That Moment When the Dullest Tool in Shed in Class Interrupts the Dude with the PhD

Disclaimer: I don’t think people who have a doctoral degree are better than plebes or anything, this particular student (who is an older, Dad-ish-aged guy) just kills me.

Can I post this surreptitiously in class?

Can I post this surreptitiously in class?

I try to call upon Buddha and Jesus and Mohammad (sometimes I need all three, okay?) to calm myself and center my chi (?) but…THIS GUY. I didn’t pay money to listen to his inane drivel (“inane drivel” is also how I describe my blog coincidentally) when there’s a person with 20 years of teaching experience and stories and PhD-ness in front of me giving a great lecture. A lecture that I need to hear so I know what will be on the tests. So, I, and everyone else, can pass the class. SO DO NOT INTERRUPT HIM CONSTANTLY TO SAY THESE THINGS:

“I think Confucianism goes real good with Buddhism.”

“Well, the Mongols are basically terrorists. They strike fear in MY heart, that’s for sure. *laughter that extends for too long*”

NO. STOP.

There is no hand-raising. There are no thoughtful contributions. This person only shouts out baaaarely related information that are mostly his personal reaction to historical events that we cover and causes a class-wide epidemic of second-hand embarrassment.

The professor, clearly the consummate professional, is always able to turn around this person’s (who, for our purposes today, shall be christened, “Jim”) comments into something relevant while also steering the conversation back to his actual lesson.

Just so you know, Jim, when the professor asks a question, unless he says the words, “Does anybody know…,” IT DOES NOT WARRANT A RESPONSE. There is such a thing as a rhetorical question.

But he will never understand. And so I will continue to close my eyes in pure frustration when, for the sixth time in ten minutes, this student interjects with ignorant or silly comments.

Here’s more things he’s said:

Professor: “But there are also controversies surrounding the Ming Dynasty. For example, there onc-”

Jim: “Well, in my mind, I think that-”

Me, in my head while cringing in real life: Please, please. This time, Professor, just shut him down. Just say no. Just ignore him. Just tell him to raise his hand.

—-

Professor: “Taizu had a positive impact on China but he was also considered a tyrant.”

Jim: “THAT’S RIGHT HE WAS!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!”

Me: *SWEAR WORDS* Why is he laughing???? What? 

—-

Ohhhhhhh Jim.

For the record, I had a guy in his 80′s take a class at my “fancy” college and HE WAS AMAZING. So intelligent, so smart. So friendly. So respectful. JIM, GET ON HIS LEVEL.

- Daughter

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Going to Bed Before 6:30 pm is Not Shameful

Okay, it totally is. Color me SHAMED.

So, I planned my schedule beautifully after the first couple weeks of scheduling errors with school/work/internship that resulted in: 1) not doing homework, 2) not exercising, and 3) not sleeping. Now that I have all the problems ironed out, I thought I’d be good to go. However, I didn’t take into account the tiredness factor.

For example, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I wake up around 5:30am to briefly run a brush or other hair-styling implement through my hair and unceremoniously slather my face in some make-up. Then, I stuff myself full of oatmeal and coffee and bust out of the house like I’m running from the police to get to school. It is not without regret that I leave the house in such a hurry because I always forget some not-essential-but-nice-to-have item like sunglasses. As much as I like my cornea and other eye parts to be burned to a crisp, I only like to do so on certain days. And the days I don’t feel like getting a third degree burn on my eyes are always, always the days I forget to bring my shades. Instead of shaded bliss, I sit in my car screaming like Gollum: “THE LIGHT, IT BURNS USSSS!!!!”

Yeah, so I’m not as detail-oriented as I hoped and dreamed I would be despite my amazing ability to schedule things would seem to suggest. In fact, here’s a list of other things I have forgotten when I needed them:

1) food

2) wallet

3) laptop cord

4) dignity

5) a sense of direction

6) GPS

7) phone

8) money

GET IT TOGETHER, SELF.

My dad told me to cut back on my social activities because I’m a bit behind in school due to my poor scheduling abilities and un-detail-orientedness. CUT BACK MY SOCIAL ACTIVITIES? Do you know how many times I have had this conversation in the last three weeks, Father?

Friend: “Hey, wanna hang out?”

Me: “Yes, but I have to go to bed.”

Friend: “….um, it’s 7pm.”

Me: “Yep.”

This happened last night. A friend called me to hang out and it was 5:30pm or so and surprise, I was in my pajamas, reading, and barely keeping my eyes open. She asked if I could hang out and I said no because it was almost my bedtime. And then, I waited another hour before going to sleep for real so I didn’t have to hit a new low of going to sleep before 6pm. 6:30 is much more respectable, you see.

I was briefly woken up by happy sounds coming from the living room – purposely, I assumed. In my head I thought, WHO DISTURBS MY SLUMBER???!!!! but in real life, I walked up to my door and slammed it shut. And then I proceeded to sleep until 6am. Was it sleep or was I in a coma? The world may never know.

I didn’t MEAN to sleep for twelve hours straight but sometimes, half a day of sleep does the body good. I know sleeping too much is bad for you but I was practically dancing around in the morning light this morning. And, let me tell you, that NEVER happens.

I’m not a morning person. And let’s be real, not even the sun is a morning person. I wake up when it’s still dark out because the sun’s like, “Nah, bro, this is too early. I’ll rise like in an hour.”

Excuse me, I’m off to nap.

- Daughter

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

Apparently, Men Really Are Pigs.

aim

It’s official.  It’s an epidemic.

And I knew nothing about it, other than having a vague notion their might be a problem among some segment of the broader male population that uses urinals.  After all, there’s been a sign posted in the men’s restroom at work for a long time now.  So long, in fact, I felt compelled to write about it.

Then on Thursday I was feeling the need to get a haircut (I heard the expression on Car Talk with Click and Clack, The Tappet Brothers, today, so give me a break), and I mosied down the hall in an office building I sometimes frequent when I was confronted by yet another sign posted strategically on the bathroom wall.

Compared to the one at my own place of employment, the message on this one was a lot more direct:  Aim, Use, Flush — It’s Not Difficult.

It almost reminded me of a military recruiting poster, to be honest.  Something like, Remember the Enemy is Sleeping with Your Mother!  Aim, Use, Flush!  It’s Not Difficult, Comrade!  The Motherland is Depending on You!

Of course, I can only imagine the type of behavior that prompted the posting of this signage in the first place.

I have to tell you, however, that whatever egregious acts were committed previously, the small lavatory seemed completely normal and clean to me (as if I’m an expert in such things).

Basically, it didn’t smell, okay?

Though I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, I find it curious that someone actually takes the time to print out and hang up these things.  I mean, unless you are having a really bad gastric distress kind of day, how many minutes does one tarry in public restrooms on average?  It can’t be that many, can it?

There’s probably a post-graduate thesis buried somewhere in the foregoing discussion, and I suspect it would be more interesting than anything vaguely tangential to Daughter’s own near and dear Lindsay Lohan treatise.

Alas, I digress.

As fate and luck would have it, between the time I initially spied this sign and approximately two hours later, I drank some water.

Lots of it.

So, I found myself returning to that same restroom before going out to the parking lot and driving home for the day.

I also thought it might be a good opportunity to snap a quick photo for the blog, if for no other reason than to somehow prove I don’t make this stuff up — photographic evidence can be forceful.

But it could be tricky taking a pic, I began to wonder.  For instance, if someone walked in and found me taking snapshots, what might they think?

“Hey, man, what are you doing?”

“Taking a photo of this sign for my Daughter’s stupid blog,” I might reply.

“You’re making that up.  You’re a pervert, aren’t you?  I’m going to beat you up now.”

Or some such.  I just hoped no one was going to be in there.

And there wasn’t.

But something even more strange had taken place in the interval between my visits:  Someone had edited the sign.  See below:

aim1

An Unknown Muggle had added the phrase, “Short Barrels are harder to aim.”

Well, I thought everyone knew that was a Universal Truth.

Guess not.

Since I return to this same location later this week, I will make a special visit to this particular restroom while I’m there, regardless if I need a haircut or not.

What words of wisdom will the next anonymous scribe leave for us all to contemplate?

I can’t imagine, but I think I know the general subject area.

- 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

Radio Silence: Oh, Snap, I Still Have This Blog – Also: Manners, Part 3

As much as Dad belittles my busyness – for example, when I come home, exhausted, his words are: “WELCOME TO THE ADULT WORLD” – I am currently juggling many responsibilities (yes, I know that this will be my adult life times a million with a “real” job and kids etc. etc. etc.). I am quite busy either commuting to an internship or work or commuting to school or doing homework. As of today, I have two internships, work, and school. I’m actually trying to get a second job, too, so I can stop crying when there’s too much week at the end of my money. Yeah, so I’m a little busy (DAD). Okay, I’m not half-of-a-century old and half-centaur, but I can still be busy and tired EVEN at 22, Pops.

Every night this week I have gone to bed before 8pm. 8PM?? WHO AM I?? I also get up before 6am everyday which is against the very nature of my being and reason for existence. I am a creature of the night. Luckily, when I wake up in the morning, it’s so dark outside that it’s practically night still – so I have that to comfort me.

I am the night!!

Anyway, I guess this a little PSA so you guys know I didn’t fall off the face of the planet into some wormhole where blog updates don’t occur: this week was Week 1 of the  Four Months of Hell. This week was also my I-need-to-figure-out-when-I-will-do-things-like-sleep-and-eat week. So, I’ve figured that out. Now that I know my schedule, I’ll be working on getting the blog back into a daily-update schedule to replace the current lackadaisical posting schedule I have now. After these Four Months of Hell, I will be done with undergrad, done with one of my internships, and done with pre-dawn wake-ups. And then, like a caterpillar breaking out of its cocoon, I will rise; not as a lowly peon, but as a great leader of my people. AT DAWN WE RIDE!!! Oh wait, not dawn. Like, 10am? That works for you guys, right?

Okay, so that boring crap is over now. Let’s go back to funny. I wanted to finally finished the third installment from the manners book where I lovingly recap the section titled: “A Single Person’s Options are Extensive.”

Read Part 1 and Part 2 here and here.

So, here goes:

11. Rediscover your talents in the performing and creating arts. Take up your career in singing again, go back to art classes, or re-enroll in ballet school. 

12. Fix up your home environment. If your home is badly in need of a total redecoration and you can’t afford it, then redesign certain elements, which will make the interior look fresh, warm, and inviting.

13. 13. Entertain. Do it well, often, and imaginatively. 

14. Buy a pet. The right one will become your best friend and provide company at all times, as well as make living noises to break the stillness at home. 

15. Remember the house of worship of your choice.

- Daughter

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

Who Needs a Ferrari?

magnum

It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I envisioned a Ferrari as part of my very ordinary life.

Of course, two things about that notion are important to mention.  First, it actually has been quite a number of years since that was even a semi-serious consideration for me – say, thirty or so.  And second, I never thought I would own a 308 (Thomas Magnum’s car above) because it was simply unaffordable to a non-lottery winner like myself.  I had my sights set on something much more reasonable from the early 70s:  A 308 GT4, which costs a lot less than other Ferrari models because nobody wants them.  They are effectively shunned.  Translation:  Right up my alley –cheap (relatively) and unwanted.

Good deals used to abound, if this type of automobile floats your boat.

However, I guess at some point I lost whatever desire I had for this Italian exotic because of kids, and moving, and money — yep, mainly money, but I replaced it with the Next Best Thing in my Personal Automotive Pantheon:  the Porsche 911.

porsche

Porsches have always been a lot more available and affordable, and I have spent a good amount of time educating myself on the details associated with the different years and models.  Eventually, I determined that an early car from the late 60s or early 70s would probably suit my needs best, and I kept my eyes open for exactly the right car.  I suppose the closest I ever came to buying one was test-driving a slightly crusty, green 911T one evening about fifteen years ago now, but I failed to pull the trigger because it had the beginnings of a little rust in a couple of places, and bringing something home that might require real maintenance from Authentic German Mechanics simply scared the bejesus out of me.

Point of reference for those near misses in life:  I had my then-young son in tow with me that night, and he still remembers the excitement of that ride all these years later.

In 2013 it’s very clear to me I should have made the deal on that vehicle.  What was a $5,000 car in 1997 has become almost $25,000 today.  And climbing.

Complete bummer, man.

The entire collector car market has exploded around me this year, and even formerly neglected makes and models are riding the rising tide.

Ferraris and Porsches?  I don’t even think about them any more, except when they blow by me on the Interstate.

So what’s a sad, poor Muggle to do?

The second part of the answer to this question came to me today.

But the first part made its appearance a few weeks ago when I read an interview with a major car collector and classic Porsche 911 owner.  You see, he also owns a Mazda Miata like mine.  Well, not really like mine.  I’m sure his is nice, well-cared for, and shiny.  Mine is an out-and-out beater.  Anyway, he said the Miata is more fun to drive at one-tenth the cost, compared to his foo-foo Porsche.

Score one for me.

The first part of the answer happened this morning.

As I pulled into a space at a nearby community park for some Sunday morning soccer refereeing, one of my fellow refs, an older German gentleman, asked me what I was driving and from whence the car came (see photo below).

fiat131

“I’ve never seen one like that before,” he said.  “It looks good.”

“It’s a Fiat 131 Wagon,” I replied.

And then I thought some more about it.

“You know, it’s probably the only one in the State of California.  Maybe even the entire country.”

“It’s great,” he said, and we both hobbled off to work our games.

So what I’ve got with my old Fiat wagon is basically a car that leaks both oil and transmission fluid, shudders like a ship running aground any time I even think about going faster than 60 mph, and something that’s so unique I get bombarded with questions about it every time I take it out of the neighborhood.

It gets noticed, that’s for sure.

They way I look at it, though it’s about as fast as a snail and ugly as a slug, it’s very lovable in a unique, old-car stinky kind of way.  I think about that every time I’m passed by Porsche, or Ferrari, or farm tractor pulling a hay wagon.

Did I mention it’s slow?

And there’s another good thing about it.  Everyone in my house absolutely hates it, except for twelve-year-old Daughter Number Two.  Though she sometimes has a hard time pronouncing Fiat, she knows a classic when she sees one.

Daughter Number One:  Just to be clear, don’t even think about asking to borrow it.  Both the car and I know you don’t like it.

- 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

Tips for Getting Ready in the Morning

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- Daughter

 

“A Single Person’s Options Are Extensive” – Manners, Part 2

In case you have a short term memory problem: this week, we continue our lesson in etiquette. This particular list is dedicated to the horrible situation you may find yourself in during your lifetime: singlehood. The first five steps were just the beginning. Things get real today, guys. Buckle up.

6. Enter politics by becoming visible in a local organization, helping candidates, and possibly laying the groundwork for running for office yourself, whether it’s for the local school board or the United States Senate.

7. Read more and keep yourself better informed so that your conversation takes on added sparkle. 

8. Seek psychological counseling, if you need it. 

9. Become an expert at something, whether it’s Chinese export porcelain or ice skating, chess or gardening or playing the options market. 

10. Make new friends of both sexes, which should be easy because of all the new facets of your life you are busily polishing. People will want to be around you.

- Daughter

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

Priorities

list

It is with some amusement that:

1)  I read Daughter’s recent post about the semi-destruction of her iPhone.  Or as someone said to me after the fact, “It’s an iPhone3.  I would have trashed it, too.”

2)  On the day following the iPhone incident, I received no fewer than three emails at work from Daughter inquiring about phone discounts, availability, etc.

3)  I realize that most of my posts that include the phrase “it is with some amusement that” are usually about Daughter and her foibles.

As it so happens, Daughter cracked her phone’s screen, but the device does still, in fact, function.  After a quick discussion with her Mother, we decided it was in the best interests of all concerned to require Daughter to purchase a replacement.

However, though her protestations were not overly dramatic, Daughter did request Brownie Points for not breaking her phone through three years of college.

I unilaterally zeroed out those same Brownie Points after discovering the circumstances surrounding the breakage.

“Don’t you have some kind of case, like an OtterBox or something?” I asked.

“Yes, but I had to take it out so that it would fit into my slinky purse when I went out last night,” she responded.*

*Those were not her actual words, but they were what I heard.

To her credit, Daughter has let the matter drop during the past few days because, I suspect, she’s saving up her energy for Round Two, which will involve the purchase of her new phone — an activity I’m really looking forward to, by the way.

This entire episode got me to thinking about my enabled kids and their priorities compared to mine at the same age.

My Priorities at 23 Years Old:

1)  Wondering where my next meal was coming from.

2)  I really don’t want to itemize this one – sorry.

3)  Wondering where I was going to get gas money.

4)  Playing as much basketball and soccer as possible.

5)  Worrying about obtaining a full-time job after completing graduate school.

My Theoretical List of Daughter’s Priorities at the Same Age:

1)  New cell phone.

2)  New cell phone.

3)  New cell phone.

4)  Trying to get Dad to pay for new cell phone.

5)  New cell phone.

6)  Planning fantasy vacations.

7)  Planning fantasy future employment scenarios.

8)  Organizing pillow fights with friends.

9)  Spending every available non-working hour out “clubbing.”

10)  Sleeping.

11)  Exercising.

Interesting juxtaposition, eh?

I had intended to follow up those two lists with my current priorities, but it’s easier to simply structure it thusly:

1)  Worry about (fill in the blank).

There are no other numbers, unfortunately.

Still, I suppose things could be a lot worse for everyone around here, because the way I figure it, if a broken cell phone screen is the worst thing that happened to us this week, we’ve got it pretty good for the most part.  I have to say, however, that my recognition of our blessings will not translate into the restoration of Lost Brownie Points for Daughter.

However, to demonstrate my magnanimity, I will drive her to the store to pick out her new phone.  I just won’t pay for it, thank you.

- Dad

Do Nuns Swear?

SwingingNuns

By God, I hope they do!

And here’s why.

Every morning I join the thousands upon thousands of other Muggles around the world and grind my way into work.  As far as American automobile commuters in large urban areas are concerned, I’m one of the “lucky” ones.  I drive 23 miles one-way, door-to-door early each day and then again going home, and I can usually make each leg of the trip in 20-25 minutes.

I have friends and colleagues who spend three to four times as long as I do, immersed in their own versions of Commuter Hell, but that’s their problem, I figure, so Lucky Me.

However, a number of years ago I developed a personal theory whose thesis is that my commute is, in reality, my Transition Time.

It’s an important part of the DailyTripBlog.com Muggle Lifecycle that allows me either to wind down after a long and fruitless day at the office, when I accomplish nothing of importance (almost always) except to engender the continued annoyance of my peers and management alike.  Or it serves to pull me from my safe and comfortable morning cocoon at home and affords me the opportunity to put on the armor required to slog through all the problems challenges I fight encounter with the morons customers and other morons fellow employees I deal with day in and day out.

And it allows me to swear.

A lot.

Pretty much each one of these half-hour commuting stints is a my own virtuoso performance featuring stream-of-consciousness foul language so bad it would make the most crusty sailor afloat cringe with embarrassment.

Driving too slow in front of me?  I’m going to swear.  Merge in front of my without a blinker?  I’m going to swear.  Tailgate?  I’m going to swear.  Drive any type of car I estimate costs more than $75K?  I’m going to swear.

And I have a special vocabulary developed for most Mercedes-Benz and BMW owners, especially those in black cars.

Just to be clear, I never gesticulate, flip anyone off, or provoke any sort of road rage reaction.  Well, I might slowly shake my head as I roll by the offending party or, perhaps, throw up my hands in consternation if someone is clearly acting like an ignoramous with a cell phone glued to his or her ear.

Imagine, if you will, the dialogue featured in The Big Lebowski, and then multiply it tenfold.  Yep, I can crank out the verbal crap with the best of them.

But what I have found is that by spewing this filth to myself in the sanctity of my own automobile, I spare everyone else my enmity when I reach my destination.

I arrive pleasant, chatty, good-natured, and ready to interact positively with my fellow Muggles.

The methodology works like a charm, because I leave “Bad-Me” in the car and bring “Zen-Me” inside.

And I’m okay with it, because everyone has to have some kind of coping mechanism to deal with the God-Awful traffic around here.

That’s where the nun comes in.

As I zoomed down the Interstate Highway this morning, I spied a nun merging into a lane far to my right.

Unless she was a stripper in disguise, she had to have been a real nun, since she wore a habit and looked as if she had the full nun regalia on, as far as I could tell.  I’m no expert, but I’ve watched both Sister Act and The Sound of Music multiple times, so that should count for something.

As I am wont to do when I’m not swearing, I began to wonder how she coped with the traffic, which led to the equally pointless pondering regarding how all nuns dealt with the same situation.

Do they blow off steam by swearing in the sanctity of their cloistered car?

I tend to doubt it.

I imagine their introspective exclamations of frustration must go something like this:

“Lord, give me strength.”

Or, “Lord, please bestow enlightenment upon that soul who almost side-swiped me just now.”

Or, “Lord, I do not see brake lights up ahead, do I?  Are you kidding me?  I’m running late this morning.”

Of course that last statement would require supplemental Hail Mary’s at the Daily Confessional, I suppose.

I guess my fervent hope is that, like me, they are, in fact, allowed to blow off steam and occasionally act like the rest of us Miserable Muggles.

After all, we are all Sinners.  It’s just that some of us are a lot worse than others.

And have really foul mouths.

Amen.

- Dad

“A Single Person’s Options Are Extensive” – Manners, Part 1

This is the sub-heading to my new favorite book I found while rummaging around an abandoned bookcase upstairs. Instead of finding some awesome Wiccan spells I could cast on customers at work, I found some pretty standard parenting books and old college biology textbooks. Yawn. Then, suddenly, MAGIC. I found magic – no, not the aforementioned Wiccan kind – rather, the magic that can only be held in a book.

The particular brand of magic I am so recently enamored with can be found in The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette: A Guide to Contemporary Living revised and expanded by Letitia Baldrige (1978).

Yeah, 1978 isn’t so long ago so the advice is often pretty applicable to our contemporary life. HOWEVER, there are some truly outdated things in this baby… probably because the first edition was written in 1952 and not much seems to have changed for the people who write these things in that time. There’s a chapter on what to do if you meet the POPE. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW, OKAY? 

I have taken it upon myself to include excerpts here from Chapter Six: The Single Life which I shall comment upon via poorly drawn comics. This particular list I bring you today has the subheading: “A Single Person’s Options Are Extensive.” I will publish the remaining ten bullet points the book has outlined (let’s be real, you’re gunna need ALL those bullet points if you suddenly find yourself single, poor, and confused) over the next two posts.

All that is italicized below are actual words from a real book.

And, let me remind you, the advice below is only to be followed if you are single. If you are married or coupled up in any way, disregard and continue on with your slovenly ways.

1. Get a job. For some women, this is the most important option of all, and preparation should begin at once. It is also one of the most difficult to accomplish quickly.

2. Increase your volunteer work. Either move into new areas or intensify your efforts in your present field. 

3. Travel, trying new places rather than going to familiar old places.

4. Further your education by taking courses you always wanted to, but never had time for. A great many museums have evening lecture series.

5. Follow an intensive physical-improvement plan, which should involve a health (diet and exercise) and good looks (more exercise, new hair style and make-up, plastic surgery, and so on). 


Thanks, Amy. You’re a doll.

- Daughter

How to Kill Your Phone, RIP Geronimo

Much to the dismay of my parents, I shattered the glass on my phone on Saturday night. Not on purpose as they seem to insinuate constantly, rather, it dropped out of my wallet case and straight, face-down onto hard concrete.

I am a widow of an iPhone 3. I feel bad that I’m already secretly looking forward to getting some hotter, younger thing but I totally am. I’m like the Mrs. Robinson of smartphones. Except I’m not. I’m still very sad that I broke my old phone. It’s gone through three years of college with me and I successfully kept it intact all those years.

My phone didn’t have a name but I am calling it Geronimo retroactively because of its fondness for free-falling from very high heights.  It also makes me feel better when I think that my little phone yelled “GERONIMO” as it fell instead of falling terrified and silent to its demise. I totally dropped the proverbial ball – and the proverbial phone – on this one.

This is how my phone broke in case you ever want to commit first degree phoneslaughter.

1) Have fun in a place with a lot of concrete and hard surfaces. Check.

2) Make sure your phone is unsecured in the wallet case it is housed in so that when you open it, it will fly out in a demonic fashion. Check.

 

3) Open your wallet case to retrieve your ID and ideally, do this in a way that ensures your phone will fall face-down into the cold embrace of the street whose love is so great for your phone that it will shatter its very being. Check.

 

4) Do not immediately look at the damage but rather, look at the nice, uncracked side of your phone. Check.

 

5) Pick up your phone and cry a little bit. And by a little bit, I mean, A LOT. Check.

 

6) Congratulations, you broke your phone! Now rethink your entire life and sit and meditate on the materialism of the world. After this meditation, go out and spend most of your paycheck on a new phone and vow to never ever ever ever take the case off ever. Check. Well, that’s in progress.

- Daughter

I Abhor Doctors

I am not sure if I have complained about this on the blog or not before because sometimes, I lose track of what things I have or have not complained about on here. Anyway, my knee. My right knee. It hurts. A lot, guys. 

As much as my dad tells me to “rub some dirt on it,” it is not getting better and now my knee hurts AND has dirt on it. My knee hurts when I walk. When I dance. When I wear heels. When I sit. When I stand. When I work out. And just moving in general is a painful life fact. I can practically hear my dad screaming, “JUST WAIT TIL YOU’RE MY AGE.”

And that’s just it, I’m not 543234820481 years old. No offense, Dad. You’re young and all… You can twerk with the best of them. 

Annnnywho, I went to the doctor a few weeks ago and explained to him how much pain I was in and how I couldn’t run. I also told him that walking, ellipticaling, and biking were extremely painful. 

This is what the doctor told me to do: walk, elliptical, and bike. Cool, so you’re not listening. PUT ON YOUR LISTENING EARS, DOCTOR. MAYBE I SHOULD JUST RUN, TOO, WHILE I’M AT IT?

Oh wait, he told me to do that too. When I asked him if I could run the 10k I signed up for: “Yeah, sure, you’re 22. Why not?” 

What.

This isn’t the first time a doctor hasn’t taken me seriously. 

When I was elbowed in the face during a soccer game, I knew I had broken my nose. I was bleeding everywhere like a scene out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre except it was worse because the massacre was happening on my FACE. I was like a living, breathing Picasso painting. Come to think of it, I probably shouldn’t have gone to the doctor’s office but instead, cruised to the nearest museum to be admired by visitors. Despite my face’s asymmetrical appearance, I was told with great confidence that my nose was not broken.

And, then, the next day, a different doctor took two seconds to look at my face and said, “Your nose is broken and you are going to have surgery tomorrow.” 

And then, when I was having crazy calf muscle pain, a doctor laughed at me and said it was just shin splints. He said I was fine. One MRI later and, BAM, double shin stress fractures. 

I also was very sick during college for a period and my hair was falling out, I had trouble getting out of bed, and generally sucked at being a human and not some sort of sea slug intent on doing nothing but sleeping. Instead of having me tested for things, the doctor made me take 7 iron pills a day “for energy.” One blood test later: BAM, CELIAC DISEASE.

So, in summary, I have an intense dislike, distrust and inherent hatred for doctors and their kin. Also, my knee hurts. Also, I hope I get a full-time job with really good health insurance. 

Whoa, so this post got really ranty about doctors. It was supposed to be about my pathetic attempt at fitness while injured. Oh well, it needed to come out. 

- Daughter 

 

“That Will Be $14.67.”

dollar

“It will be what?” I asked in reply, late this very afternoon.

“Your total is $14.67,” repeated the very young clerk at the auto parts store.

Like the next guy, I love getting an insider’s great discount (Never Pay Retail!), but this was a little too much.

“Are you completely sure you got everything?  That’s fifteen dollars for all of this, including the oil?”

“Oh, you know what?  I forgot to add the oil.  Let me fix that — that will be $30.16, total.”

“Would you have caught that if I hadn’t said anything and just walked out the door?”

The clerk thought for a moment, then said, “No.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.”

Then he paused.

“Thanks for your honesty,” he said.

Well, that’s a new one on me.  I really didn’t want this kid’s pay docked fifteen bucks because I left the store with five quarts of free motor oil.  And he looked like he could use the money on complexion cream anyway.

Make no mistake about it, however, I make plenty of mistakes every day, cut corners all over the place fairly routinely, and can swear with the best sailors who ever roamed the Seven Seas.

In short, I can be a bad man — a very bad man.

But today I wasn’t, if only for a little while.

And I am reminded of an incident from my youth — I was probably about ten years old — when I found myself in a Western Auto Store.  As I was waiting for whichever parent toted me along for the trip (they were next door doing something else), I wandered up and down the aisles, fascinated with the wide selection of hardware items.

After a few minutes of honestly minding my own business and enjoying the cornucopia of nuts and bolts, a much older sales gentleman approached me.

“Son,” he said.  “Would you happen to have any US currency in your pockets?”

This was weird, I thought.  I’m ten.  I’ve got, maybe, three cents total to my name.  All my real assets are baseball cards.

“No, I don’t,” I replied.

“Then I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave the store.”

I guess I must have looked nefarious, though I can’t tell you why.

But I felt ashamed as I walked out and, of course, I had no reason to be.

In hindsight, I suppose the guy had probably been ripped off a few times and, giving him the benefit of the doubt, probably wasn’t a complete a**hole.  But he was close to one, and I never forgot the incident.

I suppose the two events aren’t really related, except that they are.  One guy was a jerk (salesman), and one guy wasn’t (me).

Western Auto went out of business many years ago, or was bought out, or something happened to it, because they are no more.

I’m still around, however, and when the kid handed me the receipt today, he circled some verbiage on it and said if I answered the survey, I might win $5,000.

“Five thousand bucks?  That’s a lot of money,” I said.  “You have a good day.”

“You, too, sir.  Thanks.”

- Dad

I Did One Smart Thing Today

gloves

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

Oh, I tried to be smart.

Oh, I tried to be someone I’m not.

Oh, I tried to keep my tools organized.

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

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

That was my big project for the day.

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

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

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

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

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

Silence.  Of course.

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

Kids.  Don’t you love ‘em?

But back to my disaster at hand.

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

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

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

This was going well!

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

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

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

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

And the damn things simply disappeared.

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

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

Perhaps not quite a Festivus miracle, but damn close.

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

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

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

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

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

I gave up.

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

Yep.  It was the socket.

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

Success, but conditional.

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

What an idiot I am.

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

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

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

- Dad

Stranger in a Strange Land

bth_TraderJoesLogo_zps7dce9628

With copious apologies to Robert Heinlein, of course.

So, on with the story. . . .

I live smack dab in the middle of a dominant household matriarchy, whose principals either imagine they suffer from various gastroenterological maladies or really do suffer from them (i.e., Daughter, et al).

I suppose I’m somewhere in between, having good days and bad.

But since we now all have a laser-like focus on what goes into our gullets, I have to admit that, on the whole, I feel mostly better most of the time, especially compared to the Olden Days of Big Macs and PowerAde.

I can remember when a hearty lunch for me was a can of Coca-Cola and a six-pack of Oreo cookies.

Today, of course, eating like that is a one-way ticket for a weekend spent in the master bathroom.

“Are you finished yet, Dear?”

“No.  Use the girl’s bathroom, please.  I’m not going to be done for quite a while.”

Or some such.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that we try to eat healthy, organic, non-GMO, local, gluten-free, and mega/mega expensive food, lest we corrode our intestines away with the pig slop that everyone else ingests.

And in order to follow such a righteous food path, we must studiously avoid the big chain supermarkets because they pander to the masses and sell stuff like Pink Slime, whatever that is, and their prices are reasonable.

Nope.  We shop at the foo-foo boutique grocery stores almost exclusively now.

Let me re-state that.  My Lovely Spouse and Daughter frequent these establishments.  If I’m along for the ride at all, I usually sit in the car in the parking lot, patiently waiting with DandyDog, as he drools and cries every time a female walks by who even remotely resembles his Mama.

It’s a life, I suppose.

Today, however, in a glaring breach of Internal Household Protocol, I was asked to pick up one item from Jimbo’s on the way home from work:  gluten-free frozen pancakes.

Can’t be that hard, right?

The first problem I encountered was that I realized I was not equipped with a reusable shopping bag.  I previously stashed one under the driver’s seat of my truck, but in a very uncharacteristic burst of cleaning energy, Daughter must have removed it after borrowing my vehicle on her trip to the new California City of San Francisco-Sacramento.  Its city limits span almost two hundred miles!

I mean, if you walk into Jimbo’s without a reusable bag, you might as well put a swastika armband on, as well, because everyone pretty much considers you a criminal.

So I kind of cowered as I moved around the store.

The next issue was I was not dressed inappropriately.  In other words, I wasn’t wearing too tight leathers, or a tie-dyed shirt, or sandals. Plus, I had shaved this morning.

I just didn’t have that “New Age Look” about me.  Instead, I had that “too-tired, need a beer but can’t drink anymore” aura.

And to complicate matters further, I’m a guy, which means that I would rather spend twenty minutes looking for something than ask a store employee for help.

After all, I can use most of the power tools I own almost safely!

I simply didn’t fit in there today, to be honest.  I was not initiated into the Jimbo’s Vortex.

And the Jimbo’s I was in is a rather small store, which should theoretically translate into finding stuff easier because there’s just less room to stack crap in.

Wrong.

I spent approximately twenty minutes (it was preordained, after all) looking through all of two aisles for those damn pancakes.

The good news is I eventually found them.  The bad news is I decided to pick up some graham crackers, too.

Twenty more minutes andI was clutching them tightly, as well.

Check out time.

The lady in front of me had one item to purchase.  It was a little bottle of Stevia sweetener.

After screwing around with her debit card, chatting with the clerk, and chatting with me, she finally completed the buy.

It took her five minutes.

Fortunately, my card worked lickety-split (I love writing that!), and I quickly headed for the exit.

Total time in the store:  Forty minutes and change.

Total number of items bought:  Two.

“Sir, would you like a bag to carry those boxes?”

“No, thanks.  I don’t need a bag.”

What I needed was a drink.

Yep.

Foo-foo coffee.

But that’s tomorrow morning.  I’ll just have to suck it up until then.

At least I’ll be able to pass the time tonight with graham crackers.

And I have taken a solemn vow not to be without reusable grocery bags ever again.

After all, I know I may not fit the standard Jimbo’s shopper profile but, damn it, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.

And if I fail, there’s always Oreos — and Coke.

- Dad

You Stay Classy, Customers

Usually, customers are so-so in the personality department. Most go about their business without much pomp and circumstance, are tight-lipped at checkout despite your efforts of fake cheerfulness, and leave with a terse, “Thank you.” I don’t mind these people even though it honestly hurts my feelings a tiny but when people don’t respond to my award-winning smile and personality (my parents can vouch for this). Then, there are customers who want to start a fight or believe that you personally chose to make their life hard.

Customer: “Excuse me, this is really expensive. Is this the real price?”

Me, in my head: “No, we put fake prices out just to mess with customers’ heads. It keeps them on their toes, you know?”

Me, in real life: “Yes.”

Customer: “WHAT A RIPOFF! THIS IS HORRIBLE. WHAT??!!! I AM NEVER COMING HERE TO BUY DECORATIVE GOURDS AGAIN!”

Me, in my head: “Can I get that in writing?”

Me, in real life: “I am sorry.”

This week, however, customers have been on the extreme ends of the personality spectrum: mean and heinous creatures from the gaping maw of hell or sweet angels God/Allah/the Universe/Buddha himself blessed me with for my retail happiness and fulfillment.

A few nights ago, we were closing up shop when I found a wine bottle that was 1/3 empty. I looked around and chuckled. Surely, this is a hallucination. Maybe this is a return. There is no way that a customer legitimately got wasted in the store. 

I took the bottle to my supervisor and said, “Lookie what I found!”

She told me she was actually looking for the bottle because she found a glass of wine sitting on one of the tables the day before.

So, let me lay this out for you in case you are not sure why this is so amazing and impressive.

A customer made the conscious decision to open a bottle of wine with no plans of paying for it and then, in the midst of this decision, also decided it was too uncouth to drink straight from the bottle. Naturally, this customer decided it would be classier and better in general if he/she could procure a wine glass from which he/she would casually sip their stolen wine.

And this actually happened. Completely unnoticed by store employees. Yeah, we’re basically a bar now I guess.

The thing is, I wasn’t – and am not – mad. I’m more impressed than anything else. I guess we were shorthanded or reeeeally unobservant that day.

You go, Drunk Customer!

- Daughter

That Moment When You are in Retail and an Acquaintance is Studying to be a Pediatric Oncologist

I see a lot of people I sorta-kinda know at my job. I generally cower in the back until he/she leaves, or, if I know there’s a good chance he or she will remember me, I will say hi and exchange pleasantries like a human being. Anyway, I was tirelessly trying to please customers (hmm.. debatable) when I recognized a face in line. I knew it was the mom of an elementary school friend. We had found our own friend groups in middle school and high school and our friendship faded out. But I was curious to see where she was in her like.

I asked the mother of said childhood chum how she was doing and she told me that her daughter was studying to become a pediatric oncologist. Yes, a pediatric oncologist. So, she’ll be treating babies with cancer.

She looked at me after she said this and said, “And what are you doing with your life these days?”

I looked down at my red apron that had my name scribbled across with a little heart at the end for added creativity points and answered, “Well, working… And then finishing school this semester.”

“Oh, and what do you plan to do after?”

“Be a writer.”

“Good luck with that!”

My self-esteem, already on shaky ground, plummeted with that comment. Okay, so maybe I won’t be a pediatric oncologist, and that’s fine. I’m very happy just slinging around price guns and filtering through customers’ inane questions until I’m a famous writer writer who at least pulls in enough money to pay the bills and allow myself to eat kale.

And you know, retail isn’t that bad. It has definitely changed how I view humanity. Some people know that you are a human and treat you like one and other people see your little apron and impose Customer Law which allows them to be a jerk. I have very little patience for Customer Law and usually reciprocate with Manager Law which is when I call a manager to deal with the person because I literally cannot say anything without being fired.

Retail Robin is probably one of my favorite memes in existence just because of its sheer applicability to my life:

retail robin 1

rr 2

rr 3

rr 4

rr 5

Lesson of the day: avoid people always.

- Daughter

I Hate Tom Petty, Man!

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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

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