Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Bleeps

And so this is Leap Day, our quadrannual (?) gift of an extra day, thrown in like an extra donut or a post-prandial mint. Lagniappe for the effort of making it through another 3 x 365 days cycle. The proverbial bone thrown at us for enduring. But why February? Don't we deserve a July 32nd a helluva lot more than a February 29th? Come on, Congress, do something about that. One would think that by now, with our computerized precision, we could do better than the old, well, we'll just throw in an extra day every few years to balance the ledger method.

Oh well, by my digital count this is the 13th Leap Day of my life. Nearly a fortnight of extras. And so, like a CD or DVD reissue packed with all sorts of bonus "extras," I'll celebrate Leap Day by gifting you all with some outtakes, some bonus extras from this blog. What follows are scraps from the spitoutyourgum cutting room floor (believe it or not, one does exist). There's no context, no order, no explanation--it's a rainy gray day in February after all; you get what you get. Enjoy.
  • So I said, "I'll pay for the first two months of Weight Watchers if you give me a lap dance right now."
  • shenanigans
  • To make a long story short ... (excised from countless posts)
  • Turns out it wasn't a freckle after all.
  • (And let me just add here that in no time was the llama ever in harm's way, though the same can't be said for Hector's sanity, which, if I had enough time, strength, cash, and patience, I could expound on forever, but as I don't, plus the fact that Hector is now somewhat respectably engaged to the lion tamer, makes practically this whole parenthetical insertion kind of moot).
  • "But Popular Mechanics wasn't published in the time of Noah, Dan, that's the whole point."
  • For Lent I've decided to try to embrace the artistry of Journey.
  • picayune/jejune/croon/Boone/Al Toon/cocoon/chewn
  • There's got to be at least one reader in Alaska, no?
  • Emily
  • Let me tell you about the time I tried to microwave a rutabaga.
  • kinda like Rick Santorum being your wedding DJ
  • And if not, I'll blog every day in 2011.
  • Can't I just call you Ishy?
  • It's been quite some time since I mentioned Bob Dylan.
  • And because gifts are not to be sneered at, I hereby pledge to be doing something meaningful come this February 29th.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

To Frank

My oldest friend and part-time, freelance muse, Frank called me the other day to suggest I write a post about the five people I would most like to go drinking with. If a time capsule is involved, I guess drinking with The Faces, circa 1973, would be as good as it could get. Got me thinking about all the other great pastimes and the various people I'd want to pass the time with doing all those things.
  • Having a water balloon fight with--Mama Cass
  • Going to an amusement park and watching people with--Mark Twain
  • Riding a roller coaster at the amusement park with--Huck Finn
  • Building a snow man with--Tesla
  • Skipping stones across a pond and never saying a word with--Bob Dylan
  • Throwing grapes in the air for the other to catch with--Lily Tomlin
  • Having a cup of tea with--Charlie Watts
  • Getting stuck in a long line at the discount drug mart with--George Carlin
  • Walking quietly through an art museum with--Aretha Franklin
  • Playing croquet with--Emily Dickinson
  • Running up a down escalator with--Groucho Marx
  • Playing Scrabble with--James Joyce
  • Making prank phone calls with--Richard Nixon
  • Running a three-legged race with--Ahab, naturally
  • But having a drink with? Hmm, it's been too long--Frank 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nosing About

The human body, as anybody half-sentient knows, contains multitudes. It's a United Nations of movable parts that remarkably is usually pretty much in synch. There are times, though, when one little part--like a rebellious small country somewhere we have to consult a map to find--seems to dominate. The last few days, my life has been completely nose-centric. Not knowing exactly what an uncommon cold might be--blowing your ear, perhaps?--I guess I've just been boringly suffering a common cold. Sometime this afternoon, when I realized that since Sunday night I've blown out enough phlegm from my nose to equal my body weight, I thought about that great phrase--cut off your nose to spite your face--and concluded I have nothing against my face. In fact I love my face and hence wanted to cut off my nose to save my face, my body, my life. Fortunately, I guess, just as I had finished sharpening the scissors, my consciousness succumbed to the wonders of NyQuil and I dozed off. So my nose is still intact, and I believe running a bit less, either due to the NyQuil, time, or the threat of amputation (along the way, by the way, I've perfected the art of buying time by rolling over onto my other side and thus making my nose change its marathon running course from one nostril to the other). Having been genetically blessed by a non-descript nose, I can go months without ever really considering it (I do know two people who have no sense of smell--I wonder how little they consider their noses), but then a few germs get in the way, and I can think of nothing else but my nose for days on end. And so, my eyebrows, toenails, and kneecaps have been allowed to run wild this week. It's always something. Anyway, this nose-obsession of mine these last couple of days has reminded me of something a little more divine, a poem/prayer I wrote a couple years ago. Enjoy it and mind the noses, yours and everyone else's.

By God, I’ve got it, God.
The way to remember always
That you are in everyone I meet.
The nose.
The nose knows.
From now on, I’ll see everyone’s nose
And know that you are present.
Primal pathway of breath-life.
Center of the face, of faith.
In its protrusions and elongations,
Its twistedness and pimply hairy beauty
—I’ll see you in human contact.
May the nose be my divine neon sign.
Make me aware of every nose I meet, Lord,
So that I may see past the human nuisance
And glimpse your presence all around me
As plain as the nose on my face.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life, As We Knew It, Has Jumped The Shark

My ignorance is substantial. I once lost the grand prize on a radio show phone-in trivia contest when, after answering three or four pretty esoteric questions correctly, I was stumped on the final one: Why was the number six afraid of the number seven? Because, apparently (as I was mocked by a few dozen people who of course did not know the answers to the several questions I did answer), "seven eight (ate, get it?) nine." Despite being of prime age (about 12 or 13) to totally be blown away by its amazingness, I did not at the time, nor have I ever in 35+ years since, see the movie Jaws. To my credit, I believe, I stopped watching Happy Days around the time they totally abandoned the character of Richie's basketball-playing older brother, Chuck, I believe, and when Fonzie switched from wearing that modest jacket and donned the leather. Therefore, I never did see the episode when said Fonzie on his motorcycle jumped the shark, so when that phrase became popular for meaning the moment when something loses all touch with reality, I was hopelessly clueless as to what it meant and why it meant it.

And so, with my ignorance bona fides well established, I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea who Coco is nor do I care--care not who she is or that I don't know who she is. Having thus proven my total disinterest regarding the subject, then, I feel I am qualified to say that after seeing this headline on the internet ("Coco Gets An Ultrasound Of Her Ass To Prove It's Real") and seeing both the accompanying photos and video from what I assumed was an innocuous but somewhat helpful in a public servicey way TV show The Doctors, life as we once knew it has indeed lost all touch with reality. Even if I weren't blowing my nose two times every sentence at the moment and waiting on a NyQuil bath to take me and my cold away for eight hours, I think rather than dissect this absurd cultural moment with the all the intellectual rigor and run-on sentences you faithful readers have come to know and love, I would simply end this post right now and invite you all to ponder the heft of that headline and what it means for all of us in this obvious-by-now charade we once called so dearly Life on Earth. This very real ass is going to retire for the evening and mourn what up until now had been a pretty decent existence for humanity. NyQuil all around for my friends; Coco for everybody else.

(And yet, I can't quite stop myself, the theology of it all astounds me. God is and always has been all-knowing and all-seeing, I believe. So even when His beloved creations Adam and Eve had not even developed a hunger, had not even begun to scratch at their fig leaves, even as succeeding generations--and millennia--came and went and struggled to come up with the ideas and executions of such things as the wheel, language, movable type, and electric garage door openers--before during and after all of this grand human history--God knew that one day millions of his creations would read [and, minus one, at least, be interested in it] the headline "Coco Gets An Ultrasound Of Her Ass To Prove It's Real" and still He loved us and continued to shed His grace on us. Awe-inspiring. God is merciful. Amen and good night.)

Check out the insane video here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Nuptial Fundraising

One of my big plans for this Presidents Day holiday was to go get my eyebrows done, as well as to get a haircut. Unfortunately, I slept in a little late and didn't make it to the one-man barbershop as early as I would have liked. So I took a seat while one man was getting his hair cut, and two others--one with a small boy--waited ahead of me. Knowing full well that I'd never wait through two and possibly three more haircuts, I still loitered if for nothing else but the unique brand of entertainment that often occurs at a real barbershop (vs., say, a salon). I wasn't disappointed when, in the middle of the barber telling the man in the chair about the difficulties he had had last winter with his relatively new snowblower, which in turn made him sign a contract with a snowplow guy this year (the unsnowiest winter in some time), in walked a nice-looking young couple. The man held what looked like a box of donuts, so immediately the barber, definitely relishing his role of being the emcee of anything going on in his establishment, made some crack about giving a donut to everyone. The couple laughed, but then the woman, taking off her knit cap, got down to business. No, she smiled, there were no donuts in the box but, as the guy opened the box, there were "actually" these beautiful "windcatchers," which the couple was selling to help finance their wedding next month.

As it was, I had been ready to leave the barbershop at this time because, after ten minutes, the barber was still working on the quite bald guy's head in the chair (well, the bald guy was in the chair too, along with his quite bald head), and I calculated at this rate I might be there until closing before I got my spot in the chair. But then the couple walked in, made their unique sales pitch and at just the same moment Meat Loaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" came on the radio (I wish I could make this stuff up; if so, you'd all be paying for my words, not getting them for free here). I stuck around. Obviously the barber was going to handle this affair, so the rest of us just sat and watched. He was good (afterward regaling us all with stories of all the "crazy people you wouldn't believe who come through that door selling stuff"). He laughingly, though respectfully, told the couple that he had been married three times and nobody had ever helped him pay for his weddings, "so I think you two can pull it off okay. Though I hope neither of you gets married three times." The young woman kind of winced at that, thanked everyone (the guy might have uttered a "thanks" too, his only words of the encounter), and the two of them left. Too bad, because having decided I wasn't going to be spending 15 bucks on a haircut today, I probably would have bought a windcatcher (I've spent my life passing wind, I might as well invest in a catcher; you always remember your first) if they had been allowed to stay and peddle their wares.

Naturally, as soon as the couple departed, the barbershop kind of exploded. What the hell was that, being the basic theme. One guy wondered how many windcatchers one (or two) would have to sell to finance a decent wedding. Another thought it would have been a good deal if, along with the windcatcher, you got an invite to the reception and free food and drink. The guy in the chair, perhaps showing why he has so little hair left on his head, worried if they were really getting married or if this wasn't some kind of scam, then wondered if maybe the couple at that very moment were "keying" his car. All the while, Meat Loaf pleaded to "let me sleep on it." I just sat there reveling in human nature--as soon as someone a little odd leaves the premises, we all start hurling insults at him or her or both. I just wonder what they said about me two minutes later when I grabbed my coat and headed out, telling the barber I'd be back later in the week--my hair, if not my eyebrows, could wait a couple more days. I thought maybe they would think I was part of the couples' would-be scam in some way, a decoy if you will, making sure no one would run out to make sure his car was not indeed being keyed. Maybe for a few minutes of barbershop repartee I was known as the Windcatcher Accomplice.

All day long, though, I've been thinking of that couple. Now maybe they were planning on another winter like last where they could shovel their way through January and February to a pretty pricey shindig in March, but with this year's mild winter, they had to shift to Plan B. But how in the hell could peddling windcatchers to barbershop patrons be anyone's Plan B? Just what other ideas did this couple have that they finally decided windcatchers would be the best way to finance next month's wedding? I can't wait to see their kids' science projects. But, the more I pondered, while the details leave a little to be desired, the general idea has some merit: get other people to pay for your wedding. Why not offer your nuptials as a sound business investment? For a small investment you get a wedding picture and a piece of cake mailed to you. For a larger investment, you get double your money back in ten years, when the couple have established themselves and are making good money? For an even larger, though riskier investment, thirty years down the line you get ten times your investment when the couple's prodigy kid sells his start-up company for a cool $100 billion. Make your marriage an investable commodity. Mr. Goldman, meet Ms. Sachs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hot Car

  • "My other car's a Hibachi."
  • "Don't get too close, now. It'll burn the hair right off the side of your head."
  • "Sure I hung a stocking on it last year. Santa gave me some fuzzy dice."
  • "Sixty miles to the log. Beat that, GM."
  • "Yeah, it's standard. But the bellows are extra."
  • "There's nothing more distracting than getting wood while driving."
  • "No, it's an Ashton Martin."
  • "No backseat stoking out of you!"
  • "This should keep that bastard from always calling, 'Shotgun!'"
  • "No cellphones while driving, hunh? The law don't say nothin' about smoke signals."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

E Pluribus Unum, To The N(ew)th Degree

I am so proud to be an American today. And humbled, too. Despite whatever little minor annoyances--mini crises such as outrageous fees, the ongoing BCS quagmire, or questionable TV programming decisions that all serve as a series of slaps in the face to one's belief--time and again something occurs in this great country that restores my unswerving faith not only in America's great promise, but in its earthy reality too. The latest case-in-point patriotic pick-me-up is the picture above (see more nation-affirming shots here, along with the story) and the accompanying story about a small group of dedicated, got-involved women at New York University who not only made the courageous, non-conformist choice to join the NYU Republican Club right in the heart of liberal America's spleen (Greenwich Village), and not only were creative and fun-loving enough to organize a "Newt Gingrich Sleepover" (and kind enough to snap & share the photos), but also took the time and energy to consider and don such sartorial splendor.

Now it's true that Newt Gingrich isn't my particular spoonful of political patent medicine, and it's true that in theory I bristle at the thought of girl sleepovers, having endured mid-70s middle school ones hosted by my older sisters (it takes decades and professional counseling to rid the mind of Bobby Sherman tunes) and, as a short-strawed chaperone, turn-of-the-millennium high school ones (where the big attractions seemed to be Adam Sandler DVDs and lots of munchies), the Real American in me wholly salutes these co-eds' dedication. While I'm not exactly sure what one might do at a Newt Gingrich Sleepover (though I imagine it might be quite natural to divide into three teams--Team Jackie, Team Marianne, and Team Callista--and play the Contract With America board game), and I would imagine that after seeing these pictures Newt himself wished he had put in a personal meet and greet appreance, really, it's none of my business, because what really matters is that these young women took the initiative to get involved (what says I'm involved more than forming a human pyramid?) and take an active part in the ever-unfolding story of American Democracy. No matter your particular political stripes, your sleepware preferences, the decor of your slumber party rumpus room, you should--if you call yourself an American--be proud and admiring of these young women, as I am. I always cringe when I hear someone wrap up a long-winded, pious speech with the line, "And that's what America's all about." America is not all about one thing. America is everything and anything, all the time: EPU, baby, out of many, one. So while I have absolutely nothing superficially in common with these Slumber for Newt women (the one at the back right in the photo above is supposedly Nixon's granddaughter-in-law, or something), I know that at the root, we are Americans--they and I. We will never wear the same t-shirts, but this summer we will both weep with pride when some underdog American with a troubled past stands on the highest podium in our Mother Country England and listens to the "Star-Spangled Banner" after winning Olympic Gold. And we will never punch out chads for the same candidates, but by God, if the infidels, the Marxists, or even the Trinidadians and Tobagonians dare step foot in this country with the intent to take us and our EPU lifestyle over, we will stand together as one. America contains multitudes, by God and thank God, and at the moment nothing makes this grand and glorious fact more clear to me than these women: Melville, and I'm sure Nixon, would be proud.

But then, in true American spirit, there's a voice of dissent. My less philosophic side (read cynical) screams, "It's been two days since I saw these pictures and read this story and I haven't slept since. Enough already! Just hold the election today and get it over with." To which there's only one response: Forget it Jake, it's America. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Most Powerful (Fearful) Person On Earth, For Ten Minutes

In one of the greatest bathroom reads of all time, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, the inscrutable Mr. James ranks baseball players in two ways: at their peak, and over their entire careers, thus giving weight to some players who shone brightly if only briefly. Think the wonderful late Mark Fidrych, who was nearly unhittable for his magical rookie season, then was done in by injuries. I was reminded of this the other day as I drove to work. I have written before about the thrills of working right next to a State Highway Patrol office where they conduct driving tests. Every day there's an endless parade of mostly teenagers chauffeuring around a well-dressed officer, who has the power to grant or deny each individual teen's bid for a driver's license. Mostly I see two aspects of the process: out back where the drivers come around for the tricky maneuverability test, and out front where the car pulls up after the entire test, the officer gets out, delivers the good or bad news to the waiting parent, and then strides into the office. If the reactions of teen driver and parent aren't clear enough, the results of the test are apparent soon enough: if the teen, with parent in tow, pulls around to park, the test was passed and now it's time to go in and get the actual license; if the car pulls away and off into the blue (read gray, it's Cleveland, after all) yonder, the test was failed, come back next week, kid (in an amazing bit of prescience, somehow knowing that thirty years later I would be writing about all of this, when I took my test, I failed the at-the-time-new maneuverability test; thus I drove off and returned the next week and duly passed; hence, in true journalistic spirit, I know intimately both sides of this story--you're welcome for my dedication to fairness).

Anyway, the other day, as I was winding my way through the cul-de-sac behind the strip mall--a less direct route to work, but one that avoids the utter chaos of negotiating the large parking lot, where it's obvious that years after acquiring their licenses, most drivers disregard all rules of the road--I found myself behind a car that was in the middle of a driving test. This became clear by the solid twenty seconds we lingered at every stop sign, waiting for all the other vehicles at the other various stop signs to wave the testee on, at first patiently and then a bit more passionately. Following directly behind the test vehicle gave me enough time to make a few discoveries: it is possible to keep a car moving at a steady rate of 3 mph, and turn signals can be quite hypnotic when deployed half a mile before a turn. When the car eventually did make that turn into the strip mall, I noticed that the testor was my favorite, a tall guy who looks uncannily like former football coach Bill Cowher, most accurately like Cowher after a replay challenge doesn't go his way. I'm glad that guy wasn't conducting the tests thirty years ago; I might have been so scared as to never pass the test.

All of this got me thinking that apart from an IRS auditor--covered completely, and then some, by the great David Foster Wallace in his posthumous, would-be novel The Pale King--there can be no more powerful, fear-inducing occupation than a driver's license testor. I'm talking peak performer, not career. Does anyone command greater respect, fear, and power--for all of ten minutes--than these Highway Patrolmen riding shotgun with some teenager whose whole world hinges on the outcome of the test? I think not. I mean familiarity, if not always breeding contempt, certainly breeds a lessening of authority, as any parent or teacher would know. But for that short, ten-minute interval of time, the driving testor is king, God, Supreme Being. In the moment of clarity that only comes from nearly being late to work and finding oneself behind a possibly newly-minted driver who is obsessively concerned with doing everything right and not pissing off the Supreme Being in the uniform riding next to him or her, I realized the awful--both in the that's horrible, and in the wow, amazing senses of the word--burden those testors must carry. I'm sure there are moments when all the over-the-top respect and reverence and obsequiousness feels pretty damn good and damn-well-deserved, but really, ten minutes after ten minutes, day after day, month after month, year after year of being on the receiving end of such frightened fawning must get tiresome, if not downright depressing. I wonder, if only to maintain some equilibrium in their lives, if these testors, after a particularly long day or week of being the Supreme Being, must have to go stand in line at the customer service desk of some discount warehouse, or spend a couple hours on the phone trying to get tech support for a PC, or simply go home and watch reruns of Cleveland Browns games from 1999-present. If they don't, they should start, because a little bit of masochism, a little bit of being kicked around, would probably be just what their psyches need; man, or woman, cannot live sane forever if all he or she knows is such power as the driving testor knows.

And forget such psychological babble. Aren't these driving testors driven completely nuts being driven around so anally, so deliberately, ten minutes after ten minutes, day after day, week after ... ? My God, I bet when they go out at night these driving testors beg their friends or lovers to take the wheel and drive like madmen(women). "Oh, please, roll that stop sign! I can't take another complete, twenty-second, look-all-ways-seven-times-and-then-tentatively-inch-out-into-the-intersection stop." Or, "Go ahead, take it up to twenty-seven in this 25 mph zone, please, just for me." Or, when the going really gets rough, "Okay, I'm going to tell you to go left at this next stop sign, but instead of saying, 'Yes sir,' and putting your turn signal on way too early, I want you to just gun it, run the stop sign and yell at me, 'In your maneuverability dreams, Ponch! Ha ha ha!' Oh God, that would be most wonderful!"

And so, my sympathies to you, officers, and my grudging--you really don't want it any other way, do you?--respect. My next fifty rolled stop signs are for you.

By the way, David Foster Wallace had an inconsistent career, but at his peak, nobody was better.

And Bill Cowher had an inconsistent career, but at his jaw-jutting, spit-spewing peak, he was among the best.

And Bill James, well, I'm still crunching the numbers on him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Doing Time At Red Lobster, or, Bowling For Punishment?

Sometimes the world just seems to fall right in place. Minutes after posting my previous blog (see below) about my good friend Sal's loss of his Dudeness, I came upon this story about a judge in Florida who "sentenced" a domestic abuser to a night where he--the abuser--must buy his wife flowers, take her to Red Lobster, and then to a bowling alley. The second "date" in this sentence is a meeting with a marriage counselor. In theory a well-measured sentence, in my opinion, especially because it didn't involve a Dude-erectomy, but as usual for me, I've got some issues.

First, though, I congratulate Judge John Hurley for his creative use of the law (for you Cuyahoga County readers, imagine what the sentence for Jimmy Dimora might be if meted out as creatively; I kind of like the thought of Jimmy, with tool belt, knocking on every door in the county and offering his home repair skills gratis). Not to make light of domestic abuse, but as Hurley deemed the violence in the dispute "very, very minor," the punishment--in theory to rekindle love--seems honorable, a decent alternative to throwing yet another person in jail and into the thicket of the criminal justice system. Kudos, Your Honor.

But, the particulars. Let's take a look at the judge's actual words in court: "He's going to stop by somewhere and he's going to get some flowers," Hurley said at a hearing, according to Florida newspaper Sun Sentinel. "And then he's going to go home, pick up his wife, get dressed, take her to Red Lobster. And then after they have Red Lobster, they're going to go bowling." First of all, creative sentencing, Judge, shouldn't preclude the use of exact language we all come to expect from legal proceedings. Now I don't know the entire story concerning this couple--maybe she loves Red Lobster and is always begging him to go and he refuses--but to specify the place of the meal while being so flippantly vague about the flowers smacks of judicial carelessness. I mean, following the letter of the law, the guy could "stop by" the Dollar Tree and buy a couple of plastic daffodils, no? He could drive through a cemetery and just "get some flowers" off an untended bump in the ground, no? Sure, the incident was "very, very minor," but we are dealing with a criminal here, Your Honor. "Stop by somewhere and get some flowers" leaves a little too much to chance, in my book.

And I realize Judge Hurley probably has a ton on his docket and a "very, very minor" domestic abuse case may not call for taking all day, but a little better precision with his language might cut down on the mis-interpretation possibilities. Look closely at this sentence: "And then he's going to go home, pick up his wife, get dressed, take her to Red Lobster." What do I know, maybe the offender is a nudist, but I think--given the official nature of court and all--"get dressed" should read something like "change into his finest clothing, maybe that velour jacket I've read about in the affadavit." And, "pick up his wife"? Okay, I won't pretend I'm teaching children how to write here and go on and on about the practical difficulties of lifting a spouse off the floor and then getting dressed, but come on, Your Honor, this is supposed to be about re-igniting the romantic fires of a relationship so that no more "very, very minor" incidents occur. Have a heart and do something with that "pick up his wife" line. And then there's the "after they have Red Lobster" line. Again, nit-picky maybe, but how does one, or two, "have Red Lobster"? Dining and dashing, chewing and screwing, feasting and fleeing, maybe? "We had Red Lobster all right," she grinned, wiping lemon juice off her chin as he and she ran pell mell to their vehicle. "We, Red Lobster," screams an untipped waitress as she watches the unpaying customers burn rubber out of the lot, "We've been had." Okay, fine, one does "have" McDonalds, Long John Silver, etc., but Red Lobster's better than that, and if this is truly about romance, don't tell them to "have Red Lobster," Judge, tell them to enjoy a quiet, relaxed, amorous culinary experience at Red Lobster (did you read to the end of the story where a Google user rates the particular Red Lobster as "quite possibly the best" in South Florida?). Red Lobster, hunh? Like I said, maybe it's her favorite restaurant, which is fine. And nothing against Red Lobster--I've had some scrumptious meals there before, and I am not a seafood lover--but for the purposes of the court, why not choose a little more romantic boite that isn't part of a national chain? And no, I will not be so cynical today as to suggest this whole story is bunk, a PR ploy planted by the good folks at Red Lobster on the cusp of their big time of the year, Lent. I will not even think of saying something as obvious as this whole story smells fishy to me. Not going to do it. Again, and this is just my own admittedly skewed bias, Red Lobster just doesn't sing romance to me.

Now I'm sure you think I'm just warming up, getting a little revved up on some stupid precise language anality and ratcheting it up a notch with a few digs at Red Lobster, only to let it all out on the whole bowling thing. Nope. I am not an avid bowler, but in pondering all the nuances of this story, I did some looking back on my own life and realized that every time I have ever "gone bowling" I have had a delightful time. Bowling alleys are batting 1.000 with me, which is more than I can say for just about any other experience in life, aside from eating mom's homemade chili. Despite whatever cheap flowers, despite whatever attire, despite "having" Red Lobster--despite whatever disappointments any of that possibly could hold for this court-ordered-trying-to-make-it-better couple--a night of bowling will cure all that ails or fails. Well done, Your Honor, after all. Maybe a few gutter balls early on, but you rolled a turkey in the tenth frame. I doff my rented shoes to you. Live happily ever after, couple in Florida.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dude-less In Topeka

I received a harrowing email the other day from my old friend Sal who lives in Topeka. I could provide you with a fascinating and highly entertaining back-story on all things Sal, but such levity might serve to undercut the message here: Beware, men. They might be coming for you next. What follows, then, is, verbatim, the email I received from Sal:

Guy, greetings! I just took our poodle Chantelle for a gorgeous walk on this beautiful day and decided to take a few minutes to catch up with you. I hope this missive finds you well. I know this time of year is not your favorite. May I recommend eating lots of citrus and investing in one of those high-powered sun lamps--I think you'll find a good deal on them at Bed, Bath & Beyond. And go see the new Jennifer Aniston movie for some much-needed chuckles. Oh, hey! I just received an email informing me that the pajama-gram I ordered for Michelle for Valentine's Day has just been sent. Yes, it's a good day indeed. Furthermore ... oh shit, Guy, who am I kidding? I'm dying here. There's no other way to say it, Guy (sorry about the use of Guy, I know you hate it as much I do, but as you'll see, I can no longer use the D word unless it's in the negative sense) I've been de-Dude-ed. I know you think that is impossible, me, Sal, not being a D-D-D Guy, so did I, until my little post-Christmas gift this year--a platinum Dude-erectomy. Yeah, Guy, there is such a thing. Dude-erectomy: "the complete (with purchase of our platinum plan) removal of any and all genetic/environmental/accidental factors that make the otherwise normal male an insufferable Dude." Guy, it's permanent. I'm an ex-Dude. I hope you'll still be my friend. And I apologize for dumping all of this on you during mid-February, that Guy-precious time when you're still basking in the afterglow of the Super Bowl (you'll never know--I hope/warn--the pain that just typing Super Bowl causes my fingers) and awaiting the pinnacle moment in Guydom--the arrival of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. But now is the appointed time (it's all programmed, you see: they told me that part of the total healing process would be such a heart-to-heart confab as this, approximately six weeks after the procedure; as with everything so far, they were so right).

It was a glorious, if normal, time for me. As usual I had taken a vacation week between Christmas and New Year's to do some work around the house and enjoy all the bowl games. With the new chainsaw I had bought I had gotten us a great tree and gerry-rigged a wonderful stand for it using Little Sallie's old wagon. I had cleaned out the pipes and tubing on my vintage Brewmeister, bought a couple new kegs wholesale for the duration of the bowl season, been to Costco to stock up on snacks, and even turned the cushions over on the couch. I paid little Tina to dust the wide-screen screen, and I put on my favorite old sweats and hoodie for a week of sheer football bliss. There was exactly three minutes and fourteen seconds left in the second quarter of the Product Placement Bowl between Colgate and Occidental, third and two, Colgate, on the Occidental seventeen, down 10-7 when it happened (they couldn't even wait for halftime, let alone a TV timeout; Guy, can you believe the last bit of football I was fated to see was Colgate-Occidental?). Before I knew it a troop of de-Duders stormed the basement steps; before that third down whistle blew I was in the middle of a full-scale Dudervention. It wasn't all man-hating women either. No, Guy, the majority of the dozen or so de-Duders were men. Men formerly like my former self--Guys, through and through. But they were strong. Not one of them, including my old friend Ralph (I think I told you about him before, the guy who turned me onto those great cigars and who I used to go shooting with), even stole a glance at the game throughout the duration of the Dudervention. Quite amazing, when you think of it. The memory of those first few minutes of de-Duding is still too raw to explain in detail, as I was told it would be for a few months. Suffice to say I uttered a few WTF Is This's, gorged (in denial, I later was to learn) on stale chips and old nacho cheese, and, toward the end, in what I was later to learn is the final act of desperation, and, paradoxically, the first step to recovery, tried to make them all go away by pointing the remote at each and every one of them and clicking random buttons. To no avail. Before the game was over (for the first couple days I begged people to tell me the final score, now, blissfully I will say, I don't care) I was being escorted from my own basement with a suitcase full of new, non-pullover, clothes. Ralph insisted I hug the Brewmeister one last time before I was put in a non-descript van and driven God knows where (they had me lying in back, breathing deeply to prevent the very-real danger of a sudden cardiac event). The long drive was eerily silent until I picked up on what the horde of them were chant-whispering as we drove: "Dude-away, Dude-away, Dude-away ..." on into the night.

The Dude-erectomy dual de-programming/re-programming site was quite quaint and cute (Guy, look at that phrase--quite quaint and cute--can you believe I just typed it as easily as I used to type my old one and only password--KICKASS123? This might also be the place to assure you that the Dude-erectomy did not, in any way, affect my sexuality; to be honest, Guy, things are only better in that department. Who knew romance is definitely better when you give it more time than a TV timeout? Dude-less, yes, Guy, but still 100% a man). The place could have passed for a B&B (that's Bed and Breakfast in post-Dude talk, not Beer and Broads, fyi). Everybody who worked there seemed to be named either Holly or Denny, and despite the at-times confrontational nature of the procedure--mainly caused by my stubborn clinging to Dudeness--couldn't have been nicer and more helpful. Not to say the fortnight I spent there was all peaches and cream. Without divulging too many details (I'm a sworn convert, it's true, I say with passion if still mixed with a bit of wistfullness that I'm assured will pass in "no time"), there was an intense melange of late night wake-ups to view endless loops of Jackass (the eventual pukings purgings hurt, but in a good way), late morning close readings and heart-rending discussions of Jodi Picoult books, tongue excercises to rid one's voice box of the capability to say the D word, headphoned Enya marathons, body-awareness and control sessions (I haven't scratched myself south of my nose in four weeks! burped belched or farted passed wind in three!), and sensibility re-assessing (the word "tits" no longer makes me giggle or even ripples my pulse rate). So much more, but you'll have to experience it yourself (truly, I hope you do; Gosh, Guy, Denny was right--just writing this email, which started out as a lament, a warning, is now nothing but a celebration of liberation! OMG, another step in my recovery! I'll have to text Holly as soon as I'm done here). I was excited when they told me it was time for my final exam. The night of a playoff game I was dropped off alone at a strip mall where serendipitously a Hooters sits next to a Barnes & Noble. Denny (a different one) simply said, "We'll pick you up in three hours. You have the power of choice, now, Sal. Remember that always." Maybe there was choice involved, but it seemed so natural to me. I entered the Barnes & Noble, gathered a hefty stack of home decor magazines, ordered a whole wheat scone and a small latte, and spent a wonderful three hours in a comfy chair pondering different ideas on how to makeover the basement. Before I knew it Holly was standing over me, beaming, and said, "Should we celebrate by buying one of those scented candles over there?" Cinnamon, Guy, I bought a cinnamon candle! Wish you were here.

P.S. I just returned from book club (every week--Sunday nights--we discuss a different Nora Roberts book [she's also J.D. Robb, did you know?] at which pace, even keeping up with her new releases, we should be able to read her entire canon by the year 2032!). It was the big First Sunday Night in February meeting of the club, where we discuss one of Nora's stirring trilogies. I brought the brie, a very soothing, slightly peppery one. Even two weeks ago I would have begged you to tell me all about what happened in the big game. Now I don't even care. In fact, Michelle has remarked, approvingly, how the words I now use seem to feature, less and less, the letters E, S, P, N. Guy, I'm a new man! If you can get it to Cleveland, the Brewmeister's all yours.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Got Caption

  • "Obviously, you can't accuse me of preaching to the choir."
  • " ... And that's the third reason why Will Smith is my favorite rapper."
  • "We've had three, going on four, years of a rock star President and just look at the results. It's time to return the Oval Office to a good old boring guy. I am that boring guy."
  • "Can anybody give me three synonyms for 'out of place'?"
  • "On third thought, just Google 'Senator Rick from PA' if you want to learn more about me."
  • "Really, I loved The Help."
  • "Now, while I still have your undivided attention, let me make clear how in touch with the American people I am."
  • "Of course I know I'm leaning to the right. Next question."
  • "I sense you all have a dream today."
  • "Soporific? No I don't know the meaning of that word. Is that another Dan Savage attempt to smear me? I'm getting pretty tired of it, you know. Aren't you?"

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dog Bites Man, Again

Far be it from me to accuse the Internet of being frivolous and obvious, but this "story" that appeared on my MSN homepage this morning is the journalistic equivalent of non-alcoholic beer, that's been watered down. A bald man (that's him above; or is Tupac not dead yet?) is accused of stealing Rogaine from a CVS store. What's next, obese woman accused of stealing box of Twinkies? Tiger Woods feeling horny? Newt Gingrich comes off sounding arrogant in latest debate? Listen up, media: If Fabio, Tina Turner, or Justin Bieber steal some Rogaine, let me know. That would be something that used to be called "news." Until then, keep me uninformed about the illegal comings and goings of Rogaine. Let's see, there's a pretty big football game happening this weekend, a presidential campaign going on, a couple crises brewing in the Middle East, a few celebrity hook-ups and break-ups even I know about and am slightly curious about, the continuing, um, developments in the alleged Michele Obama lingerie shopping spree to uncover, and I'm sure a bad storm and a fire or two to tell us about--the world does not need to know about some poor bald guy ripping off some Rogaine (there but for the grace of God ... ).

But what really gets me about this whole thing is not so much the story (I admit, I chuckled, kind of, reading the headline, but it's morning and I hadn't yet had a sip of coffee: I was defenselessly easy) but the fact that when I clicked on the headline (yes, I did; for research purposes only--it's been a slow week at spitoutyourgum as you can tell, and, as the story itself proves, men can get desperate sometimes) all I got was a very brief synopsis of the story and links to further links about the story. This was all brought to me by Bing. Mr. Gates, there's a lot about Microsoft I don't understand, much to my detriment I'm sure, but I really don't get Bing, and for that I'm pretty sure I'm grateful. As far as I can tell, Bing is like remedial Google. I'm no computer whiz (to sound old and fuddy, if not quite duddy), but it seems to me that Bing is for people who can't figure out Google. I've been suckered into clicking on Bing links before, only to find myself not reading the story I want to read, but finding a bunch of links to pretty much the same story about the story I thought I was clicking on in the first place. I think Kafka would have been a more apt name for the thing rather than Bing. Yes, I want to read the stupid story, so give it to me. Don't add to my humiliation by withholding the story from me and presenting me with a choice of a dozen other links to choose from. This is high-tech progress?

And how does Bing "hyper-enhance" the pleasure of not fully reading the story you want to read? By providing a host of links embedded in their non-story. I kid you not, these are the things you could click on when reading Bing's not-quite-the-story-of-the-blad-guy-who-stole-some-Rogaine-,-but-just-a-tease-to-keep-clicking-on-more-links: In the lead sentence, "New York City police are on the lookout ... " you can click a link to New York City. First of all, if you have to click on a link to New York City to find out more about it, I suggest drinking the Rogaine, not just applying it to your pate. A link to NYPD might be helpful, but a link to NYC itself? Is that for people reading and saying, "Hmmm, where is that?" "Hmmm, I've never heard of that place. Must be out west or down south somewhere"? After the phrase, "stole several boxes of Rogaine hair-growth solution" comes this linked question in parentheses (kudos, Bing, for excessive use of parentheses--you're not all that bad): "how much does Rogaine cost?" Not a link to the manufacturer of Rogaine or one to an objective appraisal of the seems-like-snake-oil-to-me product (I know several people who are not so happy they are bald; if Rogaine really worked, would there be any unhappy bald people out there?), but a link to the cost of Rogaine. Fearing not only a through-the-looking-glass-via-Bing hell but also what the authorities monitoring web traffic would assume about me if I clicked on this link (if you have to ask ... ), I didn't click to find out if it takes you to eBay auctions offering cut-rate deals on Rogaine. Okay, this next one, I'll admit, duped me. After mentioning that the alleged theft took place at a CVS store, the parenthesesed link is "track CVS stock." Obviously, though one can never really tell with Bing, from my experience, this would appear to be a link to an updated quote on the price of a share of CVS stock. Well, not so obvious to me. When I first read it I thought it was a link showing what was selling and not selling at CVS at the moment. "Hmmm, I wonder if that big display of Buy One Get One Free cans of Pringles down at my local (relative to CVS, mind you; since there's one on every other corner these days, local should read 'immediate') CVS has sold out yet? Well, I'll be damned, I can click on this handy Bing link and track 'sales of Pringle 2-4-1 promotion.'" When you develop that capability, Mr. Gates, ring me up. Finally, the killer. After wrapping up its very brief summary of the story you thought you were getting when you first clicked on the link, Bing offers this parenthetical link-query: "has this happened before?" You're kidding me, right? You're asking me if I'm wondering if Rogaine has ever been stolen by a bald guy before this particular incident? You mean there's a data base of Rogaine thefts, organized by the amount of hair on the head of the alleged perpetrator(s)? Can't you just hear Kojak (naturally) bellowing, "Crocker! I want a file of every cue ball Rogaine rip off on my desk, yesterday!"? Please tell me this "has this happened before" is Bing's signature sign-off to every one of its anorexic "stories," a ploy to get you to click on a link to some ED ad and not something that is specific to this non-story. I'll be able to rest better and come up with something real to write about much more easily if that's the case. If not, I guess I'll just keep pulling my hair out over the total uselessness of Bing. In which case, I guess, I'll need some Rogaine. Where can I get some? New York City? I've heard that's a pretty good place. Wonder how much the stuff costs, though? Let me first check how my CVS stock is doing. Not so good, hunh? Well, I wonder how easy it would be to steal some Rogaine? Has anyone ever done it before? Gosh, I wish I could get answers to all these difficult questions in one convenient place.