Moron Mechanic

scooter

Rather trying to “walk off” Thanksgiving turkey and wine, I chose to spend what little is left of the holiday drinking coffee, watching sports, and working on the various motorized vehicles that litter the general environs of my home.

And I really attempted to tackle the sorts of mechanical jobs at the end of which I could hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner across the garage threshold.  You know the kinds of things I’m focused on here:  tightening a few bolts, inflating tires, and wiping off the greasy detritus of many, many months of mechanical non-intervention. 

True story:  I was recently engaged in the semi-annual washing of my much beloved but very “beaterish” Miata (“You know that’s a girl’s car, Dad.”), when I heard a hissing sound from one of the wheels.  Fearing the worst — that my car was either haunted (which would have required an immediate call to Zak Bagans) or was harboring a snake — I soon discovered that I had damaged one of the valve stems when I cleaned the wheel. 

(Note to self:  Don’t clean the wheels.  They just get dirty again anyway.)

Upon closer inspection, I discovered all four valve stems were damaged and ready to crack, and for once in my long-suffering lifetime of automotive woes, I actually had a workable backup plan already in place, as I had picked up a used set of wheels and tires several months ago.  They had been rotting on the side of the house since purchase, of course, but they held air. 

Ready, set, swap-o-matic, and I was back in business. 

It only took me two months to get around to fixing the valve stems on the original wheels, but I had a great time doing it this week.  I got to use an industrial, real-world tire changer.  And the guy at the hobby shop only had to explain to me five times how to use it. 

I’ve got new respect for the knuckle-draggers at Discount Tire now, believe you me.

So the tire mounting deal turned out not to be enough of a challenge, and I ramped it up a notch:  Clean the carburetor on a friend’s scooter. 

Now I had already cleaned and serviced this scooter for the same guy ab0ut a year ago, and though I returned a perfectly functioning, driveable piece of crap Chinese motorbike to him, he promptly let it sit for a year and finally returned it to me, head hung in shame, asking me to repeat the favor. 

I agreed to work on the bike on one condition.  I told him he had to sell it if I fixed it. 

That might sound harsh but:  1)  I was sick of this particular piece of machinery, and 2)  I feared for his safety riding it.  It truly is a junker and is truly better off being donated to some high school automotive shop class to demonstrate how not to build quality machinery. 

Long story short.  I’d done this particular job before and could do it again, probably in under an hour — especially if I didn’t replace all the bolts and screws (or simply dropped some of them, never to be seen again).

So I dutifully pulled everything apart and got most of it back together correctly, and then tried to fire it up. 

And tried again. 

And again.

Oh, it cranked.  It cranked until I killed the battery two or three times.  This is how I know having a battery charger comes in handy — another purchase made because of idiotic decisions I’ve made in the past.

But no matter what I did, I could not get the stupid thing to start. 

Surely I had made some stupidly simple mistake in reassembling the carb, I thought

I probably tore it down and rebuilt it at least three times, since I was absolutely, positively sure it had a carb problem.

Nada. 

Time to retreat to the Internet.  And I quote, “In general, a scooter needs three things to start:  fuel, spark, and the left handbrake engaged.  And remember to ensure the kill switch is not on.”

Snap! 

Kill switch.  This bike has a kill switch?  No way.

I went back outside to determine whether this stupid scooter had a kill switch.

Yes way.

Was it pressed in?

Yes way.

If I disengaged it, would the scooter immediately start?

Yes way.

By the way, even though the engine started on the first crank, because I had screwed around with the carburetor so much, I am fairly confident I damaged some of the internals. 

Why do I think this?  Well, though the bike runs, it runs and drives like crap which, I suppose, is appropriate, given that the entire thing is a piece of crap (or carp, depending on how tired my typing is, and that’s kind of a Chinese analogy, too). 

Now I sit here in a pool of shame and need to go out and buy a carb rebuild kit, to fix something that I should never have broken in the first place.

On this Thanksgiving, then, I have confirmed that I am both a moron and an idiotic mechanic. 

If you haven’t figured out something to give thanks for this year, count your lucky stars I’m not the guy working on your car, or motorcycle, or scooter, or bicycle.

Did I mention I’m a pretty awful carpenter, too? 

Happy Thanksgiving, then.

- Dad

 

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Five Screws

computerparts

I figure the title to this post would probably generate some interest from that portion of the populace that Daughter and I don’t normally reach.

So be it!

Simply stated, I am here to declare that over the weekend I managed to take the above pictured box o’ computer parts (Daughter’s much-abused laptop) and produce an almost complete and correctly reassembled machine.

I had my doubts and figured that my probability of success was somewhere south of 50%.  See previous discussion here.

Fortunately, there’s YouTube.

Fortunately, the videos there all feature a “Pause” button.

Using “The Rule of My Father,”* I calculated that it would take me approximately four hours to put the stupid thing back together, since I spent nearly an hour and a half taking it apart — and that was weeks ago.  And as I examined the IT Detritus piled before me, I swear I couldn’t remember most of the details associated with disassembly.  Age and an amazing lack of hubris will do that for you, dear Muggles.

*The Rule of My Father explained:  Take any task and multiply by three the time duration of the original estimate, i.e., “Son, it will only take you about an hour to clean the garage this morning.”  Translation:  At least three hours will be required to approach any level of completion. 

Though I really, really attempted to be systematic in my efforts during this project, I failed miserably in segregating the multitude of screws that held the entire device together.

Basically I had some big parts that somehow consisted of little parts, and the entire shootin’ match was held together by approximately 37 miniature screws of varying lengths and thread types (don’t ask me how I came to know about that, please).

I will spare you most of the gory details, but my faith and confidence were spurred on by the words of one of my IT-savvy co-workers who said, “Don’t worry about reinstalling all the screws.  They really overbuild these things, and they aren’t all really necessary.”

I think that’s roughly the equivalent of a guy at Pep Boys saying, “Your car only really  needs three tires most of the time to drive okay.  The fourth just balances things out.”

Or some such.

Suffice it to say, there came a point late Saturday afternoon when I definitely began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The Box o’ Parts was starting to take shape, by golly!

And then it happened.  I tightened the final screw on the bottom of the laptop, and I was done!

I only had five really tiny screws left over.  They couldn’t be that vital, could they?

Success!  Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!  I Be Special!

Of course, that feeling lasted approximately five nanoseconds; maybe shorter.

Because when I flipped the laptop over, the keyboard promptly fell off.

“Hewlett-Packard.  We have a problem.”

Addressing this issue required retracing my last seven steps and basically taking apart most of the machine’s base.

You see, I discovered I needed the really long screws to secure the keyboard, and they were already buried somewhere else in the bowels of mechanism.  Fortunately, I found them soon enough, but still couldn’t really place where the other five “extra” leftover screws came into play.

Whatever.

Next step:  Power.

I plugged the beast in, hit the “On” switch, and held my breath.

Wouldn’t you know it?  It booted right up and everything worked.

CPU Thermal Paste?  I laugh at you, even though I don’t know what you really do and why I smeared some of you on a copper plate next to a circuit board.

I got to thinking, “Hey, there’s not much I can’t do, really.  If I can put this thing together, then the world is my oyster.”

Then I received the first report back from Daughter:  “Hey, Dad, the keyboard seems to keep falling out.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I replied.  “It just needs a longer screw.  Just keep it level, and I’ll figure it out in a few days.”

I do not intend to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory, so my story for now is, it works.

And, once again, I’ve prevented dogs and cats sleeping together.  You know:  mass hysteria.

World Order has been maintained.

Using those terms to describe fixing my kid’s computer?

Age and an amazing lack of hubris will do that for you, dear Muggles.

- Dad

As a Matter of Fact, I Do Need a Ferrari — A New One!

tow truck

Every single day I visit a car collector website known as “Bring A Trailer.”  It gets its name from the decrepit state of the vehicles it features, many of which require a trailer to facilitate actual locomotion — if you want to get whatever currently listed project of the day home, you’re typically going to have to drag it back.

Get it?  You have to bring a trailer.

I have discovered that one of the prime characteristics of this particular website is that it is practically ruled by a Nay-Saying Peanut Gallery.  For every sound, reasonable comment regarding a vehicle’s collectability, requirements to put back on the road, etc., there are twenty others who shoot down the same vehicle for any number of flaws, either real or imagined.

It’s entertaining, even for a Muggle Curmudgeon like me, but it can really get annoying sometimes.

And to make matters even more interesting, it is considered something of an honor in the classic car world to snag a listing on “Bring A Trailer” because most of the ads are submitted by readers.  So with the right luck, timing, and viewing audience, that old Peugeot you have listed on Craigslist in Topeka might suddenly gain truly national exposure, and you’re almost guaranteed to make a sale.

So I was reading a listing on BAT either yesterday or the day before, and someone made a comment along the lines of “everyone needs an Old British (or German, or Italian, or Whatever) sports car story to be a part of their life history.” After all, it’s those breakdowns and escapades that provide the color to our existence, as well as foster the development of an extensive Vocabulary of Profanity.

Of course, this type of observation can only be made by old people, because they either have the time or the money to withstand breakdowns or, like me, they simply don’t care anymore and basically expect pretty much everything in their lives to go to Hell and a Handbasket at one time or another.

In other words, having your stinking car break down on the way back from Target when you’re twenty-two years old is completely different than the same occurrence when you’re fifty.  The first is usually a panic-attack disaster; the second an annoyance and eventual hit to the credit card.  After all, there are lots — lots worse things that can happen in this world.

At least that’s how I feel about it these days.

Well, dear Readers (all three of you), in the spirit of complete honesty, my favorite non-Ferrari I described just a few days ago here on this very blog bit me in the ass buttocks (not sure if it was the right or left) last night.

The set-up was thus — Early in the evening (say 8:00 p.m. or so) everyone in the household was either fast asleep or in bed or pretending to be in bed.  Since I was saving my DVRed Masterpiece Theater episode for viewing later in the week, I decided to make a quick run to the store in my classically ugly Fiat wagon.

I took a leisurely back route to the store and, once there, found absolutely nothing I needed, and I almost immediately commenced the return trip home.

So far, so good.

About five minutes later, just after making a left turn onto a busy street, the Orange Bomb Fiat shuddered.

Then it stuttered.

Then it died.

I coasted to the side of the road and tried to figure out what to do.  It was dark, I had no tools, and I really had no way to figure out what was going on under the hood given the circumstances.

I decided to do the next best thing:  See if the stupid thing would start up again.

It did.  Success!

I managed to drive all of about thirty seconds closer to home before it died again.

I coasted to the shoulder once more.

Something funny is going on here,” I figured — I tend to devolve into a plain simple-mindedness in times of crisis.  To others I appear calm, but that’s not really what’s going on.

I tried starting it again, and it fired right up, enabling me to drive approximately seventeen more seconds before it stopped.

This was really getting annoying, but I didn’t freak out as I coasted over to the side of the road again.

Instead, I began to review my options.  Option A was calling My Lovely Spouse (or anyone else at home) for tools and assistance.

Since they were all sleeping and not usually inclined to help me with what they consider a “Hobby Emergency,” I bit the bullet and settled on Option B — calling AAA for a tow.

Hey, I pay for it.  I might as well use it.

In the meantime, I had to exercise Option B1, which was figuring out a way to empty my full bladder whilst stuck on the side of a busy road with a broken down classic.

Option B1 is also known as a “Nature Pee” throughout my extended family, and they would be proud to know it was calmly executed.  I only really risked an arrest for indecent exposure in addition to causing a traffic accident should someone have slammed into my disabled vehicle during the “event.”

Fortunately, none of that happened, and no one was wiser to my actions in darkened grove by the sidewalk.

Feeling refreshed, I received a call from the tow truck driver who indicated he was having trouble finding me.

I began to say, “Look for the flashing yellow lights on the wagon and the Flasher in the woods standing next to it,” but instead figured out he was dispatched to the wrong address, which I quickly clarified for him.

In the seven minute interval before he was due to arrive, I decided to, just for grins, try to start the car again in hopes it would at least idle so the battery wouldn’t drain because I had the lights on.

You guessed it — she started right up.  I revved it up a few times to make sure she would stay running, and then I stood on the sidewalk awaiting the tow.  When the guy rolled in behind me, I explained the car now seemed to working okay, but I wouldn’t really know until I put it in gear and tried to drive again.

“They told me you were out of gas,” he said.

“I told the AAA lady I might be out of gas, but I really didn’t know what was happening,” I said.

“I’ve got two gallons for you here, and it’s free (not really, of course — nothing is), so we might as well put it in the tank.”

Okay,” I figured.  “What the hell?  Gas is four bucks a gallon out here.  I’ll make the best of it.”

“Do you mind following me for a bit?” I asked.  “I don’t live that far away.”

“Uh, sure, I guess.  Your car is running?” he asked with a quizzical look.

“Yep.  Let’s roll.”  I didn’t really say that, but it sounds cool now.

I’d like to say it was an adventure driving home, that it featured fits and stops and feats of imagination and strength.

But it didn’t.

The wagon ran just fine the whole way.

As I waved to the tow truck driver when he merged onto the Interstate and out of my life, I realized I just became the recipient of the first “classic car story” with this particular Fiat.

I feel confident there are probably more to come.

I haven’t really had any time since to try to figure out what went wrong last night, but I’m sure it’s nothing that money, luck, a little imagination, and a lot of mechanical know-how can’t fix.

But that’s an adventure for another day.

Tonight, I’m simply grateful  that I also happen to own a late-model pick up that never breaks down, and an older Miata Beater that always threatens to but never quite does.

And I would like to make the final point that, technically, the Fiat didn’t leave me stranded.

Apparently she only wanted to provide Fair Warning last night.

Duly noted!

- Dad

No Good Deed

computerparts

Sometimes you can’t win for losing.  That’s an expression I learned from my pals in Louisiana.  Except they pronounced “can’t” as “cain’t.”

No matter.

About two weeks ago I spent the better part of an afternoon replacing the spark plugs on my pick-up.  It was, unfortunately, eerily characteristic of many of my mechanical escapades.  I took on a seemingly simple task and managed to turn it into my own personal assault on Mount Kilimanjaro.

I’m in no shape to be climbing mountains, let me tell you.

Even though I managed to get everything under the hood reasonably reassembled, I hadn’t taken the truck out for a real spin to check my work until last Friday.

Once I turned on the ignition, I noticed it was idling a bit high.  I attributed it to the engine being cold and the new super duper plugs I had installed.  As luck or fate or both would have it, the symptom didn’t go away.  The more I drove it that day, the worse it sounded.  Things reached a fairly crappy climax in the afternoon when the dreaded “Check Engine Light” suddenly illuminated.

Well, that really chapped my a**, as my Southern buds would say.

All kinds of resolution scenarios started flowing through my mind.

Had I forgotten to reconnect one of the thousands of vacuum lines properly?  Did I screw up the intake manifold somehow?  Am I sure I even know what an intake manifold is anymore?  Did I install the wrong kind of plugs?

Really, the possibilities were endless.

And I absolutely suck at complicated automotive troubleshooting.

But instead of taking my vehicle in for professional advice, I decided to tackle the diagnosis myself.  I had little to lose, I figured.

Clearly, I had done something wrong, but what?

Since many, many prior personal automotive problem episodes preceded this one, I made the wise investment years ago in purchasing what’s known as a “Code Puller.”  Basically, the Muggle Mechanic plugs this thing into the vehicle’s computer, and out spits various unintelligible letter/number sequences that translate into specific problems currently plaguing the vehicle’s DNA.

After running the device through a couple of cycles, I wrote down the associated codes and headed inside to the internet.

P0502:  High Idle Condition.

Well, no sh kidding.  That was helpful.

Next stop for me, still on the internet, was visiting various websites and owner’s forums to determine if anyone else had ever screwed up experienced this problem, and if they had, what was the fix?

It turns out that in my zeal to not only change the spark plugs, but also to address a couple of other issues I found in the process (namely carbon build-up in the throttle body, which I diligently cleaned), I quite possibly managed to destroy one of the most expensive and sensitive parts of the intake system.

All because I was trying to be thorough and do the right thing.

I guess that teaches me.  From now on, I am returning to my scattershot, half-assed automotive repair methodology.

It’s clearly less risky and less expensive.

However, before I became completely distraught, I stumbled across a very thoroughly explained engine computer re-set procedure that, if executed correctly, might be the answer to my troubles.

In order to successfully complete this step-by-step process, timing (to the second) was critical, and disconnecting other devices under the hood was required for everything to work out properly.  The whole thing was fairly complicated.

More defeated than confident, I threw caution and what was left of my self-esteem to the wind, and gave it a go.

Well, it took me three tries, but eventually I got the process right, and it seemed to work.  After I buttoned everything up, I drove the truck around for a bit and, indeed, I cautiously declared success.

I went inside and beamed to my Lovely Spouse, “I think I fixed it.  But I’m not 100% sure.  I don’t want to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.”

“That’s great,” she replied.  “I didn’t know there was a problem.  Where do you want to eat dinner tonight?”

Ah, normalcy.

Which brings me to today’s crisis:  Daughter’s Computer (pictured above).

In a rousing bout of self-restraint, she recently declared she’s going to hold off replacing her iPhone, but could Dad please replace the cooling fan in her dying laptop?

“No problemo, Daughter!  I just single-handedly (not really — an internet cast of thousands helped) repaired my 2006 pick-up truck, which had a very complicated issue that I resolved.”

I mean, how hard could replacing the fan in her computer be?  A couple of screws here, a panel there, and Voila!

It took me about an hour, and I somehow removed about fifty miniature screws in the process, but I got the stupid thing apart and the fan out.  This time around, for help I referenced a YouTube video, where some dude in a ballcap took apart the same laptop in about five minutes.

When I examined the faulty fan, I discovered it was jammed with five years’ worth of dirt and dust.

Daughter had killed it.

So after a quick trip to Fry’s (“Nope, we don’t stock that stuff.  Go to Amazon.), I placed an online order and her new fan is on its way from China.

It may get here in thirty days.

It may not.

I know one thing.

I will have forgotten absolutely every detail associated with taking the stupid thing apart by then.  I will, indeed, need God’s Help (and some nuns’, too) to put it back together again properly.

I put the odds of success at roughly fifty percent — if one of the cats doesn’t knock the box of parts over in the meantime.

If that happens, all bets are off, and Daughter probably becomes the beneficiary of a new device.

I guess I need to hide the box now.

- Dad

I Did One Smart Thing Today

gloves

I put on disposable gloves before I started working on the truck.

Oh, I tried to be smart.

Oh, I tried to be someone I’m not.

Oh, I tried to keep my tools organized.

But after two hopeless hours in the driveway, it went to hell and a handbasket.

The gameplan was simple and, in fact, showed a bit of foresight on my part:   After the multitude of coast-to-coast trips with Daughter in my trusty Nissan Frontier, I figured some new spark plugs were in order.  This particular engine only requires plugs every 100,000 miles, but after the abuse it’s been through, I decided to put some in with “only” 70,000 miles showing on the clock.

That was my big project for the day.

Speaking of abuse, I hinted to Daughter earlier this week that both the nice and appropriate thing to do after borrowing one’s vehicle is to return it with a full tank of gas and gently washed.  After her latest trip in my truck to the northern parts of our fair state, Daughter saw fit to bring it back filthy and with only a quarter tank of petrol.

When I queried her on the subject, she sullenly responded it had a quarter tank when she picked it up (thus, why would she put any more gas in, after all), and she didn’t comment on the external layer of road filth, courtesy of her, as well.

Oh, wait a minute.  She did wash a vehicle this week.  The only problem was it was hers.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been hounding her for many, many moons to clean up the Cabrio.

“It’s the most expensive thing you own.  If you don’t take care of it, it won’t last.  Keep it clean,” I earnestly advised.

Silence.  Of course.

Eventually she saw fit to hose it down, but she didn’t see fit to put all the towels and cleaning materials away afterward.

Kids.  Don’t you love ‘em?

But back to my disaster at hand.

For those of you who don’t know, changing spark plugs is usually a rather straightforward affair.  There may be one or two that are difficult to get into position to remove but, for the most part, it’s not a big deal.  However, I had done some research on my particular truck and engine, and I had discovered that in order to gain access to two of the plugs, essentially the entire top of the engine needed to be removed.

Well, not really the top of the engine, but all of the intake manifold crap (that’s a technical term), along with the associated hoses, vacuum lines, and electrical connectors.

So I decided to just take the whole thing one step at a time.  I laid my tools out, and I methodically worked my way around that V-6 engine.  Before I knew it, I was two-thirds of the way through.  I just had those two inaccessible plugs left to go.

This was going well!

To make a ridiculously long story short, I spent the next two and a half hours trying to change those damn plugs.  What had begun as a pleasant afternoon’s task, was turning into a really horrific adventure.

I literally started calculating how much sunlight I had left and whether I could complete the job in time.

When all seemed lost, I figured it out.  I finally got the intake manifold off and the plugs replaced.  Ha!

Ha!  Wouldn’t you know it?  When I was putting everything back together, I dropped a socket and extension somewhere in the nether regions of the back of the engine.

And the damn things simply disappeared.

After spending the next hour exploring every nook and cranny looking for the stupid things (Stupid!  Stupid!  Stupid!), I gave up and buttoned everything back together, since it was approaching dinnertime.

What an idiot I am, of course, but when I turned the key to start the truck and check my handiwork, Lordy, it fired right up!

Perhaps not quite a Festivus miracle, but damn close.

So, I took the truck for a quick spin around the block to ensure everything was working properly, and it was, but where the hell had that socket and extension gone to?

I was resigned to the fact that it was jammed forever in the bowels of the engine compartment, never to be seen again.  I just hoped it wouldn’t lodge against something important and short out the truck, or cause a fire, or cause an explosion.

“I don’t know, Fred.  It looks like the fire started somewhere in the back of the engine compartment,” said the future fireman as he hosed down what was left of the Nissan.

In a final act of desperation before closing up shop for the night, I crawled under the truck one last time to see where the dumb socket was hiding.  I guess it really wasn’t that dumb, since I couldn’t find it.  I also guess that makes me dumber than the socket.

As I scrambled around on my back, I verified there was not a socket anywhere my blue latex-covered hands could reach.

I gave up.

I happened to turn my head a bit when I went to scoot out from under, something shiny way behind the engine on the exhaust system caught my eye.

Yep.  It was the socket.

Like the magical Kennedy assassination bullet, it had mysteriously worked its way through several trajectories and landed three feet behind anywhere it should have reasonably been resting.

Success, but conditional.

In the final analysis, it took me about two and a half hours to change the plugs, and about four hours to find the missing socket.

What an idiot I am.

But because the first decision I made today to wear disposable gloves was the best decision, I have clean hands tonight.

Yes, my left forearm is gouged and bleeding, but my hands are clean.

I am happy with that little victory but, after all, I am a very sad, sad man.

- Dad

The Benefits of Higher Education?

diploma

It is with some small sense of amusement that I have followed Daughter’s travels this year through her blog posts (when she remembers and when convenient).  Of course, many of those miles were covered with Yours Truly.

And it’s always good to obtain another perspective on my admittedly skewed sense of reality, I figure.

Though I have to admit the time together has been enjoyable for the most part, I have detected some troubling details along the way which give me pause concerning Daughter’s Real World Coping Tools (DRWCTs).

Case in point:  During our epic Road Trip Return to California from the barren and humorless east coast, Daughter asked me on day (in a fit of utter boredom) to quiz her on random history facts and figures.

Why?  I have no idea.

But I learned to quickly retreat from querying subjects such as “the importance and effects of the Treaty of Versailles,” because the challenge was met with either:  1)  A completely blank stare, or 2)  A completely unrelated counter-question, such as, “Does this have something to do with French Cooking?”, or 3)  The request for a hint, such as, “What letter does the answer start with?”, or 4) The request for a longer hint, such as, “What are the first two words of the answer?”

Soon I regressed to asking for basic items like the year we declared our independence from Great Britain and what century did the Civil War take place.

She was mostly coherent if I kept it at a high level.

However, the whole drill soon became very annoying to me, and made me begin to question the value of the education she was receiving at her exclusive and expensive Lesbian Cult College.

So I chose to stop the intellectual enterprise and focus on determining the location of the next foo-foo coffee shop, via iPhone app, no less.

That was then (two months ago), this is now.

Daughter recently borrowed my truck for yet another road trip, this time with a collection of her friends, all invited to a chum’s wedding somewhere hundreds of miles north of us.

As parents, all we asked for was an occasional text letting us know that the group was safe and sound and had arrived at their destination (San Francisco) in close to one piece.

I believe that over the four-day adventure, we received a total of one transmission.

I calculate that as a 25% success rate.

But all’s well that ends well, right?  Eventually the merry band of sisters returned home in one piece and, apparently, a good time was had by all.

In Sacramento.

Not San Francisco.

Daughter claimed she was confused and wasn’t quite sure how she mixed up the two destinations.

But I know, and my conclusion is based on many miles and many hours together not talking about History, and Geography, and English Literature.

You see, both cities start with the letter S.

Anyone could make that mistake, I know.

But I now wonder how often Daughter really knows what’s going on and where she’s headed.

For instance, right now she’s supposed to be at the gym.  I surmise she’s either really at the gym, or at the go-kart track (no!), gelato shop, or any other place with a name that starts with the letter G.

I just hope it’s somewhere in the general vicinity of this city, but you never know.

Kids.  Don’t you just love ‘em?

- Dad

Not Zen Gardening

deadplants

It’s been almost two weeks since I killed myself trying to reinvigorate our western hill with new and vibrant foliage.  I had visions of flowery slopes populated with honey bees and hummingbirds frolicking among the blooms.

Very peaceful and fulfilling.

I carefully mixed potting soil and even created artificial terraces so that the ice plants had a purchase from which to grow.

I thought good thoughts as I toiled in the hot afternoon sun.  And I’ve religiously watered my newly planted charges with a diligence that has impressed even curmudgeonly me.

I’ve done everything right, or so I thought.

Alas, the plants think otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong.  A few of the stalks I jammed in the ground with such loving care are still alive — I don’t know if using the term “growing” would be completely accurate, but they are still mostly green.

It’s all the other stuff that’s dead.  You know, the ground cover that’s so invasive it can grow in concrete — but not on our damn hill, apparently.

Perhaps I need to mulch and spread more topsoil.  Perhaps more organic fertilizer is called for.  Perhaps I simply need to research how one transforms a sloped moonscape into something resembling a living slice of land.

I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson here somewhere for me to take away; I’m just not real sure what it is right now.  You see, I’ve got to formulate some kind of Growth and Regeneration Plan before the fall rains hit Southern California.  If I don’t, we’re talking mudslides of biblical proportions.

Not really, but it will be icky and dirty and sloppy.

All I know is, right now, I kind of feel like Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas, when he hangs an ornament on the emaciated tree he picked out and the thing slumps over.

“I’ve killed it,” he exclaims.

Well, if anyone killed this hill it was the guy my Lovely Spouse hired to “thin out the trees” several months ago.  She didn’t realize he would use Agent Orange to finish up the job.

I figure I’ve got between eight and twelve weeks to bring forth some sort of growth from this earth, before the next round of natural disasters begin to strike.

In the meantime, I do take solace in one positive aspect of what we now are calling “The Denuded Hill Affair” – of course, that good thing I’m referring to would be the sprinkler system, or, my Garden Archenemy.

After my last fix several weekends ago, the sprinklers are still working, and I continue to high-five a thousand angels for looking down upon me and this mechanism.

Too bad they are watering bare dirt and yellow stalks.

As always, it could be worse.  After all, I could have a barren hill and a non-functional watering system, to boot.

The way I look at it, half the battle is won.

The other half of the battle?  Ask me again at the end of September.

And think good, green thoughts.  God knows I am.

- Dad

Things I Forgot This Week

question

Well, to be honest, the title of this post really should read, “Things I Forgot the Name of This Week.”

I can remember back in the Days of Yore, perhaps thirty-five years ago, when reading a college textbook required an open dictionary by my side.  Even though I aced “Word Power Made Easy” in high school, it didn’t translate to the comprehensive command of the English language that the university required.  But I was bound and determined to try to understand everything I was supposed to be reading since I was in the midst of obtaining “higher education.”

The margins of my books were littered with notes and arrows and pithy comments, usually stolen from my pithy professors, and I used to pride myself on how well I knew what was going on in most of my classes, once I switched to a liberal arts major, that is.  The World of Science is a safer, happier, and much more accurate place once I decided to leave it behind.

However, in the process, somewhere along the line I became edumacated which, in layman’s terms, means I know a little about an awful lot of things.

Of course this knowledge has yet to translate into either vast riches or wisdom, but it is good for knowing at least some of the answers during the early rounds of Jeopardy! — Merv Griffin (RIP) and Alex Trebek would not be impressed.

So, it is with some surprise lately that I have noticed the incomplete body of knowledge in my head become “incompleter.”  Oh, I can still rattle off lines of nineteenth century German Sturm und Drang poetry, and I can almost not mix up most of Hemingway’s later novels, but I am becoming randomly challenged with connecting names with common objects or persons.

For instance, several days ago I was describing to a co-worker a pre-operative stress test my doctor put me through about seven years ago now.  I guess it’s a pretty standard procedure.  They give you a thorough physical and then make you go on the — what is it?

The following is a re-creation of my comments to him:  “You know, you hop up on that thing.  It’s like a machine.  It’s got a conveyor belt-type thing.  Like, the floor moves below you when you walk.  And then I told them to speed it up and raise the incline or my heart rate would never get above 100.   You know what I’m talking about?  That thing that you walk on.”

To which he replied, “You mean a treadmill?”

“Yes.  A treadmill!  Good God, why couldn’t I remember the stupid name?  It’s not like I’ve never seen or used one before.”

Then he added, “Are you sure they were testing your heart?  Maybe they should have been looking at your head.”

Well, he had a point.  After all, this latest incident was by no means anomalous.  This phenomenon can happen at any time, and does.

I was in my car a few weeks ago, driving randomly around, when a song came on the radio — and it happened again.  I knew the song, knew it was a female singing it (I’m not a complete moron, you know), and knew exactly what the singer looked like.  Exactly.

I just couldn’t remember her name.  It was on the tip of my tongue, but it was not forthcoming.

And so, in times like these, I continue to be actively annoyed by the absence of knowledge, with the image gnawing at me until I either eat something or forget about it.  This time, neither happened.

And I stewed, and I wondered, and I hummed, and I sang (I was alone in my car, after all) until, Eureka!, I remembered.

It was Sheryl Crow, for crying out loud.

Or as Son would say, “Why do you listen to Sheryl Crow?”

Of course, that’s not the point.  The point is, what’s going on here?  Am I experiencing the early stages of dementia, or Alzheimer’s; or am I just getting older and forgetting a few items now and again?  Or do I just have an occasional bad day?

I don’t have a clue.  So, much like the other maladies that are an increasing component of my Daily Existence, I just try to do the best that I can with it.  But unlike those other maladies which mostly annoy my family members, this one only annoys me.

I guess in that sense, turnabout is fair play.

But wait, there’s more!  I have a secondary affliction that’s almost as bad as the first.  It’s known as the “Where Did I Just Put Down That Thing I Had In My Hand A Minute Ago Syndrome.”

As you might imagine, combining the two can be quite deadly.

But there is an upside, as well.

Sometimes I forget that I had something in my hand in the first place and so the fact that it becomes lost has no effect on me.

I figure it must not have been that important anyway.

- Dad

Invasion of the Bluetooth Snatchers

bluetooth

I’m currently on my fourth Bluetooth earpiece in the last two years.  What started with a really cheap purchase at Office Depot during a pre-Christmas sale ($4.99), has fully morphed into noise cancelling, sound deadening technology with my latest model.

Except that I have no idea where my current Bluetooth is hiding.

And, oh, by the way, you really get what you pay for with these things.  That “holiday special” jobber I picked up way back when managed to translate normal conversation into a mangled, garbled, static-filled monotone that resembled an Eastern European language than the more common English I’m used to.  I found that lack of sound quality hilarious, but it just made everyone else mad on the receiving end, since they had to repeat everything to me about ten times (as opposed to the five times it usually takes to be intelligible with me).

I also don’t know where that first one went, although it really sucked was less than optimal in terms of how it functioned.

One day, however, it was just gone.  I was fortunate, however, that almost simultaneously I was provided a free cellphone/blackberry at work, and it came with a Bluetooth, as well.

Back in business, baby!

For about six months.  Then that one took a walk, too.

Now, Daughter has alluded in many of her posts that various areas of our humble abode bear a horrifying similarity to some episodes of Hoarders, but these places I do not normally frequent Bluetooth-attired.  I have looked into the frightening recesses of my car, under the bed, and in every pocket of every gym bag and suitcase I own around here.  All to no avail.

But that second model was only marginally better than the first, except that it was free.

So when I acquired Number Three Bluetooth, I used what I’ll call “Hearing Aid Logic.”  That is, bigger is better.  So I ordered (once again, free) a third device that featured a large contraption that rested behind my ear, a swiveling microphone, and multiple foam comfort pads.

Well, that one sucked, too.  It was just as crappy as the first two, and it wound up in a drawer which, if I really think about it, is fairly sad.  You see, my hearing is so bad that usually any amplification is a good thing and I can live with it, but not this particular model.  It made Number Two sound like the Sydney Opera House – a place that I imagine has pure sound quality but I’ve never visited.

But the analogy made sense to me.

Technically, then, Number Three didn’t disappear.  It was filed away.

Moving on to Number Four.

It was a Charm.  It was so good, it was better than Numbers One through Three combined.  It was light, sounded clear, and fit my ear without making my auditory canal bleed — Heaven.

But though I routinely high-five thousands of angels, the Devil reared his Ugly Head and stole my perfect Bluetooth after a very short period of several months.

Quite simply, it has disappeared.  I mean, just two weeks ago I was using it on my drive home, and today it’s a distant memory.  I’ve turned the entire house upside down, and it’s nowhere to be found.

I am Bluetooth Cursed.

Therefore, I have temporarily borrowed my Spouse’s Bluetooth, which has been sitting on a charger by the side of the bed for the last six months.  When I told her I was appropriating it, she looked at me askance (literally), but didn’t say anything.  I suppose she’s not that attached to it.

But it’s really become a necessity for me, as every day that I find myself not using a hands-free device while driving, I risk a $250 ticket.

Still, I drive in Southern California.  I have become adept at motoring while simultaneously drinking coffee, texting, eating a bagel, talking on the phone (without Bluetooth), and rummaging through my gym bag for my wallet.  Inserting a Bluetooth back into the equation removes one of those variables, I suppose.

Of course, I recognize I need to figure out a way to hold onto my Bluetooth devices, and I hit upon using the same kind of canny Dog Scientist logic that ended decades of me losing all manner and numbers of keys.

Basically I have discovered that the key to keeping keys is making sure they are anchored to something that’s roughly the size of a baseball glove (see photo below).  After all, it’s a lot harder to lose a baseball glove than a crummy key.

keys

Yet the simple Muggle in me has yet to figure out the Bluetooth Phenomenon.  I’m not sure how or to what I might anchor it, other than my own head.

In fact, I’m sure I will lose my Wife’s Bluetooth in the next four to six weeks, but I’ve grown quite used to this process by now.

I guess the downside to all this may end up being the epitaph on my tombstone.  It might read:

He Was Talented.

He Could Drink, Eat, Text, And Talk While Driving.

Except for That Last Drive.

If Only He Had Used A Bluetooth.

- Dad

Regularly, I am a Sure-Footed Mountain Goat and in Heels, I am a Newborn Giraffe

When I wear flats and other sensible shoes, I feel as if I am a mountain goat and the entire world is a rocky mountain that I confidently traverse without hesitation. Each step is deliberate and meaningful. Walking is an expression of my capability and prowess. 

image (35)Then, I put on heels and everything changes for the worse. I am a newborn giraffe, just released into the world – an unforgiving, obstacle-filled world. I am barely able to stand without falling over and my limbs are always awkwardly akimbo.

image (36)

 

I really do like heels. I really do. I like the way they look and I don’t feel fancy or dressed up unless I am significantly taller than I usually am on a day-to-day basis. I guess I’ve been socially conditioned by the High Heel Mafia. But it’s fine. 

Anyway, before I even went out with my friends for a night on the town, disaster struck. I was sitting in my car, fixing my makeup that had run away from the targeted areas of my face. I finally managed to blend my makeup into less clownish concentrations and went to leave the car. However, as I did, my heel caught on the door and I fell straight into the loving embrace of the road. 

image (31)

 

image (32)After I was on all fours on the street, I looked up to make sure nobody else was out and had seen this sad display. Luckily, I was alone in my embarrassment so I scrambled to my feet and examined the damage. 

In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post, my leg already had a four inch, very noticeable scratch on my leg from inexact shaving methods. So, in addition to that injury, now I had road burn and bloody knees.

image (33)Unfortunately for me and everyone else, that was not the end of the embarrassment because I went out in public after I cleaned myself up. I was talking to people at a very cool, suave rooftop bar and telling a story very animatedly, as I am wont to do. Sadly, a heat lamp was in the way of my story and expressive Italian Hands. I completely knocked into it and almost toppled it over. There were hundreds of witnesses to mark this special occasion. Luck and grace were really on my side that night. 

 

image (34)Am I surprised? No. 

- Daughter 

 

Country Line Dancing: The Hillbillies Strike Back

On Friday night, I went line dancing again. Not that I wanted to. There has never been a time in my life where I have said to myself, “Wow, all this day needs is a large dose of embarrassment in front of hundreds of strangers.” But, it was my friend’s birthday weekend and you are legally required to do whatever a birthday-haver wants.

I had an eight hour shift beforehand but took a three hour nap and intravenously pumped caffeine into my body as soon as I woke up. I was fully prepared to make it look like I was a functioning human with arms and legs that work most of the time.

I met up with my friends after successfully getting ready and was only thirty minutes late (practically a record). All of my friends were dressed in their Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots. They also all spoke with a Southern twang and chewed tobacco. That’s how I remember it anyway.

Then there was me. I was the only one not wearing cowboy boots and I wore the most obnoxiously red lipstick I could find. All of this was to the chagrin of my country-fied (or should I say, country-fried) friends.

When we got to the country bar, everybody was dancing in perfect lines, totally synchronized. My friends jumped right in and either already knew the dances or picked up the dances very quickly.

I, however, struggled immensely.

At some points during the night, I wondered if it was possible to die from embarrassment. I’m sure it is, but luckily, I am still alive even though my friend helpfully told me that I was the most “uncoordinated person she had ever seen.”

Eventually, I got tired of pretending to dance and stood on the side of the dance floor. A guy immediately told me to get back on the floor because he said I gave up. I looked at him as he talked at me. He was wearing a trucker hat which encouraged me to paint a little vignette of his life in my mind:

I told him there was no chance in that I was getting back on the dance floor and then asked if he drove his tractor to the bar. He laughed. And then he drank. I don’t know if I was the reason he was drinking but I like to think I was.

Eventually, I tired of failing and sat myself out permanently the rest of the night. My ego took as a hit as I realized that I was not a country line dancer.

 

However, as soon I got home. I ate an entire plate of cookies. There are always cookies to fill the void.

 

- Daughter

“Pumpkin Face” or “Things You Never Want Your Dentist To Say”

crown

Just when I thought I was free and clear, I managed to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory.

No sooner had I finished singing the praises of my Dentist, he exacted his revenge, completely proving that no good deed goes unpunished.

And Daughter’s worst fears were confirmed — it absolutely sucks having someone excavate your pearly whites (or grays, in my case).

Perhaps a little background is in order.

For someone who has been walking this Earth for a few years north of 50, I am probably somewhat anomalous in that I have no cavities and no real problems with my teeth.  I chalk it up to decades of my excellent attention to oral hygiene, but all my personal dental professionals over the years attribute my good fortune to fluoridated water growing up and excellent genes.

The truth is probably somewhere in between, but that is not to say I have not had a few close calls over the years, mainly from sports.  As a result, my two front teeth have sustained impact fractures (cracks, you know) and a chip or two along the way.

Well, My Favorite Dentist has been on my butt back for the past five years about fixing them, and my standard response has been, “Are they about to crumble, like, today or tomorrow?  If not, I would just like to ride it out for a while more.”

His response, “You feel that?  I shouldn’t be able to do that on your teeth with this instrument.  They are getting worse every time you visit.”

My response, “Then don’t do that with your instrument, Doc.  And are dentists real doctors?”

So this repartee has been a regular feature of our time together, until disaster struck this week (Tuesday, to be exact), and I finally did enough damage from eating a peach, no less, that I felt obligated to make an emergency entrance through the Gates of Dental Hell.

Me:  “I guess it’s at this point you can say ‘I told you so.’”

Dentist:  “Nope.  I only say that after you’ve left the office.”

Me:  “What are the options now?”

Dentist:  “It’s time to pull out the Big Guns.”

Me:  “You mean my teeth, or something else?”

Dentist:  “Both.”

Me:  “Is this going to hurt?”

Dentist:  “Yes.  Yes, it will.”

Me (with weary resignation):  “Let’s do it.”  Of course, the irony of that statement was only obvious to me, as they were the last words of Gary Gilmore.

What ensued I would characterize as Low Drama, interspersed with these gems from My Number One Tooth Guy:

1)  “Are you more comfortable lying down?  Want me to keep the television on?  Frasier is pretty funny, after all.”

2)  “This gauze gives me more room to work.  It’s a little uncomfortable, but at least it tastes like cotton.”

3)  “We’re going to numb you up now, or else you won’t want to talk to me later.”

4)  “Okay, you feel that?  Nurse, did you understand what he just said?  No?  I think we’re good, then.”

5)  “Here we go!  You feel that?  Whoa!  Let me get you some tissues.”

6)  “Yep.  I don’t care who you are or how strong you are, it’s okay to cry.  Let me get you some tissues.”

7)  “You feel that?”

8)  “Try not to swallow.  There are chunks off teeth all over the place right now.”

9)  “It’s okay to swear at me.  They all do.  You’ll feel better if you do.”

10)  “Okay, right now I want you to close your eyes.  Close ‘em!  Don’t open them.  You don’t want to open them.”

11)  “You do not want to see what you look like right now.  Trust me on this one.”

12)  “Try not to swallow.  Didn’t I already say that?  Stop it!”

13)  “Taking this mold is the most important part of the entire procedure.  Don’t move, and stop crying.”

14)  “You can rinse over there and most of that nasty plasticky taste will go away, but don’t move yet!”

15)  “Do you prefer to stay lying down?  I think there’s another episode of Frasier coming up.”

16)  “Almost finished now.  Good God, I feel like I’m in the movie Hostel.  I like it!  Ha!”

17)  “Just one more imprint here, and we’re all done.  Bite down harder, damn it!”

18)  “At this point, most patients are not really appreciative of my vampire jokes, so I won’t bore you with them.”

19)  “That stain should wash right out.”

20)  “Okay.  See you again in about two weeks for the permanent crowns.  You’ll be in a better frame of mind then.  Trust me.”

I guess the only thing that kept the nausea at bay the entire time was the knowledge that Daughter has impacted wisdom teeth, and she’ll be in exactly the same position (horizontal) as me, soon enough.

So, I offer this little bit of advice for her:  Keep your eyes closed, make sure they max you out on the numbing meds, and, for God’s Sake, Cry Like You Mean It!  You won’t feel any better, but I will.

- Dad

Civil Disobedience!

convict

I’ll admit it.  I occasionally break the law.

True, it’s in little ways, but still. . . .

This morning on the way to the Salt Mine work was a good example.  I typically treat myself on Fridays to (what I consider to be a well-earned) coffee.  I always try to leave home a few minutes early to make up for the stop, but I rarely do and I inevitably end up arriving at the office somewhat later than normal.  I used to feel a twinge of guilt about it, but no longer — probably save that for another post.

Anyway, today was no different.  I stopped in to obtain my cuppa and returned to my small beater commuter Miata, where I positioned that java cup in one of my empty high-top basketball shoes.  If you don’t have adequate cup holders, I have found that using your shoes can be a great alternative.  However, you need to be prepared to explain to whomever does the laundry why one of your socks always seems to be a bit “browner” than the other one.  In fact, on my really uninspired days, I seriously consider formalizing this invention and taking it on Shark Tank.

Heck, it can’t be any worse than Daughter’s HeadHelmet or FaceHelmet, or whatever stupid name she calls it these days.  After all, it is trademarked (not really; at least I don’ think so).

headhelmet

Actual recent photo of FaceHelmet in use. Two-year manufacturer’s warranty included at a small additional fee.

So with drink firmly planted in shoe, I left the miniscule parking lot and drove off in the direction of the interstate on-ramp, otherwise known as the Muggle Commuter Bottleneck.  It’s a metered affair, which is Urban Planning Speak for “We’re going to make you wait here under the illusion that delaying your merge into the broader highway really and truly cuts down on congestion.”

And like most Muggles, I duly line up in one of three lanes and (mostly) patiently wait my turn to join the rushing maelstrom.

Except for this morning; this glorious overcast June Gloom Southern California morning.  Because today, as I veered to the right and onto the access lanes, I was met by — nothing; no one; no cars queuing; nada.

Just three red lights, staring me down.

I had to make a command decision very quickly.  Do I obey the law and stop, thereby wasting the modest momentum that 78 horsepower generates in my little piece of crap car, or do I dutifully pause at the light and wait for the meter to do its thing?

It is the type of moral/ethical dilemma at which I excel.  That is to say, I’ll make up for whatever wrongdoing I commit now by counteracting it with a goodly act later.

Well, a quick glance in the rearview mirror to confirm I was, indeed, alone in my splendor, and a moment later I simply floored it through the light.  “Flooring it” may not quite be an accurate description of what I did.  Rather, I continued to accelerate at a moderate pace and seamlessly merged with the traffic ahead.  After all, my tiny little car doesn’t have the “oomph” it once did because it bears the burden of almost 185,000 miles now.

What value!

Back to my sad story. . . .  After driving straight through the light, I felt bad for about one nanosecond, and figured I saved approximately two tenths of an ounce of gas in the process, thereby justifying my legal waywardness.

And for the sake of complete openness, I must admit this time was not my first.  I have occasionally committed the same crime in the past, but only when the opportunity presented itself.  I would never take advantage, after all.  That would be wrong.

I’m sure one day I will suffer the consequences for these misdeeds but, in the meantime, I will “Live, Baby, Live!”

And just so that you don’t lose complete faith in me, I did hold open the door for someone later in the day, and I let someone jump in front of me in a line, as well.

I figure I’m even.  I’m sure the local constabulary does not.

I’m okay with that.

- Dad

How Not to Kayak

My dad put the kayak rack back on the truck after a few days of begging. I love to kayak. It makes me feel at one with the ocean and a warmth always radiates throughout my body when I’m out on the water – oh, wait, no that’s just a sunburn. Regardless of the harmful UV rays, kayaking is one of the most peaceful but challenging ways to spend your time. And when I say ‘peaceful,’ I mean, there are many moments in which you think, “Well, it’s been nice existing. Goodbye, world,” because you will probably die if you don’t make that turn and ram straight into that cliff. So, it’s peaceful in that it forces you to make peace with death.

What colorful deathtraps.

What colorful deathtraps.

Once, my best friend and I spent six straight hours circumnavigating the world  an island and only rested on a rocky beach for a brief moment. We laid down on the shore and put hot rocks on our closed eyelids (because we thought that’s what rich people did at spas – note to self: they don’t). After that hot rock treatment, we continued on our merry way. We kayaked through caves and only almost crashed into a cave wall four times, which is really quite impressive.

Anyway, after that particular excursion, I felt pretty on top of my kayak game. I took a tandem kayak out with one of my friends who was very excited to try kayaking. Unfortunately, there was a high surf advisory that we had failed to notice. When we finally launched the kayak into the water and got past the rolling waves, we paddled toward some interesting caves. However, we would periodically rise five feet and then drop five feet because of the crazy ocean current which was scary but also fun – sort of like those questionably old carnival rides from the 70′s that are not up to code but everybody rides anyway.

We were basically on our own Discovery Channel show. Definitely not Shark Week though. More like one of those really slow-going nature shows with a male British narrator detailing the mating habits of shellfish.

Things would have been better had an Eskimo been there to show me the way.

Things would have been better had an Eskimo been there to show me the way.

Although our time in the ocean was fun, it was getting late so my friend and I prepared to make our re-entry on land. I watched my brother go before me in his single sit-in kayak and swiftly make his re-entry like he had been doing it his entire life. My friend and I waited for the right moment to ride a wave back onto shore. Unfortunately, we were doomed from the start because the waves were entirely too large for  the bulky tandem kayak to  navigate.

We missed the key wave we were trying to catch and another much larger wave followed behind and instead of safely riding that wave onto shore, the big wave combined with the smaller wave in front of us with such a force that it nosedived the kayak into the sand below and flipped us all the way over.

My friend and I were okay, if not a bit shaken up. Physically, we had survived but as we trudged up the sand, we looked onto the beach and saw we had a crowd of at least fifty people watching us on our walk of kayak shame. I’m pretty sure I saw somebody do a slow-clap but my eyes were watering too much from seawater and pollution to be absolutely sure.

Anyway, the point of this story is to stop being stupid on boats. The ocean is a fickle lady.

- Daughter

I Miss My Truck!

yakima

“Yep. I think that will fit.”

In about one week’s time, I fly back to the East Coast to retrieve Daughter and My Truck from college, in that order.

Before abandoning leaving Daughter at her Lesbian Cult School in January, we spent many hours together behind the wheel of my crew cab pick-up, which theoretically should have translated into a modicum of familiarity and experience for her with a larger vehicle.  Unfortunately, the master plan failed to deliver, resulting in episodes such as this one, and another, and another.

In other words, I try not to think about how my truck has fared in the hands of Daughter during the last five months.

I am hopeful it is in one piece, is relatively clean, and hasn’t begun to succumb to the salty winter roads of Philadelphia.

But then again, who am I kidding other than myself?  I’ll be very, very happy if it’s almost in one piece.

Upon my arrival, I expect:

1)  The gas tank to be empty.

2)  The cab to be filthy — choose your definition here.  To me, that includes lots of scattered foo-foo coffee stains, discarded paper products, hair, miscellaneous make-up items, and a fair share of unidentifiable, miscellaneous crap.

3)  The tires to be low on air.

4)  Other things to be wrong that Daughter “conveniently” forgot to mention during our many texts and conversations since January.

I guess I am anticipating disappointment, and I will be genuinely happy if I turn out to be overstating my anxiousness and fears.

On the other hand, since I have been without a pickup for quite some time now, I have been required to “improvise” when required to carry large and bulky items here at home in SoCal.

So without a proper truck, I have been required to improvise.

You see, the nice thing about a convertible is that with the top down, it has no roof.  Literally the sky’s the limit if you can fit something in.  In many respects, using Daughter’s Killer Cabrio for hauling has been a better alternative than my Spouse’s van.  Earlier this week, for instance, I picked up a used bicycle and retracted the convertible top so that I could neatly lay it over the back seat.  And in a fit of Middle Aged Bravado, I even went home via the Interstate, just to tempt fate.

I can happily report there was not a single instance of a flying bike, though I did notice I had very few people following closely behind me on the highways here for once.

Maybe I’ve hit on something.

But today marked the Mother of All Cabrio Hauls, as pictured above.  I have been looking for a large Yakima car storage box for months, and my  diligence was rewarded with a Craigslist purchase no more than ten minutes from the house.

I really didn’t put too much thought into how large the thing was.  The guy was selling it so cheap I had to hustle over to his house as quickly as possible and figure it out when I got there.

Well, the box was exactly what I was looking for, but it was big.  I mean Denali National Park Mount McKinley Big.

As I pulled into the seller’s driveway, he waved and said he’d already had three other emails about the carrier.

It was a good thing I hurried over.

“Well,” I said, “I’ll take it.”

“In what?” the seller replied.

“Oh, I’ll put the top down, and we’ll just wedge it in there.”

“I think you’re going to need some help,” he offered.

“You’re right.”

And we proceeded to scoot the front seats forward and cram the box between the back seat and the sky above.

“I guess I’ll head back home,” I said.  “Thanks.”

“That looks kind of funny like that.  You sure you’ll be okay?”

“Yep.  I’ve got experience with this kind of thing,” and I slowly drove away.

I can happily report there was not a single instance of a flying Yakima storage box on the way home, though I did notice very few people followed closely behind me once again.

I definitely have hit on something, I’ve discovered.

I definitely need my truck back!

- Dad

 

 

No Shame. . . .

BCP019-26

“Not only is very white and of ample size, it can be used as a tent in times of natural catastrophe.”

 

As a part-time job and to help ensure my sanity and continued interaction with fellow Muggles, I teach several times a year at a local “for-profit” university.  I recently finished up an “Introduction to College” course, that costs the students nothing to attend and, hopefully, gives them a good idea of what to expect going forward academically.

One of my favorite parts of the course, however,  is the last night during which we spend time discussing the importance of having an overall career plan, thereby putting obtaining a degree in perspective.  We even talk about resumes and interviews, which may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but the context is helpful since most everyone is pursuing a degree while simultaneously seeking a better job and, hopefully, more money. 

I use lots of job-seeking examples from my own experiences over the years, and you might guess that most of them are bad.

Very bad.

And I don’t even have to include Daughter’s semi-recent attempts at landing gainful, long-term employment.  For instance, I might ask:

“How did the interview, go, Daughter?”

“I nailed it, Dad.  Just nailed it.  They loved me.” 

Three weeks later.  “Whatever happened to that last company you talked to?”

“Dunno.  Never heard back.  I guess they hated me.”*

(*Just kidding, Daughter!  I know you’re awesome and will soon be off the Family Dole.)

Well, I’ve been on both sides of that table, and when I’m interviewing someone for a job, I can usually tell within about three minutes if they are going to be a good fit for us. 

A couple of years ago I was screening a middle-aged lady for a position in my office, and the entire discussion went well until it was time for her to leave.  Though she had been a bit nervous throughout, I thought she presented herself fairly well. 

When she stood up to go, unfortunately her skirt did not accompany her — let’s just say I discovered she was a Hane’s Girl and leave it at that. 

The sad part about it was that I was very nonplussed about the whole thing.  Whether it’s because I’ve been around for so long that it’s hard to shock me anymore, I don’t know, but the display of Underwear Nudity did not strike me as that big of a deal.  I was simply more concerned about filling the open position and making sure the lady didn’t die of embarrassment (which she didn’t).

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), she didn’t land the job because of her lack of specific skills we needed.  However, she did land a permanent place in the Pantheon of Unforgettable Life Experiences and Underwear Nudity, which is probably better than working for my company anyway.

And so it goes. 

Today, much to my chagrin, the Pantheon was graced by a new member (maybe I shouldn’t use that particular word):  Me.

On my way to work this morning, I stopped off at the local medical clinic for my quarterly blood draw and fluid sample.  The phlebotomist (derived from the Latin word, phleboto, which means “painful vampire”) on duty was quick to her task and then pointed me to the men’s room so I could execute the second part of the evolution.

The restroom is what we call a “one-holer” in the hills of Southern California, and it was basic; no more, no less, except the door lock seemed a bit sketchy to me. 

That is to say, I couldn’t really tell if I locked it properly after closing said door.

And even though it was very early in the morning, there was a gathering of old codgers in the waiting room going through the same motions as me.  Yep, it sucks getting old.

You might guess what happened to me next — in mid-stream, as it were, the restroom door swung open, and there stood one of said codgers.

No “excuse me,” or “sorry,” or “what the hey?”  When he saw me, he just sort of backed off and didn’t pull the door shut behind him

So there I was, executing a delicate balancing act between specimen cup, blue jeans, and doorknob. 

And they say judo is demanding.

I can happily report, however, that I successfully pulled off the above trifecta, without spilling a drop!

As I exited the restroom and passed the queue of codgers lined up against the corridor wall outside like they were staged for a firing squad, I simply smiled and said, “It’s all yours,” and made my way out of the clinic.

I didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious, and I simply chalked it up to another one of Life’s Experiences. 

In these types of situations, it’s always best to leave on a high note.  I would have bid the old guys in line a hardy “Namaste!” but they would have probably thought I was swearing at them in French. 

- Dad

Being an Idiot in Carpentry Class

Today, my technical theater carpentry professor laughed at me. A lot. And I took it with my tail between my legs because frankly, I deserved it.

I'm really creative. At failing.

I’m really creative. At failing.

 

Let my preface this by saying I am in no way connected to the theater arts or activities-during-which-you-build-things, but every other single person in the class is a techie (not to be confused with Trekkie) who knows the basics of theater, scenery, etc. Then, there’s me. A lost little lamb in a storm of power tools and staple guns. 

My partner and I had to draft a 2D model and build a 3D model of a structure that would successfully drop snow on-stage. Naturally, I ended up drafting the most complex piece of machinery I could think up – I literally might have just accidentally built a computer. That’s just how I roll. When we were presenting our ideas, all of the other students had these brilliant, simple ideas that looked completely feasible.

And then I presented my draft which had about 10 different arrows annotated with specific instructions all over the page. My professor looked at the draft, cocked his head, and said, “That’s certainly… creative.” Guess I’m going to fail this carpentry class. Cool. I’m literally going to fail a class because I have no actual life skills and can only read books. 

Well, today was the real test. I had to build this wildebeest of a project. I started out with a basic little wooden frame that I was very proud of – my professor even came over and said it was, “Cute!” And I said, “Yes, that’s what I was going for. It’s very applicable to my post-college life. When I’m being interviewed and the hiring person asks for my resume, I’m just gunna show them THIS *proudly raises up wooden frame like it’s Simba from The Lion King*” He chuckled and I kept building. And then I hit a roadblock. I had no idea how to get my complicated machine to work… and on top of it, the staple gun wasn’t working.
My partner went up to ask my professor about the staple gun who assured us that, yes, there were plenty of staples in it. But it just was not working. I was trying to staple fabric onto the frame but to my dismay, no staples were coming out. He came over to watch me use it so he could see firsthand why it wasn’t working.
Me: *presses on staple gun, nothing comes out* “SEE? It’s not working.”
Professor: …… *suppresses giggle* “….. that’s because you’re pushing on the wrong end of the staple gun… it’s upside down, not broken you idiot. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
I about died from embarrassment. I sat there laughing at myself but also shaking my head in disbelief at my stupidity.
And, as I was leaving, my professor couldn’t help himself and said, “Make sure you don’t forget how to use a staple gun between now and our next class.”
Who needs dignity and self-esteem anyway?
- Daughter

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

 

 

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

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

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

That’s Creepy, Dad!

10559826-happy-blond-college-student-alone-in-large-lecture-hall

I might be smiling, but I have a creepy feeling in this class.

While I remain far away from home on travel, Daughter’s posts (regarding various subjects – all fairly droll) provide a continual source of distraction for me.  Though I may have wanted to didn’t attend an all-girls school*, many of the rituals Daughter describes could easily apply to my experiences at the traditional (public, large, indifferent) university from which I matriculated. 

*In a recent conversation with Daughter during our cross-country trip, she claimed she felt she hadn’t really gotten the full “college experience” because she attends a Lesbian Cult School.  I gently reminded her the choice had been hers, not mine.  She was fairly quiet after that, except for blubbering about marketing ideas for the FaceTent ™. 

First day jitters notwithstanding, I cannot remember any class during my entire collegiate career during which a professor/instructor/graduate teaching assistant made students endure social “get to know you” experiments. 

That’s not to say I came up with a few stupid ones myself, but early on I mainly focused on identifying pretty classmates (future Soccer Moms, I now realize), and connived how best I could ingratiate myself with them.  That’s actually not a true statement, as it infers real social interaction with same.  Rather, my initial strategy involved simply maneuvering to a closer seating position so that any subsequent conversations seemed both incidental and natural.

Perhaps this type of thinking explains the spate of abysmal grades I received during my first few semesters in school. 

So the strategy I outlined above was really only applicable in the larger seminars, where it was quite easy to become lost in the numbers.  A couple of my introductory courses had 300-400 students.  For obvious reasons, the dynamic wouldn’t work in smaller settings, where I would come off looking like more of a weirdo than I actually am was. 

One of the most memorable scenarios demonstrating this cunning action plan took place in a very large Introduction to Western Civilization course.  The seminar itself was perplexing, to say the least.  The professor was more of a storyteller than lecturer.  He had blazing red hair, and he roamed the auditorium regaling us with his seeming first-hand accounts of the greasy locks that populated the heads of  Merovingian Kings.  The fact that I can remember these vivid details thirty-five years after the fact simply reinforces his impactful presence.

And he was also a goofball.

The problem was, however, that after listening to his tall tales, I would duly complete the reading assignment in the text (he wrote – $125 at the University Bookstore), and I am not exaggerating when I say that absolutely nothing he talked about was included anywhere in that damn book. 

It was incredible, and I duly paid the price after the first exam where I was able to aptly confirm I had no idea about what we were studying.  Eventually I broke the code, and I began to visit the “optional” course study halls, where the teaching assistant running the thing basically gave us the answers to the essay questions ahead of time. 

I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid.

Okay, so back to the social drama in this course. 

Early on I spied a striking young lady who regularly sat in one of the lower seating sections.  When I wasn’t paying attention to the lecture (which was frequent, I suppose), I devoted ample thought toward formulating and implementing my plan for Social Interaction with her.  And because role was taken the first couple of times we gathered, I actually knew her name.

Ironically, though I still remember the detail about the Kings, her name is pretty much lost to the vagaries of time and my increasingly decrepit memory.  I do seem to think her last name was “St. Something”, but that’s about as far as it goes – not that it matters much.

Because she rarely varied a place or two, I began to migrate my way closer to her over the course of the next few weeks.  All this time it was apparent that, whatever attraction and/or awareness that existed, it was completely one-sided (me).  And to put this whole thing in historical context, I believe Daughter would now describe my behavior as “stalking”.  Daughter Number Two, my eleven year old, would simply call it “creepy”, which seems to be the moniker applied today in middle school to anyone slightly out of the norm. 

Eventually the day arrived where, you guessed it, I had successfully maneuvered myself near to the object of my poorly planned affection interaction.   

If memory serves, I uttered something like, “I forgot to bring a pencil today.”

No.  I take that back.  That line is way too sophisticated.  I probably just smiled.

And, in return? 

You probably guessed it – nothing.  It seems the key missing ingredient for me, other than self-confidence, maturity, and humility, was knowing how to start a conversation with any other Muggle human being.  In retrospect, all of my practice up to that point had been pretty much with cats and dogs, so I was at something of a disadvantage with girls people. 

But it was a good learning experience for me anyway.  To this day I still retain a modicum of knowledge about pre-Medieval dynasties (a useful icebreaker at most parties, if nothing else), and I quickly figured out that meeting girls required developing a basic ability to communicate using the English Language, mainly.

It has taken years for me to try to develop that skill, and I’ll let you know when I do finally manage it. 

In the meantime, I hope Daughter enjoys this last semester at college. 

And I hope she remembers that sarcasm has its place, cynicism is a solid baseline for an unhappy life, and, if you can avoid being labeled “creepy” by your little sister, you’re probably doing A-OK!

- Dad

The First Day of Exercise After a Period of Slobbery

I used to be a college athlete. How far from the throne I have fallen. Just walking up the two flights of stairs to my apartment is how I imagine a husky feels during the Iditarod. Standing for longer than ten minutes is just asking to pull a hammie.  If that doesn’t give you a comprehensive picture of the role of exercise in my life, you should really step back from this blog and take some time to think about your life. Because you haz the dumb.

Exercise is a rare activity that happens in my life because I’m more worried about graduating college than ellipticaling my way into the 6-pack club. Furthermore, my one-pack is perfectly suited to my needs at the moment and – bonus – it’s aesthetically pleasing according to the Renaissance standards of beauty (which I adhere to). My one-pack also happens to be academically necessary; I saw it on the syllabus for my Buddhism class between “post discussion questions to the course website on Wednesdays” and “achieve enlightenment”. Obviously, the professor understands that the best way to learn is through a hands-on approach requiring students to grow a Buddha Belly. The first step in this long journey toward the Middle Way one-pack/BellyofBuddha is to not have a six-pack. I’m already there!! *high-fives Buddha* To comprehend this religion, I must first be the Buddha. *Eats donut… mindfully*

I haz nirvana. I no haz samsara.

I haz nirvana. I no haz samsara.

Despite my steadfast dedication to Buddhahood, there are obstacles in my way. Like friends. Specifically, friends who encourage me to exercise. I was cajoled into a spinning class by such a creature. But this wasn’t any normal spinning class, this was a CLUB/SPIN CLASS. The instructor turned off the lights and put on some black lights. I guess so you can’t stare at the other spinners but that defeats the point, how do you know who’s winning?? Sure, I want to have a good time, but I also want to make sure I am better than most people there. How else will I feel good about myself?

Because I haven’t exercised for a while, I was on the verge of nausea most of the time and part of me thought this must be what dying feels like. About halfway through, when the instructor said to turn the resistance on the bike up, I turned it down. And kept doing so until I got the point where air was essentially pushing the pedals. The lights were off but I still tried to look like I was really struggling. I’m a very dedicated method actor.

Finally, the spinning part of the class was over, but the hell wasn’t. Core training was next. I am usually impressed by myself during core exercises because I don’t totally suck at them. Maybe it’s leftover strength from my old glory days as an athlete with a fully-functioning body. Anyway, I wasn’t particularly concerned about this part of the class.

My hubris would be punished.

I tried, I really did. But sooner or later, my mind would yell, “KEEP GOING! KEEP GOING!” and my abs would whisper solemnly, “No,” whereupon I would flop LOUDLY onto my mat. This happened an immeasurable number of times. The teacher, whose muscles appeared as if they were struggling to free themselves from the confines of her body, always looked in my direction at the unexpected thump. And seeing my crumpled pile of limbs, I think she felt pity and chose not to laugh.

I struggled and struggled and variously flopped onto my stomach and back like a dead/dying fish. I was an unsightly walrus in a sea of lithe, graceful dolphins. But also a dead/dying fish, don’t forget that either.

Me.

Me.

Me.

Me.

My abs still hurt and my dignity… well, there’s none of that left anyway so, no matter.

- Daughter

I Only Drink Fancy Water or, I Drink Therefore I Am

It’s true. I’m too good for tap water, even filtered water has that lower-class aftertaste I so despise. “Fancy water” is a catch-all I use to classify any bottled water that has more than three ingredients on the label other than “water”. Why fancy water? It just makes me feel better and encourages me to make fancier choices throughout the day.

Fancy.

A beverage infused with the sweat of the gods of Mount Olympus!

I should paint my nails… with a gold-leaf overlay and a miniature replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling on each nail.

I’m ready for a snack… of pickled shark fat cubes with truffle oil. Mm, shark fat. (Rich people totally eat that. (?))

I really need to work out… how I’m going to fit all of these golden rings on my fingers. 

I should make a collage from all of these recycled magazines… so my menservants will have Christmas presents. (Side note: I had to actually look up the plural of “manservant”… #pretendrichpeopleproblems) 

But let’s get real for a second: I know I’m a poor college student. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; nay, there is dignity in the way I refuse social outings in exchange for re-counting the change jingling around in the bottom of my purse (I call it the national anthem of poor people). However, that doesn’t stop me from pretending I was born into great wealth from time to time. Hence, the buying of fancy water.

I will never go back to Poor People Ale aka “water”. Where are the bubbles? Where are the herbal infusions? Where is the label that says, “collected spittle of the Queen of England”? Nowhere to be found and therefore, impotable.

Mmmmm.

Three angels died from dehydration to make this. They donated too many tears.

Also, just so you know, the founder of this particular company (“Dr. Ayala”) has four job descriptions: Pediatrician, Artist, Innovative Cook, and Founder. I kind of want to meet this guy because I imagine he is some sort of Mary Poppins of Beverages. Makes me thirsty just thinking about it.

My marketing campaign pitch for fancy water beverages: “ORGANIC WATER. It’s expensive, yes, but those student loans don’t need to be repaid quite yet.”

- Daughter

The Legend of the 1000-Point Turn

As my dad mentioned in his last post, I learned to drive on a truck (in between bouts of crying because Dad felt I would better understand how to drive if he yelled me into proper driving form). After I obtained my license to kill, I was gifted with Oscar, my VW Cabrio. I love that car and will be truly sad to see the day when Oscar goes to that big garage in the sky. It’s a fun car to drive and fits into any parking space with relative ease. The only real problem is that people LOVE to almost-merge into me on freeways because it’s a tiny little thing and light-colored. This would be a great characteristic if I wanted to die in a fiery car crash (free cremation!!!!) but, alas, I do not want this fate.

Despite being a perpetual death machine, I still love Osky. He is able to whip into a parking space with the bravado of a Kardashian. Unfortunately, his has given me parking hubris. I found out the hard way that all cars are not created equal with respect to their ease of parkingness.

My first mistake was driving my dad’s truck to work because it was raining again and I was worried about another hydroplaning incident. I should have just changed my middle name to “Dangerous”, driven my car, and hyrdoplaned all the way to work for all the trouble I went through.

The truck is considerably bigger than Oscar but I figured that since I learned to drive on a truck, I could handle this thing fine. And I did. Except when it came down to parking.

manatee30

I wish I had a Calming Manatee to help me park.

Downtown, there isn’t a whole lot of room to get into a parking space if your car is a fat behemoth. It’s like a manatee trying to maneuver through a mud puddle – very difficult and nigh impossible – but probably hilarious to watch. I finally got into a parking space and only had to re-park three times to fit within the lines. I was so relieved after I got the truck into that space because I wouldn’t have to get it out for another 8 hours. At that point, there would be fewer cars in the lot and it would be more like a manatee navigating a small creek instead of a mud puddle.

I walked to the office for my internship and happy forest animals greeted me with song. As I went about my work, I felt an ominous presence. It was a lady from the art department – Uh oh, this won’t be good, I thought. She asked me if I could do her a favor. Of course, I immediately agreed because I’m eager and annoying. My task is to pick up some flowers five blocks away, meaning I have to move the stupid truck. Of course I do.

I walked to the truck, crying about my lot in life. Within about ten minutes’ time of rage-inducing parking maneuvers, I was able to get out without so much as a bumper kiss. I may have won this battle but the real war had just begun.

After finding the flower place, I pulled into an unassuming parking lot. This is when things got difficult. A tiny little parking space was left in the parking lot, surrounded by fire-breathing dragons on each side: a huge SUV and two other big cars I can’t name because I’m not my dad. Instead of backing out and trying to get into a space that involved less skill and experience, I decided that I was capable of parking in this particular spot. Hey, you can DO this, remember that time you got a participation medal for that cross country race in 6th grade? If you can do that, you can surely do this. Because you’re amazing. 

I had to make a ten point turn to get IN to the space. Slowly but surely, inch by inch, I eased the truck into that Hobbit-sized space. Then I retrieved those dastardly flowers and headed back to the truck. I jumped in the car, backed out, and then, disaster. FU, SH, THAT SUV, I’M TOTALLY GUNNA HIT IT. I jumped OUT of the car, put it in park, and examined the space I had between the back of the truck and the SUV. I stared at it for a solid minute, trying to figure out how to magic the space bigger. Eventually, I gave up my hopes of witchcraft and inched back and forth at least 15 times. I even stopped midway through the backing-out process and thought about what would happen if I just stayed there forever. My body would probably be eaten by rabid dogs and later, after being digested, I would fertilize the earth and maybe a flower would grow. Probably a weed though. At least I am biodegradable. And for about each half inch I moved, I got OUT of the car to make sure I wasn’t going to hit anyone or anything. It took probably 20  minutes for me to back out of there. And when I finally cleared all the obstacles, I waved an American flag and gave myself a pat on the back. It’s the small victories that count.

manatee29

- Daughter

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