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.)

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My School Found Me

Since I had no vision of furthering my career in academia while still in college many years ago, I decided for purely financial reasons to obtain my master’s degree at the same institution that conferred my bachelor’s degree.  It was a straightforward way to delay entering the Real World for at least two years and, besides, the school foolishly gave me a teaching assistantship, which translated into a completely subsidized Master of Arts degree.

All I had to do in return is read the over 400 books on the Required Reading List in just under two years and pretend to know what I was doing by instructing three classes of Basic College Writing every two semesters.

Cake!

In fact, it was the first time since I began attending my alma mater that I considered myself relatively well-funded — regular meals, gas in the car, and enough extra cash for beer money.

What could be better?

Rather than retrace the gory details of graduate school, suffice it to say I somehow miraculously was awarded a master’s degree, and I left my campus home in the summer of 1983, never to return.

Actually, I’ve been back one time that I can remember, but it’s so far out-of-the-way that I haven’t really made the effort over the years, to be honest.

Maybe fifteen or twenty years ago, I received a survey from the College of Arts and Sciences which was an effort by the school to determine how I’ve made out in life (Warren Buffet, Tom Selleck, and Peyton Manning have nothing to worry about), and how the school either did or didn’t prepare me for the Real World.

I was impressed that they took the time to track me down for my input, but I was less impressed by the avalanche of donation solicitation letters that flooded my way after I made the mistake of returning the questionnaire.

As either luck or fate would have it, I was something of a vagabond at the time (due to my job), and we moved frequently.  In those pre-internet days, I think it was easier to become lost, especially if you changed addresses with any regularity, and the letters from my school soon stopped.

Until last week.

They somehow found me again.

And they would like me to send them money.

It’s an insidious time in my life to solicit donations.  I’m not so old that I’ve completely lost my marbles, and I’m supposedly in the prime of my earning years (sigh).

I figure the school has done the math and paid some unsuspecting graduate student to research and create a database of their middle-aged, long out of touch alumni, like Yours Truly.

But I’m really making an effort to remember all the crappy things that the administration did while I was in school, to include towing student cars for really minor infractions, closing the cafeterias on weekends, and not air conditioning the dorms (let’s just say I attended a large university in the Southeastern Conference — it’s hot there, man!).

That’s a short list, I know, but I always resented how the school seemed to favor taking care of big-spending, loud-mouthed alumni at the expense of us lowly students.  It rankled me then and I haven’t forgotten.

And now I’m one of those stinking alumni.

So what do I do?

One the one hand, I kind of want to support my school.  On the other, it seems that every available dollar they spend these days is focused on the football program.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like football, and I’m glad we’re playing well, but. . . . absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I saw how athletics ruled the roost, even when we were crappy during my student days.  There’s no telling what’s going on there now, but I suspect I wouldn’t be that happy about it.

Luckily, the reality is that I’ve recently spent most of my “disposable” education income on Daughter’s Lesbian Cult College and Son’s California Dreamin’ University.

I’m all donated out, to be completely frank.

So what I’ve decided to do is throw the donation letter away, and focus on the PBS preview for Season Four of Downton Freaking Abbey that’s airing tonight.

As ironic as it might seem, I do believe Lord Grantham (and PBS) probably need my money more than my alma mater.

Ain’t education a bitch?

- Dad

The Benefits of Higher Education?

diploma

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

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

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

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

Why?  I have no idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I calculate that as a 25% success rate.

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

In Sacramento.

Not San Francisco.

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

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

You see, both cities start with the letter S.

Anyone could make that mistake, I know.

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

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

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

Kids.  Don’t you just love ‘em?

- Dad

I Will Not Be Playing in the US Open

merion

On Friday morning, I rushed through what little work I had at the office, so that I could make a 9:51 a.m. tee time.  The problem with that plan was I failed to adequately prepare the night before so that I could make a quick getaway.

Yes, the previous evening I loaded my clubs in the truck, somehow found my golf shoes in the Hoarders-like domain that is our garage, and even remembered to throw a ball cap into the cab to further discourage the ongoing process of my ears turning into cauliflower.  What I failed to address, however, was that I was almost completely out of gas.

So, there I was, sitting at my desk on a conference call I was hosting that started at 9:00 a.m., and trying to figure out how I was going to stop by the service station and still make the course.  I was kind of listening to the phone discussion but decided to hand off to a co-worker and bail without saying anything.

I guess I’ll find out Monday if anything important happened but, because it’s work, my guess would be no.  Plus, no one called my cell phone subsequent to the meeting — always a good sign.

I don’t know the capacity of my truck’s gas tank, but I do know I had never filled it with anything close to nineteen gallons before; not even on the last major road trip with Daughter.  Now I know.  It takes nineteen gallons.

First bullet dodged.

Next, a quick scamp down the freeway to the links.  What would traffic be like?  It was now 9:27 a.m.  What the heck,  along the way I managed to eat a day-old doughnut that someone left in the kitchen at work, so I was sure to have that necessary sugar rush to get my round started.

As Fate and the Traffic Gods would have it, traffic was somewhat light, and I thought good thoughts and tried to remember if I’d ever missed a tee time in my life and, if I had, did the world stop spinning?

I couldn’t remember, so I pressed on, rolling into the clubhouse parking lot at 9:38 a.m.

Second bullet sort of dodged.  It would have been nicer to have more than thirteen minutes before teeing off.

Final potential barrier:  What kind of line would there be in the Pro Shop?  I knew a tournament was scheduled for the north course, but as we were playing the south, I hoped for the best.

No lines, mon!  Paid my money and skipped over to the first tee, where three of my equally scurrilous co-workers were waiting for me.

It was now 9:50 a.m.  I had made it.

“All right, you go second.”

“Are we ready to hit right now?” I asked.

“Yep, and you’re second off the tee.”

No worries, I thought to myself.  After all, these guys I’m playing with really suck aren’t that good, and I played about a month ago, so that’s good enough warm up for me.

The first player in our foursome drilled his tee shot about 50 feet (not yards).  That was simply confidence inspiring for me.  These dudes really are bad.

I took approximately two practice swings to loosen up, stepped up to the tee box, and shot a bullet right down the center of the fairway about 25o yards (not really, but it was something over 200 anyway).

This game’s got nothing on me!  I felt pretty good, and eagerly looked forward to yet another my first a low-scoring round.

My approach shot to the green was, of course, short and left.

Then it came time to chip and putt.  The below illustration gives you some idea how the rest of the round went.

putting

Just like Tiger Woods, the Dog Scientist had trouble gauging the speed of the greens. Plus, he was looking forward to eating lunch later.

I probably hit the driver as well as I’ve ever done so in my life.  Translation:  I had only one really crappy, embarrassing tee shot that disappeared laterally into a water hazard almost twenty yards to my immediate left.  Everything else was in the general vicinity of a fairway.  Sometimes I even hit the fairway on the hole we were playing at the time.

But as the old saying goes, “Drive for show, putt for dough.”  You could also add, “If you can’t chip, what good does putting do for you?”

After about three or four holes that featured (for me) amazing, consistent drives, and absolutely horrific chipping and putting, I settled in for a wonderful round of gold with my friends.

The highlight of the day turned out to be lunch after the ninth hole.

“I’ll have a hot dog and a bag of jalapeno chips, please.”

“I just put them on the grill.  It’ll be about five minutes,” the attendant said.

Five minutes, I thought.  I don’t have five minutes.  We’ve got to get to the tenth tee and quick, before that group of guys behind us jumps in front. 

“Just throw it in the microwave.  That’ll work,” I said.

And when she handed me that steaming, tasty dog, I loaded it up with relish, ketchup, mustard, onions, sauerkraut, and peppers.

Man, it was good, and fueled me plenty for the back nine.

After the round was over, the results were:  Three lost balls, one hot dog and bag of chips consumed, one bottle of water drained, one near-death experience because a jerk behind me almost hit me with his tee shot, and My Humility Soundly Restored.

As we sat in the clubhouse post-match, we tallied the scores and determined that I had the lowest number which, technically, means I won.

But winning is relative, as is my chipping and putting.

The US Open?  I’ll leave that to the professionals.  Turns out that Merion Country Club (where the tournament is currently being played) is five minutes away from Daughter’s Lesbian Cult College.

That’s the closest I’ll ever come to getting in, I suppose, and I’m okay with that.

Namaste!

- Dad

Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part II

Dad’s Version of Events (and only version because Daughter had to finish finals):

Ah, Day Two — the day everything becomes clearer; the day when the meaning of the Road Trip we call Life is revealed; the day when. . . .  Nope.  I was going for a vibe there and it just wasn’t happening.

Cut me some slack, please.  I’m cooped up in a pickup truck for 10-12 hours with Daughter, but the insight we provide each other is priceless!

For instance, we made a commitment last night to wake up bright and early and get on the road before everyone else.  You might have guessed what actually happened.  We hit the Interstate at the crack of dawn about 9:30 a.m. again.

See a pattern here?

And horror of all horrors, the closest Starbucks was eight miles back to the east from whence we came yesterday.  For foo-foo coffee, we’ll divert, we’ll get lost, we’ll sidetrack five miles out of the way (on occasion), but we never, ever go backwards.

That would go against the Prime Directive.

So, I we made a Command Decision and took off without our standard boost of high-octane caffeine and soy peppermint non-fat, non-dairy, non-human crapolatte.  Which, of course, meant that Daughter could immediately embark on her first nap of the day — at 10:00 a.m., no less.

I suppose it’s the Road Trip version of Pajama Day — an art perfected by the females in my house.

To recap, on our first day we managed to drive from Philadelphia to Bristol, Tennessee.  Right around six hundred miles.  Today our goal was Memphis, and depending on the Tarpaulin, Caffeine, and Latte Gods, perhaps even Little Rock.

Making Little Rock would almost, almost be like a Moon Shot for us.  So in the spirit of the moment, and to make the miles pass a little quicker, I began to sing random songs (not hits) that I find curiously enjoyable and which Daughter finds endlessly annoying.

In short order, she turned on the radio, and when we entered the blank coverage zone in the mountains, she turned up her iPhone.

I love Quality Family Time!

My feelings are not that badly affected by any of this, because I have heard myself sing.  But, still, it’s a little hurtful Daughter chose not to join in to a rousing chorus of whatever New Christy Minstrels (google them; they are still around) tune I was chopping.

When we finally did manage to find that first magical coffee break and switch roles (Me – Passenger; She – Driver), the next phase of the day’s drive began:  Dad, Keep Me Entertained While I’m Behind the Wheel by Asking Me History Questions.

I will not recount Daughter’s performance during said quiz.  Let’s just say that being “one or two years off” or “being in the right century” would not pass muster for most Jeopardy contestants.

Of course, I only asked questions from subjects I either knew fairly well or could fake knowledge of even better, but some of the responses I received from Daughter made me question our investment in her prestigious Lesbian Cult College over the past few years.

Maybe she didn’t take any History classes.  I don’t know.

But to be completely fair in this regard, let me offer a personal, revealing example of ineptitude from my own place of employment, where I find channeling Michael Scott from The Office to be an especially effective method of figuring out what’s going on with our financial performance.

When reviewing our revenue numbers, it is not uncommon for me to say to our Accountant Muggles, “Imagine you are explaining this to a fifth grader.”  And when that doesn’t work and I still don’t understand, it becomes, “Imagine you are explaining this to a third grader.”

If I don’t get it by then, we all agree to simply move on.

Maybe some of this stuff runs in the family.  I hope not.

Anyway, after Daughter’s less than stellar performance today, I have decided to scrounge up an elementary school history book from somewhere and give it to her for her birthday this year (instead of an iPad).

That should teach her!

And what of our favorite tarp and the resident zombies beneath?

I am happy to say that we nearly got it right today.  That is to say, we did not need to make any unplanned readjustment stops.  We figured out that if we sorta tucked everything in and kinda piled a bunch of junk on top, it only fluttered mildly and acted like a jib instead of one of those billowing big sails that I can’t remember the name of.

Now whether the stupid thing provides any sort of weather protection for the crap junk belongings in bed is another matter altogether.  I suspect not.

And the tarp was put to the test late this afternoon as we powered through a mild rain shower.  Our suitcases came out a little wet, but we didn’t really check anything else out back there.

After all, how much mold can form over the next four or five days?

We did have two significant accomplishments that I must report.

First, we learned a valuable lesson five months ago during our trip east, when we encountered an incredibly messy section of I-40 that is under construction between Memphis and Little Rock.  Duly prepared and remembering that nightmare, we detoured early and took a State Road that paralleled the Interstate and avoided the worst construction delays.

Taking the two-lane back road was something of a revelation for Daughter who, I take it, is really only familiar with Superhighways and suburban thoroughfares.

“What’s the speed limit here?”

“It’s forty, but be careful when going through town because it drops to twenty-five,” I replied.

“This is a town?  It’s so depressing.  Oh, wait, there’s a Taxidermist Shop.  That’s cool.”

I guess it was a little educational, but not much.

And our second accomplishment?  Daughter Yelped a gluten-free eatery for supper tonight, and it turned out to be both crowded and hip.  The food was really good, but we went home disappointed because the wait for the pizza was forty five minutes.  We settled for Za Za salad and dairy free ice cream.

Did I mention it was expensive?

Finally, I am happy to report that we did, in fact, arrive in Little Rock this evening, which means we have a much shorter day tomorrow, terminating with family in Dallas.

I also have to report that I will be the only Blog Writing Muggle today, as Daughter is busy finishing her final essay for the semester — due tomorrow.  I think she said it is about Buddhism, but at the time she was describing it I was singing pretty loudly and couldn’t quite make out what she was saying.

Namaste.

- Dad

I Miss My Truck!

yakima

“Yep. I think that will fit.”

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

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

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

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

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

Upon my arrival, I expect:

1)  The gas tank to be empty.

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

3)  The tires to be low on air.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I’ve hit on something.

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

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

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

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

It was a good thing I hurried over.

“Well,” I said, “I’ll take it.”

“In what?” the seller replied.

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

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

“You’re right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I definitely need my truck back!

- Dad

 

 

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

referee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You might have guessed what really happened. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This day was not starting out well at all

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

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

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

Geez.  This was shaping up well, I figured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As was I.

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

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

The Pimpletons pulled me through.  Hooray!

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

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

- Dad

I’m Comfortable. Are You?

sedona

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

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

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

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

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

What could be better? 

Working on cars. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know; that kind of thing. 

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

All in my minivan.  No worries, mon.

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

It’s beautiful. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same here. 

- Dad

Stop Being Nice to Me. Please.

sad

I exchanged emails with an old friend of mine earlier this week.  We spent a few lines catching up.  He asked how I was doing, and then  he interjected he thought that I had been “bitter” about a couple of things that I have had to deal with in my life over the last decade. 

I had to think about his verbiage a bit before responding. 

Bitter?  Had I really been bitter?  I wasn’t so sure that captured how I felt.  In fact, I could think of a number of other ways to describe my feelings:  disappointed, realistic, not excited, resigned.  I suppose the list could go on, but the point in my mind is that there is a fairly large chasm between how I view my perspective and how others do. 

I promised him a follow-up email of longer length explaining my thoughts in more detail, but I haven’t actually gotten around to doing that yet.  My life has gotten in the way this week. 

However, I’m not so arrogant that I dismissed out of hand his observation about my demeanor.  I simply filed it away, and I figured I would either revisit myself later, or it would revisit me in some way, shape, or form, as these things often do. 

Not a day later, I was shopping at an auto parts store, and at the checkout counter I asked the cashier for my customary retiree discount.  Upon seeing my identification card, the parts person thanked me for my Service and asked me if I was a member of any local organizations. 

“That’s a new one,” I thought.  A little personal, but he was a Veteran and seemed genuinely interested in talking to me.  It turned out he was the president of a club nearby, and he said I was eligible to join and he welcomed me to.  He even promised to buy me a beer.

“It would have to be non-alcoholic,” I replied.  “Can’t do the real stuff anymore.”

“Same here,” he said. 

Glad to know I’m not the only one stuck in this rabbit hole. 

I then went on my merry way and had a few other errands to run.  Next stop:  Home Depot Big Box Hardware Store.  If you have been following my latest chronicles, I am still in the midst of a major servicing and cleaning of the Car Daughter Left Behind.  Though she is fond of referencing Hoarders regarding the state of our garage, I can make a similar case for the interior (and exterior) of her car.  Somehow the promise she made to clean it up before heading back to her Lesbian Cult College was overlooked in the drama of packing, repacking, and packing again. 

Yet she had plenty of time to download countless kitten photos, it seems.  That’s another story, I fear. 

Since I almost 100% successfully installed a new convertible top, I needed to finish up a few of the details I somehow screwed up overlooked.  I specifically required some black silicone adhesive/sealant, and I knew fairly accurately what I needed to buy.

I soon found myself planted in front of a wide selection of products at said Big Box Store.

“Too many choices,” I thought.  I could easily go wrong here.

After staring at the various tubes and containers for about a minute, I was joined by an older dude who immediately struck up a conversation.

“Whatcha looking for?” he asked.

Normally, I mumble something and walk away, shunning this kind of “helpful” advice from strangers.  But for some reason, I launched into great detail regarding exactly what I was searching for. 

Maybe my newfound openness was buoyed by the bonhomie of the previous counter clerk.  Maybe this new guy could help me.  Maybe the World was a Kind Place after all. 

Maybe not. 

“Well, I’ll tell you what you need,” he replied.  “You need some specialized stuff.  I know.  I used to do this kind of thing for a living.  And the place I used was Sunshine Supplies, and it’s near downtown.”

What a goldmine this guy was.  As a matter of fact, the business he mentioned was located about five minutes from where I work. 

This was going to be perfect.

“Don’t you want to write the address down?” he offered.

“Nope.  I’ll remember it,” and I thanked him, looking forward to visiting the place in the morning. 

What had I done to deserve this Niceness from the World?  Was is karma?  Did I look pathetic and in need of help? 

Something was certainly going on here, and I was determined to ride the wave.

The next morning I duly drove downtown to search out Sunshine Supplies.  This was going to be easy and rewarding.  For once, I was going to have the right materials to go with the right tools to finish the job I started. 

But after reaching the supposed destination, there was nothing there that even t resembled the store I was looking for. 

Maybe I had the directions wrong, or the wrong street, or the wrong portion of the street? 

I spent the next twenty minutes in a fruitless search for the supplier in question.  I knew I had the correct road, but I began to question myself about the exact name of the place.  I’m finding this phenomenon happens more and more these days. 

Well, I eventually gave up looking, and became resigned to going back to Big Box and buying something there.  The shine on my good karma was beginning to tarnish a bit. 

And after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion the dude was fairly old, and he was retired, and who knows when the last time was he actually visited this place.  Maybe it was now a lamp store or something.

I just chalked up the entire experience to “no good deed goes unpunished,” and I decided to get a couple of fish tacos and an unauthorized Vanilla Coke to ensure the morning wasn’t a total loss.  After all, it was lunchtime.

I guess by afternoon’s end I wasn’t really all that disappointed, as all things seem to even out in the end. 

I certainly wasn’t bitter, and I wasn’t even a tiny bit upset for having gone on something of a wild goose chase for a good amount of time earlier. 

After all, it had been a beautiful day, I had a nice meal, and I didn’t have to go to work.

It could always be worse.

Of course, it was.

Later, I had a severely upset stomach from the tacos (or the soda), so I was reminded, yet again, to take things as they come, to try not to get too animated one way or the other about anything, and never, ever be bitter, if at all possible. 

But if you see me in a random retail establishment, just don’t offer me any free advice and, for crying out loud, Daughter, if you just kept your car clean I wouldn’t be so bitter in the first place.   

- Dad

Camouflage, Lesbians, and My Truck

I happen to drive a pick-up truck at school. The same one we took on the road trip, actually. And it happens to have camouflage seat covers. But not just any kind: legitimate hunting-camouflage seat covers. I don’t hunt nor does anyone else in my family. And I’ve never felt the need to kill animals for sport – until I saw these seat covers. If I’m going to go with this Lesbian-Hick-Lumberjack-Hunter look, I’m going to need to strap a deer carcass on the top of the truck to make it more believable. I need to sell it. I can’t just ignore the fact that my car screams, “I KISS COUSINS SOMETIMES.”  

Lesbians in the Mist.

Lesbians in the Mist.

People have already been making assumptions about my truck the moment they step inside. The California plates may briefly distract them before they are overwhelmed by scenery mimicking a deeply wooded area. The smell of musk floats through the cab. A bearded man may or may not be in the backseat with a taxidermied squirrel. They turn to me and see I’m wearing plaid flannel: PLOT TWIST. “Not only is she a lesbian,” they say to themselves, “but she is a hunter-lesbian with forest animal friends like Snow White… if Snow White had murdered her animals friends instead of singing with them… Murderer.”

My dad specifically asked me to not remove the seat covers – and I’m doing just that, not removing them. But at what cost, Father? Surely I will be targeted by PETA for driving this heinous machine. And I’m going to be pigeon-holed into the plaid-wearing-lesbian-hunters group at school. Do you know why that’s horrible, Dad? BECAUSE I’M THE ONLY ONE. THERE IS ONLY ONE PERSON IN THE GROUP AND IT IS ME BECAUSE YOU HAVE PUT ME THERE.

- Daughter

 

 

 

 

 

I Got Back into My Lesbian Cult

I have been taking a year off from school because I got really ill at college and became a tumbleweed of misery rolling whichever way the wind blew. The first six months of my year off included exciting activities like sleeping for the majority of the day, watching every season of 30 Rock, and dyeing my hair different colors. The second part of my year off was spent more productively because I got an actual job, two internships, and finally started to take care of myself like a normal person and less like a gremlin.

Because I was on medical leave, I had to re-apply to school and go through a re-admission process that can only be described as a bureaucratic nightmare. Eventually, the forces that be graciously allowed me to return so I can give them more mone- I mean, so I can get an education. Of course, it’s not that easy. Even though it’s my last semester and I’m done with my major, I don’t have enough credits to technically graduate… so this summer I will be taking more courses at home to get that damn degree.

I call my school a lesbian cult because it’s an all-girls private school. It’s tiny with only around 1500 girls (all the better for its cult-like atmosphere). Now, let’s be real, not everyone there is a lesbian… but pretty much, y’all. If you walk around, it’s not uncommon to see people naked save for a gay rights flag wrapped around their flesh.

I am excited to go back but weary of things that have become unfamiliar to me such as:

1) Homework: what is it exactly?

2) Deadlines: wait, things have to be done by a certain time?

3) Time management: wait, things have to be done by a certain time?

4) People my age: where did all these young-ish people come from and why are they all around? I MISS WRINKLES.

5) No pets: how am I going to live without my cat, Rambo? I’m freaking out right MEOW!

Don't leave me!

Don’t leave me!

6) Dining halls: barf.

Me, at the prospect of eating dining hall food. Also, I was an ugly freshman.

7) Snow: nooooooooooo. I feel so cold already.

Ew, snow.

8) Public transportation: I don’t remember how to use any of the trains or buses. Not even joking.

How I feel about using public transportation and giving up my car. Also, me un-ironically wearing a romper!!!

9) Reading: wait, books? Not blogs? WHAT.

Do I look like I read books? Exactly.

10) Professors: I know I will probably call them “Mom” or “Dad” at least once out of habit.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE NOT MY MOM?!!!!

11) Dorms: why are there so many young people here? Is this a cult… oh wait, yes, yes it is.

How I feel about dorm-living.

12) Essays: I have to write about what the professor wants me to write about and not whatever I please? This is the winter of my discontent.

You want me to write about… WHAT?

And, for now, that’s it. Although, there is plenty of time between now and January when I head back to obsessively think about the things I am unprepared for, hurrah!

- Daughter

P.S. How funny would it be if it was actually my dad who posted this one?

P.P.S. Apparently, I really enjoy not wearing make-up for any and all pictures. This is what I look like without make-up, you guys. I’m sooooooo good-looking I can barely stand it.

P.P.P.S. It’s a little disconcerting that this is .0001 percent of the embarrassing photos I have saved on my computer. This is just the tip of the attractive-fail iceberg, baby.

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