, with deployed airbags.  Who was the victim?  Who was saved?  Who was at fault?

Would I be tempting fate or inviting disaster if I took this St. Christopher with me? 

Not that I believe in such things, but still. 

However today, Fortune smiled upon me.  Though it required a determined effort, I was able to find and remove not just one, but three of the elusive flashers from different wrecks.  And to sweeten the pot, I was also able to locate several vintage parts for my Alfa, as well.  Actually, these parts are being “repurposed” from other vehicles, but they will do the job nicely.

And I found two pennies in the back seat of another car.  Sweet!

So, feeling a sense of accomplishment and even just a little smug (Danger, Will Robinson!), I packed everything up and headed to the checkout counter. 

At which point I discovered my blackberry (crackberry) missing. 

OMG. 

I wasn’t freaked out or anything, since its company property, but I hadn’t synchronized the stupid thing in months, and there are a bunch of photos on it I didn’t want to lose. 

And just so you get the complete picture regarding the entire Junkyard Experience, I was one of three people there who:  a)  looked like they had eaten recently, and b)  didn’t have a tatoo and had shaved this week.  In other words, no one was outside the junkyard gates trying to sell Hawaii timeshares. 

You get the crowd picture, right? 

Well, I figured the stupid crackberry was gone, but that didn’t stop me from retracing my steps, like, three times, trying to remember which cars I’d rifled through, looking all over the place for the missing phone.  I was also slyly trying to observe if one of the other visitors was walking around with my phone, but I was trying not to be too obvious about it.  After all, eye contact in that place could attract bodily harm. 

After about an hour of searching, no luck. 

As I turned to walk toward the cashier’s cage, in my mind I started going through the conversation I was going to have on Monday with the IT guy back at corporate.  But mostly, I was disappointed about losing a bunch of photos and phone contacts. 

On the extremely remote chance that someone had found it and turned it in (remember, this is a junkyard), I asked the security guard at the front gate if someone had given them a phone.

“What color is it?” he asked.

“Black.”

He disappeared into the guard shack and came out with my crackberry.  High five a thousand angels and St. Christopher in my garage.

Yes, the Eighth Festivus Miracle of the year had happened!  I’m keeping track. 

After all, this is a junkyard.  People pick and pull parts, and steal a lot of them.  Wow. 

Maybe it was karma.  Maybe not. 

Just before Christmas last year, I was walking through the terminal at the local airport on my way to the parking lot.  It was early evening and the building was fairly deserted, and as I neared the exit I came upon a new iPhone just lying on the marble floor in front of me.  I guess it was about a five or six hundred-dollar piece of equipment, and I picked it up and would try to figure out how to call the owner once I got to my car.  No telling who or where that person might be at the airport.

Just then, a guy came running through the glass sliding doors with a panicked look on his face, clearly in distress.

He came up to me and asked if I’d seen a phone anywhere.

“It’s right here, dude,” I replied, as I handed it to him. 

“You just made my holiday.  Thank you so much,” and he ran off into the night. 

What goes around, comes around.  At least this time. 

- Dad

I Loathe Myself!

catherine

“Yes, it’s love! Well, not really.”

The instrument has not been invented that can measure how much shame I feel. 

I am truly not worthy.  I am a moron.  I am a complete idiot.  I feel awful.   

And I’m not being hard enough on myself, either.  That’s how bad this is. 

You see, what I have done is unforgivable, certainly within the pantheon of television program royalty. 

What was my onerous transgression? 

I watched the final episode of The Bachelor with my wife by my side on Monday night.   

Oh, how far the mighty have fallen!

I have lost the moral high ground which Downtown Freaking Abbey has always afforded me.  Gone are the regular Sunday night meetings in my living room with The Finer Things Club, featuring watercress sandwiches and demitasse tea cups. 

Lady Mary’s alluring rebuff to her now-deceased and beloved Matthew, “Careful.  You’ll make me untidy,” has been replaced by Catherine’s response to Sean, “I don’t see why there would be any waiting period. I want to be his wife.”

Jeepers. 

And in the spirit of full disclosure here, I became sleepy during the finale and actually turned in for the night before Sean made his selection.  There might have been a small measure of redemption for me had I just left it at that.  But since my Spouse DVRs any television program with either “bachelor” or “real housewives” in the title, I knew the balance of the unseen episode was lurking somewhere on that server.

Yep.  The next day I watched the last 30 minutes I missed. 

“Absolutely pathetic,” you say? 

I agree.

To make matters worse, I found a certain element of “creepy” permeated much of the program.  To my observation, Sean’s father seemed more than a little suspect in terms of his interaction with the two female finalists.  He was, in fact, a bit too welcoming and weird with them. 

He may have said, “You would be a wonderful addition to our family, if Sean chooses  you.”

What I heard was, “If my son stiffs you, I am probably available.  I know I’m already married to Sean’s mother, but don’t worry about that.”

I don’t know.  Maybe these folks would fit into Downtown Freaking Abbey after all, but some of the main characters would have to die, so I am not sure if that’s really an option.

Do people actually think any of this is real?  Is the drama sincere?  I mean, come on, Repo Wars seems more authentic.

You might wonder, why did I lower myself so?  Quite frankly, there was no much else on, and I was somewhat fatigued.  Perhaps my brains was a bit frazzled.  Maybe I wanted to bond with my wife and try to understand her fascination with this type of crap thing. 

I suppose there really isn’t a very good explanation.  Sometimes sh stuff happens. 

I guess the main point here is that everyone stumbles once in a while.  And I do believe there is a Road to Redemption.  I do not know, however, how many episodes of Masterpiece Theater cancel out one The Bachelor.  I’m still calculating, but I’m thinking the answer is “many.”

In the meantime, I have begun the Twelve-Step Recovery Process.  I have already completed Step One, which is admitting I have a problem.  I’m currently fighting through some of the other stages, but I have found that kitten photos and blurred pictures of the Amish somewhat diminish the bad taste of The Bachelor

But not entirely. 

I have to come to terms with what I’ve done and am determined to move on from here.  I must re-center with Zen-me and focus on the Way Ahead. 

And figure out the remote control programming features to filter/block future episodes of The Bachelor

After all, that is the safest route, but it will also necessitate incurring the wrath of the adult females in the house. 

That’s a small price to pay for true love, I figure.

- Dad

Being PC in an Amish Town

Today, I drove with my aunt, uncle, and cousin into central PA. There were many desolate landscapes to peer at whilst ruminating on one’s mortality and ultimate demise. Nothing quite like a Northeastern winter to bring you incandescent happiness.

We drove through a small farming community populated in part by Amish. It was my lucky day! The Amish are pretty much the original hipsters. Straw hats? Check. Vintage style clothing? Check. Beards? Check.

Just because you’re in a place with Amish people, however, does not mean you can act like you’re in some sort of human petting  zoo.

I was very aware of this and I did my best not to act like their community was some sort of wildlife exhibit. A couple of Amish boys saw me gawking politely staring at them and gave me a peace sign. I’m not sure that was an Amish-approved gesture but it was a Daughter-approved gesture. I felt like we really connected. Then again, maybe that was an Amish way of making fun of me.

I managed to get this horribly blurry photo of a horse and Amish buggy. It’s a terrible picture  because I was trying to be respectful. It was my fear that the mere sight of an Apple product like my iPhone would induce a craving in these people, a craving that could only be sated by a re-introduction into modern society where the Apple God would be venerated above all others. And I don’t want to single-handedly destroy a centuries-old community. I just can’t have that sort of thing on my conscience or record if I am going to accomplish my goal of becoming the next pope.

- Daughter

 

Do Not Cut Your Own Hair

Sometimes I look at crafty, DIY websites, see an interesting project, and think to myself: Hey, I could do that!

Those five words together comprise the most dangerous sentence in the entire English language.

I happened to watch a video tutorial on how to cut your own bangs. Score! Now I never have to get my hair cut in a salon again. Wrong. Now some poor, hapless hairdresser is going to have to salvage this mess on my head.

The first few times I trimmed my bangs, they looked fine. Maybe because most of the hairdresser’s work was still intact at that point. But now, my bangs have grown out and it has become more and more obvious that scissors near my face should not be a thing that happens.

The last bang trimming session was hurried. And it shows. Thank goodness I have thick and dark hair so it is less obvious that my bangs are more of an Abstract Expressionist statement than real, human hair.

I was going to a party and I decided that the best way to look amazing was to randomly chop into my bangs. Oh, they were trimmed, alright. More like hacked to death.

It wouldn’t have been so terrible if I were patient. In fact, I probably could have cut my bangs properly had I slowed down and acted less like Edward Scissorhands. Unfortunately, I like things to happen at the speed of light. Faster, if possible. [Insert Higgs boson joke here.] It is out of this preference for speed that caused the Great Massacre of Hair. May they rest in peace and may we all learn from this dark chapter of human history.

Moral of the story:

Do not trim your hair in a box.
Do not trim your hair with a fox.
Do not trim your hair in your socks.
Do not trim your hair on the docks.
Why? Because you will regret it,
Lots and lots.

- Daughter

City People

It’s spring break! Yay!

Sunshine and sand?

Nope. Try rain and gray and grumpiness.

Penn's Landing

Penn’s Landing

The redeeming part of this break, however, is that my aunt and little cousin have come to entertain me with their wit and various talents. My aunt’s specialty is educating me on the particulars of literature, art, and history and my cousin’s talent is shaming me for my ignorance in all branches of knowledge. Except my aunt and cousin manage to both teach and shame me in a way that is much less condescending than the way my father does it. (Love you, Dad!)

It is nice to have other people around the apartment besides the cats. Speaking of which, my aunt and cousin were horrified by the smell emanating from my room where they stay. I can’t even smell anything in there at this point. I think this is a bad sign. I must be slowly morphing into some human-animal beast, immune to all animal smells.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Anywho, like any good host would, I am pretending that I know my way around this town but really praying to the GPS gods that my navigation voice person does not lead me into a river or through a building. The calming, soothing salve that is the GPS lady’s voice can only go so far in soothing me. Why? City people, that’s why. They are the reason that I cry myself to sleep at night.

City people are a certain breed: tough, intimidating, and individualistic. It’s every man for himself on the streets.

Crosswalk? Oh, you mean, the target range for cars to hit as many pedestrians as you can.

Puddles? Oh, well let’s just speed through this puddle as fast as possible to waterfall it onto passers-by.

Lost people who ask you a question? Let’s stare blankly at them.

Person who needs to merge into your lane? Hahahaha, good luck.

City of Brotherly Love? More like, City of Brotherly – MOVE OUT OF THE WAY OR SO HELP ME GOD.

#whatup

#whatup

- Daughter

 

 

 

I Bought Fancy Toys for the Kittens but They Only Play with Their Poop

"Are you hiding poop in there?"

“Are you hiding poop in there?”

I don’t really understand why the kittens find poop preferable to the six jingley play balls and the pricey carpeted scratching post with feathers. They have ignored all of my efforts to impress them with material things. Maybe because they have self-sustaining entertainment: their own poop. I wish I had known this before I dropped a pretty penny trying to create a fun environment for them. I would have gotten bigger litter boxes or just filled my entire room with litter – oh wait, that’s already happened – had I known that they would enjoy what happens in the litter box so very much.

Every time I go into the room, the kittens are doing their darnedest to turn my room into a raw sewage dumping ground. Their toys sit sadly in dark corners, untouched save for some half-hearted pawing all the while the kittens thinking to themselves: I wish this was poop. 

This is what happens: they paw around balls of poo in the litter box until they successfully get a piece of it out. Then, they proceed to play table hockey amongst themselves using the poop as the puck.  I’m lucky if the poop is covered in cat litter. God forbid if it’s not and they step in it… they sprint away from me and track their feces to places unreachable by humans thus forever leaving their excrement as eternal monuments. The only positive aspect of this poop-flinging is that it forces me to constantly vacuum and clean. My room alternates between being a toxic waste site and being spotless.

I have taken to sleeping on the couch because I found it hard to sleep with kittens running across my face at 3am. Aw, cute little kittens with their cute little paws running across you! No, you are mistaken. I know where those paws have been: in and around their own poop. Mostly IN.

As for the mama cat, Ginger Rogers, I had the misfortune of catching her out of her favorite hidey-hole under my bed. She looked at me with murder in her eyes and hissed her meanest hiss. She’s missing a few teeth so the effect is sort of a lisp-y hiss and is slightly less intimidating than a regular hiss. I think she might be hating me less because instead of hissing for thirty seconds while spitting, she only hissed for fifteen seconds while slowly retreating under the bed. I’ll take it!!!

- Daughter

I’m Comfortable. Are You?

sedona

“You can’t tell what it looks like from the inside, and the windows are tinted. No one will recognize us anyway.”

I seem to spend more than my fair share around this house screwing around with cars.  Much like the Annual Pruning of the Rose Bushes (which I didn’t do this year yet — probably too late now), I consider wrenching on cars to be as therapeutic as working in the garden.  I was also going to add that it’s cheaper than seeing a shrink, but given the cost of some of the repairs we’ve underwritten in the last few years, that point is debatable.

I might insert an additional observation now, dating back to my youth.  When I was a kid, I think that few things were less appealing to me than being made to work in the yard.  I absolutely, positively could not stand it.  There was no worse waste of time than mowing the grass, pruning the bushes, and — especially — pulling weeds.  After all, pulling weeds was so pointless, because they always reappeared. 

It’s funny how things change as you grow older. 

These days if you presented me with a list of activities with which to spend my time, doing yard work absolutely, positively climbs close to the top.  I enjoy it that much now.  Being outside and seeing things grow (or killing them, as the case may be — weeds) makes me feel good.  While gardening, I don’t worry about what troubles me, and I can simply focus on the next task at hand.  I also have a tendency to exhaust myself, so a side benefit usually includes the increasingly rare occurence (for me) of sleeping through the  night. 

What could be better? 

Working on cars. 

Both gardening and spending time under the hood are very similar pursuits because I can usually see the fruits of my labor when I’m done.  Honestly, that’s not always a positive thing because sometimes I make things worse and not better, but there is a certain linear flow to whatever I do that makes a weird kind of sense to me, whether I’m ultimately successful or not. 

So I have devoted a fair number of hours lately to bringing Daughter’s mode of transport back up to snuff, and it’s nearly there.  I still have to finish up a few details only I will notice before I consider it done.  But an opportunity came up yesterday to make a two-hour drive to the north to retrieve some vital spare parts for my “other” project — my Alfa Romeo.  And best of all the price was right for the spares — they were free. 

Since Daughter still maintains short-term possession of my truck for the balance of the semester at her Lesbian Cult School, I had to borrow the Wife’s minivan (pictured above) to make the parts run. 

Point of Fact:  We have a number of friends, acquaintances, and family members who, apparently, wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan. 

I guess to them driving a minivan is the modern equivalent of wearing a huge Scarlet A around your neck.  I’ve never understood that point of view.  We’ve owned three minivans, and though they all do end up as mobile stale food and trash conveyances, they are also wonderfully efficient haulers of families and their animals. 

I suppose the other side of the equation is that driving a minivan essentially labels you as someone who has given up — no more sports cars, or fine wines, or running marathons — something like that.  Instead of socializing with your hip friends at the latest “in” nightspot on Saturday nights, you check out a DVD from the library and try, really try, to watch the entire movie before you become too tired and have to go to bed, only to wake up again every two hours as the night wears on. 

You know; that kind of thing. 

The fact of the matter is, on my drive to the City of Angels and back yesterday, I was probably the fastest vehicle on the road.  I had the electric seat warmer going , the sunroof open, music playing, and the cruise control on 80 mph. 

All in my minivan.  No worries, mon.

You see, even though the minivan is uncool, it’s also almost completely transparent to Police Authorities.  The highway patrol is focused on those Porsches and BMWs in the left lane, while I’m cruising along faster than all of them somewhere else. 

It’s beautiful. 

And to be completely honest, my Wife’s minivan will literally run circles around the “sports car” that I’m fixing up.  It’s better built, more comfortable, smells better (at least right now it does), and has about twice the horsepower of the Alfa (and three times the horsepower of my old Beater Miata). 

The minivan is the ultimate Q-Ship, if you can wrap your head around the fact that everyone you know is sneering at you for driving it. 

Well, I picked up the parts before lunch, stuffed them in the van, and motored back to the south, making even better time than on the trip up.  I did it in quiet, safe, and secure comfort.

I do have to confess, however, that I did stop and purchase a foo-foo coffee for the trip.  I had some difficulty because it was very hard maneuvering the van in the parking lot to find a space, because the whole place is sized for little BMWs and Porsches — the kinds of cars Soccer Moms and Dads drive when they are not in their minivans.  Actually, they probably drive SUVs and not minivans, but that’s a topic for another blog.

As for me, I have lots of practice driving vehicles that potentially challenge my self-esteem.  Whether it’s bopping around in Daughter’s VW Cabrio, or taking Dandy Dog to the local dog park in the Wife’s minivan, I’ve reached a point where I pretty much don’t give a sh care about those kinds of things anymore. 

After all, Chevy Chase may not have ended up with Christie Brinkley in Vacation, but he didn’t have to.  He already had Beverly D’Angelo. 

Same here. 

- Dad

They’re Back! Part 2

ghost2

“The upstairs ain’t big enough for three people. Well, make that two ‘living’ people and me.”

So, we have a two-story house.  If you dial the Way-Back Machine and read yesterday’s post, you would discover we have been in this place for over a decade now.  There are two bedrooms upstairs; one is small and the other is absolutely huge.  And since both kids were much younger when we moved in, they eventually migrated to the second story sanctuary where they were removed from regular and substantial parental oversight and involvement.

Funny how that works.

Full disclosure here:  I frequently travelled as a part of my job for a good part of the first six years here, so the exact sequence of some of the events I describe below may be slightly out of synch, but their substance is real if the exact order is not.

At some point living here, we began to hear sounds.  Now the “we” I’m referring to is my wife and I. 

Very clearly and with increasing frequency, it was apparent that someone was walking around upstairs — when neither one of the kids was home.  I’m not referring to an odd pop or bump now and again, I am talking about walking around, jumping, banging, etc. 

But much like JoBeth Williams’character in Poltergeist, the phenomena seemed benign and in no way threatening to us.  But, then again, my wife and I were sleeping downstairs and were somewhat removed from the front lines above. 

That is, until one afternoon while I was standing in the kitchen, I glanced down the hallway and saw a little girl run from our bedroom to our (then) baby’s nursery.  She just flitted across and was gone.

I sh kid you not. 

I’ve seen her several times since, and she seems attracted to our youngest daughter’s presence and toys.  Which makes sense if you believe any of this stuff.  She is apparently drawn to the type of life force most closely matching her own. 

At this point, I would like to digress for a moment.  Again, I want to emphasize that, from an adult’s perspective, I have never felt any sort of malevolence from our visitors.  Actually, now just thinking about it, maybe our family is visiting them and not vice versa.  But in my rational way of reasoning, I have always felt that if any of the “departed” ever made their presence known to me, why would they try to scare me?  Unless, of course, they knew me on this earth at some point and were trying to get even!

Sorry, guys!  Really.  Please continue not to hassle me.  Visits are fine; but please have a sense of humor. 

Hmmm?  I wonder if they read blogs. 

Now let me bring Daughter into the picture.  She used to camp out in the big, aforementioned bedroom above us, but she eventually made her way back downstairs to one of the rooms near Mom and Dad.  I always thought it was because she had a hard time keeping her space clean (she did have a problem with that, actually), but I subsequently discovered from my wife that she heard things, too, and wanted to descend to be nearer to us on the first floor.

I suppose all of this never bothered Son.  He stayed up there the whole time before leaving for college and painted his walls dark blue with black curtains for accent.

So, during one of my many absences from home, my wife brought someone in to “cleanse” the house.  I don’t think that what happened in Poltergeist describes what she did, which I’m glad of, really.  Like Craig T. Nelson’s character, I, too, would become confused with the whole “stay away from the light” or “go toward the light” thing. 

Which one is it again?

Well, this woman verified there was, in fact, a presence here with us; she discovered a man and a little girl who were attached to the land around here but not the house itself. 

And when they passed, they passed quickly.  So quickly, in fact, they think they are still alive. 

The Cleanser simply asked them to leave.  None of that “light” stuff.

And they did leave.  For awhile, anyway.

My Wife supplemented the cleansing efforts with her own placement of talismans, relics, and other herbs and spices in the rooms upstairs.  And in our rooms downstairs, too, for good measure.

She has also tried to cleanse me, by the way.  Not sure if it’s working.

Okay.  If you are still hanging in there with me on this, the noises began happening again a few months ago.  And several weeks past, I saw the Little Girl again in the hallway.  Then, a few days ago, we experienced a major banging/walking around episode upstairs.   

Apparently, they are back. 

And I don’t anticipate a visit from Zak Bagans and his crew from Ghost Adventures any time soon, nor do I want them here.  Well, maybe I’d like to meet Aaron. 

I hope our Visitors find some peace or whatever it is they seek. 

It’s funny.  On many days, I’m probably more like them than the realize. 

- Dad

They’re Back! Part 1

ghost

“I will not hurt you, but I will probably frighten the bejesus out of you — but I don’t mean to. Really.”

For various age and personal energy-related reasons, most of the social references I make to cinema these days stretch back to the early 80′s.  Maybe that’s because I have only ventured to the movie theater about twice a year for the past decade.

Whatever.

Having said that, one of my favorite scenes from Poltergeist is when JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson are in bed together relatively early in the picture.  Craig’s character (Steve) is reading, get this, Reagan: The Man and The Myth, and JoBeth’s character (Diane) is itching to tell her husband about the beginnings of the strange goings-on in the house. 

She says something like, “Okay, honey, try to remember way back in your past — back when you had an open mind.”  That was her prelude to letting him in on the visitations and activities she was experiencing.  Believe me, I can relate to that line of reasoning because I get the same thing from my own spouse!

Of course, things in the motion picture became progressively darker and much more ominous as the story progressed.  Ultimately, in a fit of collective rage, the poltergeists took over the house and lives of the family.  Appropriately, all the action took place in a stereotypical Southern California suburban development, much like the one my family lives in today.

Actually, our neighborhood is a bit older and more run-down than the one in the movie, but you get the point. 

Overall, Poltergeist for me proved to be an entertaining, if troubling, experience, but I suppose it was good preparation for what we are experiencing now in our own non-Hollywood-created house.

We have ghosts.  Or spirits.  Or the presence of things (noises, images) we cannot logically explain living with us. 

We moved in here more than twelve years ago now and the paranormal activity has been sporadic yet consistent. 

Okay, our house is over forty years old now, so I think it’s reasonable to expect the odd creak or wheeze from the place once in awhile.  No doubt it’s continually settling on its foundation, and the walls expand and contract with the weather.  In fact, I’m probably more responsible than anyone (or anything) around here for those kinds of noises, as many of them seem to emanate from my knees or my digestive system. 

But we’ve been hearing and seeing more than the fake intestinal poltergeists originating from my corporeal internal passages recently.

Early this week, we heard definite footsteps upstairs.  It was very clear that folks were walking around up there.  The problem with that is, all of us “folks” were downstairs looking at each other at the same time.

“Did you hear that?” my lovely wife asked. 

“Yes.  I might be deaf, but I’m not an idiot and I did hear that,” I replied.  (Most of my responses around here are prefaced with the phrase, “I’m not an idiot,” for some reason.  Let me ponder that a bit more.)

“Where’s the dog?”

“Right here.”

“Child?”

“At school.”

“Cats?”

“Those weren’t cats; unless they were 200 pound cats.”

That kind of sums up the activity for this week. 

Interested?  In Part 2, perhaps tomorrow, I’ll provide a bit more history, who (or what) we think shares the home with us, how it affected Daughter, and what we’ve done about it. 

In the meantime, I’m going to stop writing now so I can watch tonight’s episode of  Ghost Adventures

Really. 

- Dad

Sociopath?

Watch me be the new Norman Bates on HuffPost Live!

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/a-little-white-lie/51341b182b8c2a536b000254

I had to defend lying today via HuffPost Live and I think I maybe succeeded? Or at least, that’s what I’ll tell myself so I can sleep tonight.

Not that I will sleep tonight anyway because kittens will probably run across my face at some point. They see my face as one of those little Zen gardens and their claws as the little rakes. So when they scratch me, really, they are just trying to restore order in the universe. What wise kittens.

In other news, spring break is next week! I’d like to pretend that I’m going on some fabulous trip but really, I’m just going to be in the fetal position, crying about my thesis, and not going anywhere – literally and figuratively. I feel like I’ve come down with a raging case of snow blindness from staring at the white pages of all these books and unfortunately, there are 5490523094583209 books to go through still. I might just write the words “snow blindness” on a piece of paper and turn it in in lieu of my thesis because I’m post-modern like that.

It also doesn’t help matters that the images I’m analyzing feature Lindsay Lohan. Can you think of a less motivational figure to want to analyze in photographs? I sure can’t. I don’t regret this thesis topic at all.

- Daughter

 

 

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