Hair Weaves from Hell

vulcan

I was watching a portion of the national evening news this evening, and one of the featured interviews involved a ninety-four-year-old man.  All I can say is that I hope I look that good when I’m his age, assuming I’m still around to poof myself up in front of a mirror, that is.  Not only did he sound reasonably articulate, he also managed both not to drool and or fall asleep during the segment.

And his hair.  My God, his hair.  He sported a full head of jet black locks, as if he had used shoe polish as a dye.

Dude.  Your 94 freaking years old.  There’s no way your hair isn’t gray.  No way.

Why is it that guys who reach a certain age have to undertake such extreme, ridiculous measures to hold onto some fiction of their youth?  Has The Real Housewives perfection desperation migrated to men?

I really don’t know the answer, but the phenomenon of ridiculous-looking elderly men tarted up with unnaturally colored and fully covered noggins seems to be spreading.

It is my understanding that when we grow older and reach a certain age, our hair will turn gray and will slowly thin out — maybe not in that order, but you get the idea.

But it seems that some guys just can’t accept the facts, and the results are often cartoonish shades of black and orange tresses buttressed by a body with a dumpy midsection propelled by feet adorned with white socks and sandals.

Classic AARP mass hysteria.

And I haven’t even mentioned the dreaded comb-overs yet.

For instance, I occasionally have to deal with a very senior guy at work, and I have an extraordinarily hard time even talking to him with a straight face.  Sure, he’s nice enough, but whatever it is on top of his head resembles a giant squirrel’s nest or something.  I half expect to see an acorn drop out, but the rug he wears occupies a solid position within the top ten list for worst hairpieces ever worn by man.

I frequently find myself completely ignoring whatever he’s saying because this voice inside of me keeps yelling, “For God’s sake, man, don’t you see yourself?  Either come clean and go bald, or break out a WeedEater and get that mop into shape!  It’s over-the-top horrible, after all.”

I just can’t take him seriously with that thing on his head.  And if that’s his modus operandi regarding personal appearance, what does it say about how he conducts business — “Yep, we rounded up on that invoice, but we’ll probably round down on the next one.  It will all work out.”

You get the picture.

Generally speaking, I’ve come to terms on a personal level with the ongoing graying and thinning processes.  After all, I think I had my first gray hair in high school, so it’s not like I’m surprised it’s happening.  I’m also determined not to fall prey to the dreaded comb-over zombie attack.

Unless, of course, I want to portray myself as a complete clown and buffoon to the world at large.

But just when I think I’ve got the whole thing figured out, I get surprised.

Not more than four days ago at a fast food joint, there was an elderly gentleman who sported what can only be described as a work of art on his head.  The color was almost natural, but what truly impressed me was the multi-layer comb-over that had a solid cumulus cloud baseline around his ears and was topped with a Greek mantle weave worthy of Zeus himself.  It was classy in a Ron Burgundy sort of way, yet dignified in an Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter sort of way.

In other words, it just worked.

So I guess I have another option to consider taking over the next twenty or thirty years.  Option A remains keep everything close-cropped and neat, since Matt Lauer seems to have popularized that look.

But then there’s Option B.  That would include letting everything grow out in biblical proportions and length, with the idea that with enough brittle stringy hair, anything might be possible.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking dreadlocks.

Plus, there’s the added bonus that it will surely annoy Daughter, as well as my greater family at large.

And that makes it all worthwhile.

- Dad

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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

 

I’m White Hot… in the Insurance Industry

My biggest fan! But seriously, Flo, stop sending my resume to HR - I'm not interested.

My biggest fan! But seriously, Flo, stop sending my resume to HR – I’m not interested.

Maybe they’ve heard through the grapevine that I really like Progressive commercials, maybe they know that I deeply appreciate and am grateful for medical insurance, or maybe they just want a drone to carry out their paperwork – whatever the reason, insurance companies are pursuing me incessantly. Seriously, it’s like some sort of Renaissance-era courting ritual. I’m surprised they haven’t just gone straight to my father for my hand in insurance-marriage. Or written me a ballad. Or gifted me with expensive jewelry while making grand platitudes about my beauty and wit.

"Girl, you iz fine!"

“Girl, you iz fine!”

No, instead of the *proper* method of going about courting me, they’re e-mailing me. Sometimes, multiple times. They keep telling me I’d be great for their “team”. I’m prettttttttyyyyy sure they’ve misunderstood my resume and have no clue what they’d be in for if they hired me. Hypothetically, I’d be a great asset in terms of my ability to communicate like a human – I’m literate and can sometimes participate in small talk without gagging. Retail has also afforded me some vague knowledge of “customer service”.

The recruiters for these companies probably have a good laugh over my statements on my profile that describe my desired job as “writer” and send me a recruitment e-mail half out of pity and half out of genuine interest in hiring me. They know I will be poor and living among the plebes and probably feel like some sort of hero offering me an insurance position.

I know I shouldn’t be complaining because, as we all know from the news, the job market is dismal and we’re all going to die horrible deaths. It’s not that I’m too good to work for an insurance company though, it’s that I actually think that maybe there’s a chance I could write for a living and do what I like instead of shilling life coverage plans? I don’t know, maybe I’m taking crazy pills…

Who knew The Matrix would be so relevant to my life?? I choose the Red Pill! I want to know how far the rabbit hole goes. LET’S ALICE IN WONDERLAND IT UP, GUYS. 

- M

Wisdom Teeth and Other Dental Hijinks

If there’s one thing I would like to avoid in this life, it’s getting surgery. Well, unless I end up living in Beverly Hills and decide that elective rhinoplasty would boost my writing career (because duh!). I guess wisdom teeth surgery is “elective” in that I “elect” to get them out now while I am under the magical umbrella of parental insurance for two more months before I am thrust in the savage world of DIY dentistry… or until I get a job with dental coverage. Anyway, my wisdom teeth have been slowly but surely moving in. And not only that, but there is one in particular that aches with an increasing intensity every single day.

It’s weird because usually I’m complaining about my knees… but now, as I get older, I slowly experience pain in places I would never have even dreamed about!

Ah, but really, I am looking forward to getting these little monsters out.

Not all things dental are bad but when teeth come up in a conversation, more often than not, it is part of a terrifying tale. A drunk girl once came up to me during a party and started babbling at me. I had time to respond a few times in the midst of her stream-of-consciousness  remarks. Apparently, those few seconds were enough time for her to appraise my teeth situation. She suddenly interrupted the already erratic rhythm of our conversation to compliment me: “Your teeth are so pretty and straight! I can tell you’ve had braces.” I replied in the affirmative, thanked her, and thought that that would be the end of it.

But, no.

She went on to say that she, too, had braces but in her living room with her aunt doing the procedure who, she assured me, was not a dentist. It seriously sounded like some backwards medieval level stuff . I just stood there slack-jawed and eyes wide open – not sure of how to react or what to say. Luckily, the girl in question scampered away after this to find the next recipient of her dental horror story.

The teeth are located in the abdomen.

The teeth are located in the abdomen.

Her description of braces was a far cry from what I dreamed about as a kid. I remember coveting every boy and girl for their metal-enhanced mouths in elementary school. I resolved that I, too, would have a mostly synthetic mouth and rubber bands that changed according to my whims.

I was a pretty frumpy elementary school student but even I knew the style potential of braces in the midst of my frump. Braces were like permanent jewelry for your teeth! Ah, yes. My naivete would be shown years later when I actually had them.

I had those fun Invisalign braces (which, by the way, totally not invisible) for the top teeth but my bottom teeth had the traditional metal kind. Man, not that fun!

image (4)

1) Getting hit in the mouth – instant, profuse bloodshed.

2) Popcorn – why did I even try? Seriously bad decision-making.

3) Getting the wires tightened – the wires were like taut guitar strings, except they were in your mouth and instead of music, they made your entire oral cavity quake in fear and pain.

So, in conclusion, I am not looking forward to this next dental adventure. I am looking forward to what sort of fun painkillers they will give me though!*

- M

* In a non-recreational, responsible sense. Of course.

I Guess I’m Not Rich

checkbook

Yesterday was a quiet Sunday morning, and before I entered the maelstrom of afternoon Men’s League soccer refereeing (it’s a war out there), I treated myself to a quiet cup of expensive foo-foo coffee.  Everyone else in the house was either still sleeping or otherwise occupied and couldn’t be bothered to join me.

Just as well.

I grabbed my cup and retreated to the outside patio, which offered a perfect vantage to watch a local, in-progress 100-mile bike race.  I use the word “race” very loosely, as it was distinctly clear to me that many of the participants very rarely biked or even exercised, for that matter.  More than a few stopped at the intersection in front of me, got off their rides, and pretended that they were adjusting some critical component on their ride.

They weren’t fooling me.  I knew they were exhausted and thinking, “How can I possibly get up another hill?” and “Why am I here?”

Their torment made me feel a bit better about myself, since when I sat down and observed the spectacle before me, my first instinct was to beat myself up thusly:  “I should be out there with them, working hard, breaking a sweat, making myself stronger.”

Then when I saw how many people were barely locomoting their bedraggled asses butts along the route, I figured:  “Actually, I’m pretty happy sitting here in the sun watching these guys kill themselves.”

Thoughts (and dispositions) can be fickle.

I then turned my attention to catching up on things via the latest on-line news articles, and more out of sheer government shutdown fatigue than anything else, I clicked on a link that described the four main habits or characteristics of “wealthy” people.

Hmmm,” I thought.  “Let’s see how bad off I really am.”

There was good news and bad news.

According to the link (I guess I should reference it, but all I can remember is that it was somewhere buried on msn.com), I’m actually in fairly decent shape regarding three of the primary points.  That is to say, Wealthy Muggles:

1)  Tend to stay married/in a relationship with one person for a long period of time.

Check.  Approaching twenty-eight years on this one.

I’m thinking if you marry and divorce a lot (whatever that means), it’s a detriment to one’s overall financial health.

2)  Tend to stay in one house/dwelling for a long period of time.

Check.  Approaching fourteen years in this ramshackle modest suburban box, in which something is always broken and needs fixing.

3)  Tend to not spend a lot on expensive cars and things, while saving approximately 20% of what they earn.

Sort of.  I’m not sure about the percentage we save or the other tendencies, which leads me to the Bad News of Point Number Four.

4)  Compared to most everyone else in this country, tend to dedicate three to four times as much energy and time to budgeting, tracking spending, and knowing exactly where all the money is going each month.

Nope.

Oh, I guess we have a general idea, really.

Most of the money around here seems to go to food, gas, and the kids, and not necessarily in that order.

And I think that’s how we’re going to leave it.

Rather than worry about the Habits of the Wealthy, the article made me think of the definition of Wealth itself.  For instance, there was no discussion about whether these sample people with their sample characteristics were happier than any of us Dog Scientists.  Or if they had pets, or watched Downton Freaking Abbey, or gave up watching Major League Baseball in the 1990s.

As my twelve-year-old would say, “Hmmmmm?”

And at the end of the day, you can’t take any of the money with you anyway.  You can spend it while you’re alive or leave it to others, but as my grandmother supposedly used to say, “There are no pockets in shrouds.”

In fact, I began to reminisce about the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and I thought there was a line in there somewhere about happiness and wealth.

After an exhausting Google search, I found the quote: “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.” Clarence the Angel wrote that inscription in the book (Tom Sawyer) he gave to George Bailey.

I may not be wealthy but I’m not a failure, at least by the definition above.  At least two of the cats in this house are friendly to me just about dinnertime.

- Dad

Man, Have Friday Nights Changed!

Ikea%20Meatballs-1730376

Well, I just returned from an exhausting night out on the town.  As I glance up at the clock, I see it’s almost gone half past 8:00 p.m. — perilously close to the Witching Hour (formerly midnight, but now closer to 10:00 p.m. since I can rarely stay awake until twelve these days).

Though I would like to think I am capable of some very Big Lebowski-ish nighttime activities (you absolutely must read the linked post for reference), those days seem to have faded into the mists of time, and tonight was a perfect example of same.

Clubbing?  Nope.

Concert?  Nope.

A nice evening featuring a good meal and even better wine?  Nope and nope.

Wandering around Ikea?  Yeppers.

So, allow me to take you through the minimalistic thought processes that now dominate my gray matter when contemplating this sort of Friday Night Activity:

1)  Should we visit Friday night or anytime Saturday?  Hands down, Friday night.  Lots more parking, and the Urban Ranger clientele who normally prowl the store on Saturdays are absent on Fridays because they are out getting drunk at their obscure, trendy hotspots — you know the ones.  Everyone is wearing black – lipstick, nail polish, clothes, teeth – both females and males.  The music, if you can call it that, consists entirely of bass guitar thumping sounds.

Don’t ask me how I know all this.

2)  It’s a great opportunity to eat Swedish meatballs.  Ingesting these meatballs almost makes the effort to wander the three miles in the store it takes to find the café/restaurant worthwhile.  And I also really appreciate the fact that they give you exactly fifteen meatballs in the combo plate.  That somehow makes me whole.

Love those Swedes.

3)  The customers marching their circuitous routes from department to department remind me of my old self.  Well, that is myself thirty years ago, back when I had an open mind, harbored positive visions for the future, and actually cared about what my bookshelves looked like.  As I people-watched tonight, I saw couples (of many, many different varieties) planning their wonderful futures through furniture and unpronounceable accessories.

At the same time, I was trying to determine the shortest way to the exit through the Ikea showroom maze.

4)  There’s always lingonberries to look forward to.  No matter how crappy my day has been, or how little I care about visiting Ikea, no one can take those lingonberries away from me.

Lingonberry juice.  Check.  Wonderful.

Lingonberry jam.  Nope.  Out of stock.  Again.

Just when I thought everything was going to be okay this evening, or at least tolerable, they deny me the simple pleasure of lingonberry jam.

Damn them.  Damn them to hell.

At this point, I suppose I could write some more about Ikea and, by extension, how brutally sad what’s left of my social life has become, but those meatballs are making me sleepy and it is, after all, after 9:00 p.m.

But rather than turn in for the evening while wallowing in a fairly shallow pool of suburban self-pity, I take heart in an invitation my wife and I received earlier this week:  Some friends of ours suggested we join them for dancing lessons.

On the face of it that sounds somewhat interesting, perhaps even enjoyable.  Of course it would require effort, movement, practice, and a modicum of attention and dedication.

I think the decision to join in or not is better made while eating a warm slice of freshly made bread covered in lingonberry jam, don’t you?

In other words, it ain’t happening anytime soon.

Time to go to bed, now.  Thanks.

- Dad

Playing For Time — It’s Awful.

hospital

I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life the last two weeks visiting either hospitals or medical clinics.

What’s the difference between the two?  Basically, a hospital doesn’t smell as good as a medical clinic, and a medical clinic is always running out of things compared to a real hospital.

No matter.

The hospital where I receive most of my major medical interventions, as they deem necessary, of course, is a bit of an older place, just slightly run down, yet always in some state of renovation.  And the renovators never quite seem to catch up with making the place nice and whole.  As soon as they get one corner squared away, they’re tearing down another.

So I was a bit surprised earlier in the week as I walked up to the main entrance of the place.  Usually there’s a clutter of folks in wheelchairs being shepherded around by family members, and there’s always a few cops loitering around.  I’ve never really seen the security people there do much of anything, except park their vehicles in the handicapped zone out front which makes the real handicapped patients move farther down the curb to unload.

But I’m sure we’re all safer because of the rent-a-cops police presence.

Anyway, as I approached the sliding glass doors at the front, I was met with the sound of keyboard music.

“What’s this?”  I thought to myself.  “They’re now piping Muzak in the lobby to try to make us all feel better than we really do?”

If only that were the case.  As the doors shushed open, a little old lady was planted in the vestibule, sitting in front of an electronic piano, dressed in a shabby caricature of some kind of tuxedo, and banging away on the keys.

She only hit a few wrong notes during the three seconds I walked by.

I guess it was the institution’s attempt to add a little joyousness to the day, but it had the exact opposite effect on me.  For some odd reason, I felt like a prisoner at a concentration camp headed to God Knows Where, receiving a send off from my fellow musician inmates.

I half expected someone in a white lab coat to be waiting ahead, separating the prisoners patients, as appropriate:

“You.  Left.  You.  Left.  You.  Right.”

“Wait a minute.  Why am I going right?  Audiology is to the left.  Please, I want to go to Audiology.  I won’t cause any trouble.”

“You.  Right.  Get the dogs.”

Of course there was no selection, no Sophie’s Choice, but it sure put me in a spooky mood and set the tone for the morning.

Later, after my appointment was finished and I received a relatively clean bill of health, I decided I would take the stairs down from the third floor rather than the elevator.   Might as well get some exercise, I reasoned.

But I vaguely remembered trying the stairs on a previous visit, and I reminded myself they weren’t a straight shot down to the ground floor.  You had to criss-cross a couple of times to different ladderwells before getting spat out at the bottom.

What the heck.  I went for it.  I mean, how lost could I get?

Big mistake.

The next thing I knew I was wandering around the second floor, looking for that elusive express stairwell, when I stumbled into some kind of controlled access area.  Well, it was really more like a holding cell or jail.  There was a pleasant-looking courtyard, except that it was fenced and surrounded by barbed wire.

And then there was the posted sign:  “Danger of Elopement Present.”

What the what?  Where was I?

Wherever I was, it was eerily quiet and deserted.  There were a few lights on in the corridor, but I had a bad feeling I was about to run into an Eloper at any second.

Either an Eloper or Sasquatch.

I tried retracing my steps back while I looked for another stairwell, any stairwell, which I fortunately soon stumbled upon.

Eventually I made it back to the ground floor, and I hurried my little self out of that place as fast as my sore feet would carry me.

The little old lady pianist was still seated in the vestibule, but she was taking a break and talking to one of the inmates patients.

I hopped in my car and departed the parking lot post-hates.

Next stop:  foo-foo coffee.

I figured I deserved some, because even though I really didn’t dodge any sort of bullet that morning, I sure felt like someone was taking aim at me.

Nothing that a little caffeine and a chocolate croissant wouldn’t take care of, however.

- Dad

“We Don’t Have A Dog In That Hunt” and Other Fractured Fairy Tales

pointer

Today I was involved in a very complicated technical discussion at work.  At issue was determining whether we were responsible for a problem that was cropping up regularly with one of our projects and which was subsequently affecting an important customer. 

As the Dog Scientists debated the conditions and parameters that seemed to describe the annoying phenomenon, I listened closely to the details.

Two aspects of the situation quickly became apparent to me. 

First, I had little to no idea what these guys and gals were talking about.  After all, I had difficulty helping my twelve-year-old Daughter (Daughter Number Two) with her “fun” math homework the other night.  I seem to remember giving her advice something along the lines of, “It’s probably better to check with your Mom.”

Second, whatever the real engineering problem at hand today was, it was clearly not due to anything even remotely associated with us.  That much was certain.

After all, I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid.

Thankfully, then, we came to the conclusion it was somebody else’s burden to solve, and we were in the clear.

And to cap off the collective conclusion of non-responsibility, our absolutely awesome project manager (who has bailed me out on countless occasions over the last fifteen months) declared, “We don’t have a dog in that hunt.”

“Yikes!”  I thought to myself.  “Something I actually know something about.  I can make a meaningful contribution to this discussion.  Finally.”

I then commenced to interject my interpretation regarding one of the finer points of Southern colloquialisms. 

“Look.  I feel I have to jump in here and make a correction.  You can’t say, ‘We don’t have a dog in that hunt.’  You can either say, ‘That dog won’t hunt’ or ‘We don’t have a dog in that fight,’ but you can’t mix them up like that.  After all, that would indicate we don’t seem to know what we’re talking about, you know?’

My comment was met by dead silence. 

Oh, well.  I tried.

You see, one of the (many) enduring burdens of my life is that even though I do not possess a Southern Accent or even remotely sound like I hail from below the Mason-Dixon, I did, in fact, spend my formative years in the South, which has (for better or worse) instilled in me something of its sensibility.  

In fact, just this week I was explaining to my new primary care physician, who had just moved here from New Orleans, the Danger Signs I recognized in that area of the country as a young adult and that led me to seeking an “out” before I was sucked into the Black Hole of Comfort there.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, for guys, it was football, nicotine, alcohol, and girls.  And not necessarily in that order.  The average guy in his mid-fifties already looked like he had one foot in the grave.”

“I know,” she responded.  “I definitely saw that there.”

“I guess they thought the short journey was worth the price.  But not for me.  I was determined to leave once I finished school,” I replied.

And leave I did.  

But by sheer happenstance and courtesy of the US Navy, I have spent a good portion of my adult professional life living once again in various locations throughout the South. 

So, I escaped initially but then I returned. 

“Well,” my doctor continued, “You look exactly what I’d imagined a ‘hip’ Southern California guy would look like — you’re wearing shorts and sandals, you look like you’re in shape, and you seem kind of relaxed.”

“Ha,” I thought.  “My family would become catatonic if they heard you describe me like that.”

“I try,” I said. 

And then I headed for the exit and waded into the afternoon Interstate commute home, feeling pretty good about myself.

I guess there’s no real point to this story, other than I realize now I made a fairly large linguistic mistake earlier today.  It turns out that the more I think about it, the better the newly concocted colloquialism sounds to me.

Because the older I get, I find I have fewer dogs involved in any sort of hunt, and for the most part the following accurately describes me today:  I don’t have a dog in most fights; I don’t have a dog that hunts; and, especially, I don’t have a dog in that hunt.

After all.  Look at him.

There's only room for one sheriff in this town.

I don’t fight, and i certainly don’t hunt.  But I do eat cat food and cat poop.

- Dad

There Is Crying in Soccer!

cry

And a lot of it.

Ask me how I know, and I’ll tell you the story.  But it’s not all that sad.

It just is.

Here goes.

For reasons not altogether completely clear to me, there seems to be an unending shortage of soccer referees around here these days.

Upon further reflection, I really think I do have a relatively good idea why there are problems in this area:  Referee Abuse — from parents and coaches and players.

But mainly from coaches and players.

It’s gotten so bad that many of the younger refs we’re trying to nurture along simply get so intimidated early on that they abandon the pursuit and turn their attentions elsewhere to less demanding climes.

In my case, I’m so old and curmudgeonly that I pretty much don’t care what kind of things are verbally launched in my direction.  Plus, I can’t hear most of what’s said anyway, so I kind of works out in the end.

But this post is not about the greater ill affecting the game.  It’s about the symptom — the ongoing shortage.

Over the past weekend we were collectively facing the dilemma of not being able to source and assign enough referees for all the available games here in my region.  So in a fit of misplaced selflessness, I volunteered my services on Saturday, already knowing I had been assigned some terribly difficult games Sunday morning that would require all my strength reserves and resolve to complete.

The only condition I made to my assignor for Saturday, should he need me, was not to put me on any sort of demanding games in the afternoon, lest I be rendered so tired and unfit I would be unable to rise from my slumber and work the next day’s assignments.

Accordingly, he paid attention to my warning and gave me three little kids’ games to handle — Under 7 and Under 8 Year Olds.

No problemo, man!  I can help you out!

But then I realized I hadn’t done these types of games in years and, sometimes, the parents at that level can be horrendous.

No matter.  I was “taking one for the team” because, after all, without me, there would be no games at all.

Not really.  I’m fairly sure my assignor could have put his hands on some other schmuck, but I can be delusional when the situation warrants.

As it turned out, most of my time on Saturday was spent teaching the two new assistant referees working the games with me the finer points of soccer.  The instruction went something like the following:

“How long have you been refereeing?” I innocently asked.

“This is my second weekend,” answered one.

“And you?” I hazarded to the other.

“Third weekend, but I have a good understanding of all the rules.”

Okay,” I thought.  “At least I won’t have to work so hard on that one.”

Wrong-O.  My “experienced” guy soon proved he had no understanding that being an assistant referee required one to move up and down the sideline, even (gasp) occasionally run.

This was going to be a longish afternoon, clearly.

Then there were the little happy-go-lucky players themselves.

They didn’t stand a chance out there.

They were subjected to a constant and unending barrage of “encouragement” from their parents and erstwhile coaches.  And from their real coaches, too.

To label the atmosphere as confusing would be akin to comparing this blog post to Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

It don’t toll for thee, dude.

In the midst of the audio bombardment, an attempt was made by a few to play some soccer.  However, more time was spent re-doing throw-ins and chasing down errant balls than anything else.

Then came the crying.

Some of it was understandable.  Here and there a player took a soccer ball to the face or the stomach, or simply tripped.

Oh, that’s right.  I forgot.  We also experienced many stoppages of play for shoelace tying.  These kids were as bad at that at playing soccer.

But back to the crying.

Outside of the normally explainable instances, there were other, unique events.

The first involved a little boy who couldn’t figure out which side of the center line to stand on before the kick-off occurred.  The more he was “encouraged,” the worse his immobility became.  He was glued to that piece of turf, and I suppose he figured things couldn’t get any worse if he just hung tight there.

But then his resolve started to crumble and the tears began to flow.

I had had enough  of this scene and stepped in to help out the little bugger player, since everyone else was screaming at him.

I crouched down next to him, told the sideline to zip it, and just talked to him in the calmest, most reassuring voice I could muster.  The problem was, I really didn’t know what to say.

So I just made it up.

“You don’t need to cry.  No one is mad at you.”

More tears.  Trembling lips.

“All you need to do is stand on the other side of the line here, and life goes on, kid.”  I didn’t really say the second part.

“You’re just out here to have fun.  Don’t worry about them talking to you.”

I gently maneuvered him to the correct position, and the world started spinning again, and the salty discharge quickly evaporated.

Until the next incident.

Two little boys starting a teensy tiny shoving match.  Nothing much to it, really, but I needed to get them to knock it off before somebody decided to bite someone else.

“You, two.  Come here.  Both of you.”

My summons was met by the classic “if I pretend to look away, then he’s not talking to me” feint, but they soon got the message and frighteningly approached me.

“Look, you two should be having fun.  I want you to knock it off and stop. . . “

Then the tears began to flow.

“He started it first (sob),” and so on.

I had to calm down these tykes quickly or half the field might erupt in waves of sorrow.

“Guys.  I’m not mad at you.  You just need to stop shoving each other.  You’re supposed to be having fun out here.  Now no more pushing, okay?”

I had to give the one kid a hug in order to prevent a total meltdown.

I’m a bad man.  A very bad man to cause such pain.

After the games were complete, I sat on a bench at the end of the field, packing up my stuff for the drive home.  I was more hot than tired, and more thirsty than hungry.

And though I hardly ran at all, my feet hurt.

So much for selflessness.

But then a couple of parents passed by on the way to the parking lot and commented on how well they thought I handled the kids out there.

Okay.  Feeling a bit better now.

I guess I wish all crying were so easy to stop, but I do keep a lint roller handy because I never know when I’m going to be herding cats, or little kids.

- Dad

Well-Behaved Women Never Made History

katharine-hepburn-6-the-philadelphia-story

Ah, children.

Their ability to take the finest parental notions and twist them to meet their own needs knows no boundaries.

Take my own Daughter.*

Please.

After spending countless hours and thousands of dollars researching, saving for, and funding one of the finest university educations we could afford (at a foo-foo Lesbian Cult College, no less), it has all come back to haunt me.

But first, a little context is definitely in order.

As the father of two girls (we also have a son, but he doesn’t figure into this particular diatribe), I am well aware of the pitfalls they will face in this male-dominated world of ours.  In my simple Muggle mind, I calculate I have exactly two options regarding their preparation for life outside of the family home:

1)  Nurture, encourage, coax, and beat it into them to think for themselves, and become independent and strong.

2)  Buy a burka and call it a day.

That simple, homespun formula success for Daughter fortunately included a post-secondary education that focused on the developing Strong Minds and Strong Bodies.  I was somewhat heartened to note the abundance seemingly “leftist” feminine bumper stickers that adorned many of the vehicles around campus.  Yes, there were a few “Imagine Whirled Peas,” but there were also many “Well Behaved Women Never Made History” ones, too.

“Yes, this place will be good for Daughter,” I thought.  “When she’s finished here, she’ll be well-equipped to handle herself, even when I’m no longer around.” (Sobbing sound added for effect here, please.)

I suppose a few cracks began to appear in the foundation during our Road Trips (read any of those blogs for reference), when it began to become clear that common sense navigation was impossible without the assistance of an iPhone app — “The Starbucks is supposed to be right here!  It’s right here on GoogleMaps.  I don’t know where it is.  Let’s just keep going.”

You know.  That kind of thing.

So lately, Daughter has taken it upon herself to lower her standards somewhat while she stalks around the house.  Her recent references to etiquette notwithstanding, she occasionally descends into behavior more suited for an “All Men Are Pigs Locker Room” than the family living room.

And her excuse?

Well-behaved women never made history.

Repetitive belching?  No, that’s too polite.  Mega-Burping?

“Well-behaved women never made history, Dad.”

General cleanliness and helping out around the house?

“Well-behaved women never made history, Dad.”

Passing gas (some children do read this blog), in public (in the home).

“Well-behaved women never made history, Dad.”

Keeping her car clean?

“Well-behaved women never made history, Dad.”

Okay.  I get it.

When I was her age, I literally couldn’t imagine any sort of fate worse than having to move back home with my parents.  After all, it was very difficult trying to explain to my mom on Saturday afternoon why there was a completely frozen can of beer in the freezer (left over from the night before).

No one needs that kind of grief.

But there is one saving grace in this entire dilemma, and I keep reminding myself of it.

That is, though well-behaved women never made history, neither did well-behaved men.

Therefore, I have license, at a minimum, to walk around without a shirt, wear my shorts hiked up as high as I deem fit, and act like a Visigoth whenever the mood suits me.

Kids.

Don’t you just love ‘em?

- Dad

*(Daughter Number One, not Daughter Number Two — she has her own issues, after all.)

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

What Price Bounty?

quarter

I’m always struck by two characteristics of my personal “adult” world that very greatly from those of my extreme childhood.

The first is that I never, ever remember seeing any raptors (eagles, hawks, etc.) growing up, even though we frequented many areas on the east coast that should have featured them (and I was always looking, believe me).  Today, whether it’s because of the decades-old ban on DDT (look it up, Daughter) or the fact we now live in Southern California, I see raptors all over the place, every day!  It’s awesome!

The second is how frequently and often I find money during the course of my daily travels.  As a youngster who was perennially short of funds, the search for random bits of change was something of a part-time obsession.  And it was almost never requited.  But when I did come across that penny, it was magic.  Sure, I might only accumulate seven cents during an entire year, but it kept me going.  By contrast, it’s actually rare that a day goes by now when I don’t find some loose change out in the world somewhere.

Of course the foregoing completely ignores the more dramatic real history moments that have happened in the last four or five decades, like going to the moon, cell phones, wars, famines, iPads, etc., but it’s my timeline, so I get to choose.

Anyway, at some point quite awhile ago, I believe it was my Lovely Spouse who came up with the notion that the coinage I come upon is really a reflection of God’s Bounty.  Actually, it was my Spouse channeling Dr. Wayne Dyer, but I like the notion anyway.

I always pick up that stray penny or dime because part of me also thinks that it would be a Sin not to do so.

So how does Whole Thing work on a Practical Muggle Basis?  It certainly has its upside and downside.  On the positive, there are plenty of days on which God shows His or Her Bounty to me.

Lots.

Rarely are substantial sums in play, although I did find a little over twenty-four bucks at the theater a couple weeks ago.  But sometimes, it does seem other factors are at work.

Case in point.  Several years ago now, Daughter spent a summer far away in Ghana volunteering at an orphanage.  One evening, not long after she arrived in country, I was happily walking DandyDog here around our neighborhood on one of our regular rounds.  About midway through, I spied a large coin on the sidewalk ahead of me.  When I reached down and picked it up, I discovered it was not American — it was a Ghanian cedi.

Was it a sign that Daughter was being watched over?  I tend to think so.  Nothing ever remotely similar has happened before or since.

But sometimes, if God’s Bounty has not been apparent for several days running, I have a tendency to get a little worried.  Have I been abandoned?  Am I being punished for drinking a real non-diet soda?  Is the world about to end?

Since I’m rarely clear regarding the details of the Universe Master Plan, I just redouble my efforts to see and find God’s Bounty.

To wit, on Friday morning on my way to work, I was stopped at a traffic light that is positioned just before a main thoroughfare out of our little subdivision.  As I was dreading plotting planning my day of work, I glanced outside the car to my left and there was a shiny quarter lying in the road next to the median yellow stripes.  I did a quick calculation and thought I could just open the door, step out and retrieve the Bounty, and get back in before the light changed.  And there wasn’t much traffic behind me.

Well, I thought about it a little too long, and I failed to grasp the moment before it was gone and I was swept up with all the other Muggle Commuters headed to the office.

I was bummed.  After all, does it still count as God’s Bounty if you don’t actually pick it up?  I was left with that question to ponder all day.

I made a point to check to see if was still there when I drove by on the way home, but I didn’t see anything.  But because I was going a little too fast to conduct a really good scan, I rolled by again yesterday to take a closer look.  (This Bounty search can get a little out of hand sometimes.)

Nothing.  It was gone.  Bummer.

But wait, there’s more.

As I left the house late yesterday, I looked down when I opened the front door and there lay a shiny quarter, right on our threshold.  Admittedly, there’s a lot more loose change scattered around this house than the average residential street, but still . . . .

It looked as if the Universe was back in alignment, if only for a short spell.

Well, this morning I had an early Sunday meeting with a friend of mine for coffee.  As it so happened, my route took me by the site of the “lost quarter.”

Guess what?  It was still there — just shifted a bit to the middle of the median and almost invisible to the average passerby.  Since it was quiet and the streets empty, I quickly slipped out and picked it up.

God’s Bounty.

The Order of the Universe has been preserved.

At least for today.

- 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 Hate Tom Petty, Man!

images

Well, not really.  But I’ve never been that big a fan either.

Why does this matter?

It doesn’t.

But let me indulge in a bit of semi-ancient history for context.

Go into the Rumpus Room, wherever that’s located in your abode, and grab your kid’s “Rocky and Bullwinkle Wayback Machine.”  Set the year to 1972 (or earlier, if the mood suits you), and retreat to the days of mechanical remote control televisions, pinball machines with real (not electronic) pinballs, and vinyl LP records.

For some unknown reason (okay, it was money) during these times, it was possible to buy complete collections of rock music through various “Sounds Like. . .” albums.

You say you couldn’t afford The Beatles Alpha and Omega collection (which was in itself a kind of TV bootleg)?  No problem, mon.  You could afford Sounds Like The Beatles Alpha and Omega.  Or Sounds Like the Bee Gees, or Sounds Like — you get the picture.

Commercials for these types of records filled the pre-million channel cable universe between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.  They were sandwiched between commercials for Veg-a-Matic and other strangely attractive appliance-like kitchen devices.

And if you had the misfortune to actually possess and play one of these records, the experience was, well, different.  Much of the time the music bore a passable resemblance to the real band’s namesake, especially if it was late at night when played, alcohol was involved, and your stereo featured really crappy Radio Shack speakers — the classic trifecta.

You could close your eyes and almost believe you were listening to the real thing, and saved a ton of money in the process, until the lead singer hit that one slightly off note, or a guitar riff just missed — and the whole deal came crashing down around your ears.

You realized somewhere deep in your soul your cheapness had won out and true musical fidelity belonged to others.

Deja-vu for me tonight, my friends.

I was dragged gleefully accompanied my family to a free “family friendly” outdoor concert at a park nearby our Muggle Subdivision.  It was a beautiful, cool sunny afternoon, and we found a pleasant shady spot to set up our folding chairs and much our Subway sandwiches.

All was going well until the band started to play.  I guess I should have known something was up because they were introduced by a Park Ranger.

“Thanks for coming, folks.  The show will get started six minutes.  The music of Tom Petty will be featured.  I hope you enjoy, and be sure to pick up the trash around your picnic area before you leave.”

Yep.  That will get the crowd going!

All the band members appeared to be somewhere on the backside of forty, and my DandyDog sheds more hair on a daily basis than the musicians on stage wore on the tops of their collective heads.

Nor were any of them conducting any serious athletic training between gigs, apparently.

But two of the guys had really nice flowered shirts.

I didn’t even vaguely recognize their first number, and it was only the third song that triggered any old Top Forty memories.  But I didn’t remember the title.

By then, two or three people had walked up to the grassy area in front of the stage and had begun to make movements that gave the impression of dancing.  Then several more joined them.

And before we knew what was happening, ten people were dancing.  This, out of a crowd of perhaps, one thousand.  And at least six of the dancers were over the age of four.

This was getting almost wild.

Until the lead singer wailed again.  Tom Petty he wasn’t.

I suppose if I closed my eyes really tight, had about six more beers, and took out both my hearing aids, then he could have passed for Mr. Petty.

As it was, this band was somewhere in the Tom Petty Universe, but nowhere close to the Tom Petty Solar System.

As we packed up to go — “Do you want to leave early and beat the traffic?” — I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in The Big Lebowski,” when The Dude is being kidnapped by a taxi driver who has a song by the Eagles playing on the car radio.

In the midst of the drama he shouts, “Come on, man. I had a rough night and I hate the f****’ Eagles, man!”

If I didn’t hate Tom Petty before today, I almost do now.

But I am determined to find that elusive (and real) Alpha and Omega album stashed somewhere in our house.  And I have a really good idea where it’s hiding.

I would bet a paycheck it’s somewhere near my Matchbox Cars, wherever they are.

- Dad

I Guess I Should Write About My Birthday

cake

Not the one yesterday, of course.  That went just fine, thank you.  Two hours at the office, five hours at the golf course, and an hour at a restaurant accompanied by the female remnants of my family.

The highlight of the meal was the following exchange with the server.

Me:  “When she (Daughter) ordered, did she use the term ‘slab of meat’ when referring to her selection?”

Server:  “Yes.  Yes, she did.”

You see at some point I have to hold Daughter accountable for her random declarations of factual intent — “I’m not hungry, but I’ll go out with you since it’s your birthday” — which, last night, was almost immediately followed by her literally inhaling a steak in about three minutes.

I probably took as much pleasure watching her eat a hearty meal (of crow) as I did ingesting my own tasty selection.

It’s a low bar, I know, but I’m comfortable with it.

You see, as far as I’m concerned, as I age I really try to appreciate that fact that an awful lot of folks in this world don’t make it to their mid-fifties.  Far fewer are still able to run, play basketball, referee soccer, and enjoy treating their families to biting, sarcastic humor on a daily basis.

A long time ago I came to the conclusion that living past a certain age (you can fill in the blank here) is a privilege, and I try to remember that.

So what if I can’t hear worth a crap these days?  I’m not interested in most stuff directed to me anyway, and as a bonus, losing my hearing really annoys the hell sh heck out of my family members.

But let me spend a moment relating a few birthday experiences from some of the formative years of my extreme youth.

I don’t really remember doing anything extraordinarily special on these occasions.  Many of my friends had “cool” parties, with activities like sitting in jet planes (father was in the Air Force), or visiting a National Park (father was a Cub Scout Master), or visiting an exclusive club to go swimming in their pool (father was an exclusive club member).

In comparison, if my Mom was feeling really ambitious, she would organize a trip to the bowling alley.  More commonly, however, we would hang around the house and play some cheesy games at home, before breaking out the birthday cake and ripping open presents.

It was fine.  Really.

But most of my birthdays as a kid featured one consistent hallmark:  I would usually inadvertently break or destroy a favorite present at some point during the day.  For instance, I used to be a Matchbox Car Fiend (MCF).  So much so that I still have my stash hidden around the house somewhere today — it’s really hidden well because I have no idea where the cars are right now — but I do have them.

Guaranteed.

I can remember receiving several Matchbox Cars one birthday, and before the day was done I had accidently sat on two of them, causing a lot of permanent damage.

And then there was that other birthday when I received a really neat sectioned bamboo fishing pole that came in its own carrying case!  I was so proud of that one that I slung it over my shoulder, hopped on by bike, and rode up the street to show one of my friends.  About halfway there — you guessed it — the whole thing somehow became entangled in the rear wheel and was shattered — as was my fragile youthful psyche.

Interestingly, the innate inability to keep any personal possession intact and undamaged has haunted my to this day, in various forms.  All my cars have dents, my clothes tend to get stained rather easily, and I seem to be fighting a losing battle keeping our house in somewhat decent shape, as all the subsystems here are somewhere in the process of completely failing.

It’s a life.

However, one of the benefits of Middle Age and Getting Older is that most things that used to bother me just don’t that much anymore (except for morons, in all their permutations).

It’s not that I don’t care.  It’s that very few things Muggles tend to get upset about are really important in the end.

So what is important to me, you might wonder?

Well, for starters, finding that damn Matchbox Car collection.

Because I know if my hearing is really starting to go, my mind is soon to follow.

And that’s something to look forward to, as well.

Just think about how annoying I will be to everyone around me when I can neither hear nor think!

Nirvana.

- Dad

Job Applications Make Me Weird(er)

I’ve been halfheartedly sending out job applications as of late. Not with my full heart because, well, I don’t think employers necessarily want somebody who can’t work for another four months because she’s in school. I mean, I might be wrong about that but I’m preeeetty sure I’m right. Nonetheless, I’ve been applying to jobs like it’s my job.

I do not space out these applications; I binge-apply to every company I vaguely approve of as a long-term option in a time window from 1am-4am. It is in this three-hour period that the genius flows through me and I think up the most wonderful cover letters and resume ideas.

So, there I was the other night, happily applying to jobs at two in the morning when suddenly, I read one of the job application requirements a bit closer: “send a handwritten letter about optimism to such-and-such in San Francisco”. Oh, man. This is going to be soo good. I tried to be very sincere in my letter and came up with what I thought was a great symbol for what optimism was to me in my life: my bedazzled cast.

This is not a photo, it’s actually a drawing. I know it’s hard to tell because of my art skillz.

I wrote about the time period in college when three out of four of my limbs were broken simultaneously and somehow threaded in optimism in there. And, you know what? I sure was optimistic. I survived looking like a Transformer for three months. And I think what got me through it were those rhinestones shining into my eyes every time I walked outside. How can you be sad when your arm is a veritable Claire’s store*? How can you be down when a little piece of the sun is permanently affixed to you? How can you be depressed when God himself never created something so beautiful as what you created on your arm? Answer: you can’t.

Or at least, that’s what I argued in my letter. Now that I think about it, I should have added a tiny rhinestone to my letter. Oh well, I did think to include a picture of my cast with all of its bedazzles with the caption: “This is what optimism looks like”. Honestly, I think there is a pretty small chance that I will snag this job in SF but somewhere in that city, the editor-and-chief of that publication will chuckle to himself as he is blinded by the picture of my cast.

NOBODY CAN TAKE AWAY MY SPARKLE.

- Daughter

* Because this is a reference Dad won’t get: Claire’s is a store that shills cheap jewelry to gullible preteens, such as myself… ten years ago.

Men Are Pigs

sign

And I’m one of them!

Over the past several weeks I’ve been meaning to write a post about the unfortunate wildly common public behavior known as littering.   I just couldn’t put my finger on the appropriate trigger incident, from which all of my posts meander along.  I chalked up my inability to get this theme on virtual paper because the act itself (trashing) is just something that goes against a deep-seated gene in my DNA.

I liken it to leaving food on my plate.  From my earliest memory, that was drilled into my cranium as a mortal sin.

Yep:  “Finish those peas (or beets, or squash, or kale [for God's sake, kale?]).  There are children starving in India.”

Though I was mostly able to abide by this dictum, I still have an image of my brother, sitting alone at the dining room table in front of his plate, with the lights turned off, abandoned by all.

I guess that showed him!

Anyway, somewhere in the deep recesses of my psyche, the notion of people acting badly was circulating.

Then it happened, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  And a little background is in order first.

In the nondescript office building where I work, we share common restrooms with the other Muggle Worker Drones who inhabit the hive.  Of course, I utilize the Men’s, though I’ve heard the Women’s is very nice.

I’m going to make some very broad generalizations here, based on my years of experience visiting and spending time in public and semi-public men’s restrooms (Whoa, what are those?) over the years.  In general, apparently most guys feel they have complete license to act like pigs behind those closed entrance way and stall doors.

Guys?  Know what I’m talking about here?

Used and unused paper towels all over the place, all manner of stains and detritus in the sinks, and the smell.

Lord, the smell.

At this point I would like to make the distinction between locker room protocol and restroom rules.  In a locker room, I think it’s a generally accepted notion that there are very few things that are considered out-of-bounds:  brushing teeth, shaving, conducting various acts of personal hygiene, walking around buck-necked (or not) — pretty much no one is going to bat an eye.  In fact, most everyone averts their eyes and attempts to pretend they are talking to someone who is fully clothed and not leaving a puddle of sweat at their feet.

On the other hand, the decorum in a restroom is altogether different.  Sure, you can take care of bodily functions, but that other stuff I just mentioned is, for the most part, out-of-bounds.  It’s just not done.

So it was with great displeasure last week when I walked into the restroom at work and was met by someone plastered in front of the mirror doing something to his face.  Worse, he continued his activity even though I had made my entry behind him.

Bad form, dude.  That’s simply not done.  The correct procedure, upon realizing you are now sharing the space, would be to stop the activity immediately, pretend as if you were doing something else, then wash your hands, and leave.

Sure, you are free to return once I’ve departed, but please be considerate of those around you.

Oh, I forgot.  All men are pigs and what goes on in the trough, stays in the trough.

Not really.

Well, this guy clearly last week clearly hadn’t taken the time to educate himself, because he just kept at it, oblivious to my presence.

What was I supposed to do?

There I was, minding my own business (and doing it, too), and staring at a stupid sign some other Nameless Muggle had taped above the urinals (pictured above).

That’s right.  It seems that many guys have a problem with their aim.

If you stop and think about it, of all the things in this world that men should and shouldn’t be good at, “aiming” should be one of their better talents because it is practiced so frequently.

Oh, I’m here to tell you that it’s simply not true, and I don’t know why.

Well, maybe I do, but it’s too gross to contemplate, much less discuss.

Anyway, I finished up and went to the basin to wash my hands.

The guy was still at it.

I averted my eyes, grabbed a couple of paper towels, and high-tailed it out of there.

But I did make a vow to return and right the wrong I had witnessed.

Of course I’m not referring to the universally bad behavior of men in restrooms.

Nope.

The sign above the urinal needs a comma after the introductory phrase.  I plan on inking one in.

After all, we may be pigs, but some of us still watch Masterpiece Theater.

- Dad

Reflections: Backpacking, Day 3

Ah yes, where was I?

Day 3.

I woke up and immediately felt that there was something wrong. The fibers of my being tingled with the anticipation of horror. And I would not be disappointed. Well, I was disappointed but not for lack of horror. As I rubbed my eyes in the wee hours of the morning, I caught errant food wrappers blowing in the wind. Hm, those food wrappers look very familiar. 

I walked out of my friend’s tent that I had been sleeping in (from the night before when I was too terrified of the bison and the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse traipsing through camp) and saw that my backpack appeared askew and suspiciously empty.

It took a few seconds of basic deductive skills but then I realized what had happened and ran to my backpack to confirm my suspicions.

Yep. All of my food: gone.

THOSE DAMN FOXES. I had thought they were so adorable and cute the day before but now I wanted to make nice little fox muffs out of them.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but I am a high-maintenance eater through a poor grab-bag of genetics that happened when I was conceived – THANKS MOM AND DAD. I am allergic to gluten and dairy and thus, mostly subsist on dairy-free and gluten-free items made by hippies. It also tends to double as bird food. And, as was the case during this backpacking trip, fox food. The point is, my special diet (or “funny diet” as my friend puts it) is expensive. I lost twenty dollars worth of food in one go. My wallet just made a sad face when I typed that out.

The foxes ate well, I can assure you. They went into my bag with their muddy little paws and just ran off with the entire bag of food. Yeah, I hear all you backpacking experts yelling at me, “ROOOOOKIE MISTAKE!! AHAHAHA YOU DESERVED IT, DUMMY.”

Well, at the other campsite, I tied my food away from where I was sleeping in a tree. In my sleepless delirium and bison-induced terror, I had forgotten to put my food into a safe area. Or, as we all saw that morning, into the FOOD LOCKERS on the other side of the campsite. Ah, well. Because I would starve otherwise, I had to make the entire camping group trek to the airport again so I could get a few things to tide me over. The whole time I was swearing about those stupid foxes and their stupid scavenging ways.

Then, a little later, I remembered how cute foxes are and got less mad. They were just doing their job of being sneaky little foxes and my gluten-free food probably fed a newborn fox. So, good job me!!!!! I fed foxes. I hope they got poisoned and die.

JUST KIDDING. I love animals. They’re probably fine, guys. Let’s get back to who was truly affected here: ME.

We made it to the airport restaurant at which point I ate something that tripped one of my allergy wires and immediately felt ill. Unfortunately, on the trail, there is no room for whining so I ate 45132434 TUMS and carried on. Plus, I knew I could come back and whine on my blog.

Finally, we arrived at our final campsite after 32 ish miles of mountain hiking and I set up my tent. My knee had ballooned to three times its normal size and I had to have my friend act as my crutch. Other people on the island seemed concerned that I was limping around like an injured prey animal but I waved them off. Secretly, I was crying inside because I was in so much pain. I couldn’t bend my knee so I got some help putting up my tent and went inside to rest. I decided that my food would only be safe if I slept with it in my pillow. WRONG. I should have just gone back to my wisdom of Day 1 and tied it in a tree.

During the night, a single fox came up to the tent. I was asleep and then I heard slow, shuffling feet coming close to me. I opened my eyes and saw a small shape outside of  my tent and immediately grabbed my flashlight; it was a stupid fox!! And when I shined my flashlight at it, it looked at me like, “LOLWUT?” I had to hiss at it to make it go away. (I’m not sure why that was my instinctive anti-fox noise, it just came out.) However, a few minutes later, it was back and this time I yelled at it and it scampered off. Then, I set my flashlight up so it would partly illuminate the area outside my tent. I thought this would be a deterrent. And it was! For foxes, anyway.

Not more than twenty or so minutes of drifting into a light sleep, I heard a mewing noise. My ears pricked up because any cat-like sound attracts my attention. I shined my flashlight and a deer was just walking through the campsite and looked as if it were on its way to my tent. So I shooed it away. DAMN, NATURE, GET AWAY.

Have I mentioned how nice it is to be in a place where the wildest animal I have to deal with is my father?

- Daughter

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 

 

Insomnia: Smoke Alarm Chinese Water Torture

I have problems sleeping and I’ve written about it before. It is one of the most irritating feelings in the world lying awake at night knowing you have to get up in five hours and being unable to sleep. It must be similar to what Lindsay Lohan feels like when her drug dealer dies and she has to find a new one – grumpy and restless. However, I thought that I’d gotten over my problem. I thought that maybe I found the right combination of activities and habits to make bedtime something I looked forward to rather than something I actively dread.

I’m more like a toddler when faced with the prospect of going to bed now: “I DON’T WANT TO. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME. NO. NOPE. NO. I’M GUNNA STAY UP FOREVER.”

Yesterday, I took all my normal precautions to avoid insomnia: I exercised for an hour, I sat outside in the sun for a while, I read before turning off the light, and I took one of my mom’s herbal remedies for sleeplessness (it also gives me magical powers).

It was all for naught.

The first problem occurred when my fan malfunctioned. I cannot sleep without background noise. My preferred background noise is provided by a tower fan. It’s just loud enough to block out any weird creaking my house makes at night but soft enough to allow me to sleep. But, it has developed a very high-pitched, intermittent squeak. I tried to ignore it but it was too much.

I got out of bed and turned off the fan. The deafening silence that ensued was better than the squeak but then the silence gave way to dogs barking, cats meowing, various forest creatures walking in the yard, birds tweeting, the house creaking and settling, and the wind rustling the plants and trees outside.

2 sleep

This symphony of the night was not conducive to sleep. Exacerbating the problem was my paranoia that every unexplained sound was an ax murderer who was outside of my window, peering in, waiting for his chance to strike. I started to get anxious thinking about all the different ways a person could break into my house and kill me. I would literally jump and have a mini heart attack each time something resembling a sound occurred.

Eventually, the sounds dissipated. Ah, problem solved. BUT NO. PLOT TWIST. The silence that occurred thereafter made my ears ring. I started listening to my own breathing and thinking about horrible things that happen in very quiet moments in horror films. Oh, great. Yeah, I’m definitely not sleeping ever again. 

3 sleepEventually, I got tired enough that the silence was almost soothing and I felt the sweet relief of sleep come over me like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night or a nutella crepe.  Unfortunately, a piercing beep occurred at the moment just before unconsciousness. The smoke alarm had chosen that moment to say, “BATTERY’S DEAD, FOLKS!!! LET ME PLAY YOU THE SONG OF MY PEOPLE.”

It was incredibly loud and beeped every thirty seconds. The predictability was insanity-inducing. I would have a build-up of anxiety as I waited for the beep and then a small release of tension when the horrible noise filled my ears and echoed in my cerebellum.

image (11)

 

My mom got up at one point and I thought it was because of the smoke alarm. But it was just because the dog needed to go outside. She  walked into the hallway where I was under the impression she would attempt to dismantle the alarm but instead, she walked into her bedroom – clearly intent on making me suffer through my insomnia-induced madness.

I crept into the living room and shut the door. It blocked out the assaulting noise of the smoke alarm. The Mama Cat, who normally hates me and ESPECIALLY hates when I wear fuzzy socks, followed me out and kept me company as I finally, FINALLY fell asleep on the couch.

5 sleep Where I slept until noon. Naturally.

6 sleep

 

- Daughter

 

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

Bar Stories: What is Wrong with Us?

On Saturday night, I went out with two of my friends to celebrate their successful completion of college in four years. (More than I could do, ladies! Cheers to you!) I agreed to be the Designated Driver because I wanted my friends to drink while I soberly judged their life decisions as they grew more and more inebriated. We were all excited to be together and have a good night.

I slathered on some make-up to create the illusion that I am a beautiful Greek sculpture just radiating natural female beauty. Then, I put together an outfit that I am pretty sure made me look like a three-year-old but I was too lazy to pick out another outfit.

Maybe she's born with it.. but maybe she's actually a statue.

Maybe she’s born with it.. but maybe she’s actually a statue.

I curled my notoriously difficult hair and the results were so-so. Some curls were Shirley Temple status but other “curls” only had a pathetic kink in their otherwise straight orientation. The lack of uniformity in my curls was not going to stop me though! Thank goodness for dark lighting in bars.

We went to a rooftop bar that we had been to previously and waited in line with the teeming masses. After a relatively short wait, we took the elevator to the roof. When the doors closed, a fellow bar patron asked what floor it the ROOFTOP bar was on.

I couldn’t help myself and answered, “The rooftop bar is on the fourth floor. Duh.”

The guy was a good sport and cleverly deduced that the rooftop bar was probably the highest floor and pressed the correct button. Both of my friends basically melted from embarrassment and probably wished they had chosen a friend who could be trusted in public places.

As we moseyed through the bar, we set up shop in a place where we thought people would approach us and engage us in witty conversation. We sat down on some barstools and chatted amongst ourselves happily. However, when we turned around, the once-crowded space of which we partly occupied was completely cleared out. You could practically hear crickets.

But we would not be deterred! We went to another part of the bar and again, chattered away among ourselves but not more than five minutes later, we cleared out THAT section of the bar, too.

The three of us thought that the first time had been a mere coincidence but twice seemed to be pushing it. We each took a few minutes to make sure that we were not emitting some terrible smell or had somehow gotten tattooed with Nazi insignia without our knowledge. Alas, no. Nothing of the sort.

We decided that if we cleared out another part of the bar, we would just call it a night and leave. So, we carefully chose a place where we were close to lots and lots of people. But wouldn’t you know it, not five minutes later AGAIN, we cleared out that particular section of the bar.

Now, I know you’re asking, “Why didn’t they just go up to people and talk to them?” Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with this as I enjoy talking to strangers because I like people these interactions make for great blog posts. But let me tell you, people gave off DON’T-TALK-TO-ME vibes that night and there were crowds of people, yes, but they were chatting in closed circles. I wasn’t about to tunnel my way through these close-knit circles and then pop up in the middle and exclaim, “TALK TO ME, MY PEOPLE!” As much as I may have wanted to.

It was at this point that we left but we wanted to salvage the night. So we tried one more bar. And wouldn’t you know it, it happened again. And so, only two hours into the night, we headed home, defeated.

We told ourselves that weird people were out that night and it was just an “off” night. We tried to console ourselves that we were cool and nice and friendly but it was no use, we hung our heads in defeat.

Can’t win them all.

- Daughter

Wax On, Wax Off… Not a Motto Applicable to Eyebrows

During the last four months of college, I completely neglected my eyebrows and other facial hair. I had nobody to impress, after all. But when I came back to San Diego, I felt like a lowland gorilla. I was a few days away from being followed around by Jane Goodall. It was a serious situation.

Before waxing appointment.

Before waxing appointment.

Luckily, my mom came to the rescue and gave me the business card of her trusted eyebrow lady. I went to the appointment relaxed and ready to say goodbye to my faint mustache and unibrow. I’m not Frida Kahlo so I don’t feel like I can pull off  the whole facial hair thing.

You go, girl.

You go, girl.

I lounged in the chair of the salon as the waxing lady made small talk. The conversation was interrupted by a burning sensation underneath my left eyebrow. Now, I’m no eyebrow wax amateur, I knew this burning was par for the course. As she deftly removed the wax, I felt more pain than usual but wrote it off to misremembering the intensity of the pain after not waxing for four months.

To add insult to injury, as she was waxing off my cool handlebar mustache (just kidding, it was mostly a Frida-like mustache – very feminine, very in this season), she asked if I wanted my lower lip waxed. Oh great, now in addition to my  ‘stache and unibrow, I’m growing a BEARD??? Of course, I replied, “Yes, please.” 

Finally, the hair-ripping was over and I gazed into the mirror.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Who is the hairless-est of them all? 

You are, my Queen. But there is one who will overtake your hairlessness. She lives underground and her name is Snow Naked-Mole-Rat White. 

As I looked into mirror more closely, however, I noticed a patch of red below my left eyebrow. The waxing lady asked, “Oh, do you have sensitive skin? It’s quite red up there.”

It took all of my self-control not to retort: “No, I don’t. You just suck at waxing and ripped part of my face off in addition to giving me third degree burns.”

As I left the salon, I immediately put huge sunglasses on my face and there they have stayed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful I have groomed eyebrows and all, I just wish it didn’t come at the price of facial disfigurement.

Luckily, some concealer and dark lighting makes it less visible. And I can’t even see it when I’m in a pitch black room! So, that’s something.

Now, if only I could convince my father to take care of those giant caterpillars trying their darnedest to meet together to form an even bigger, monster caterpillar.

- Daughter

 

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