Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Tidbits

Sitting here, less than 24 hours 'til Christmas, not wrapping presents, because I can't find the tape and I refuse to even look for the scissors, because I know that somehow I'll just stumble across them somehow in the next few hours, I realize that everyone seems to have that holiday spirit (or lack thereof) stuck right there on the front part of their minds. I figured I'd ramble a bit about those seasonal traditions that I just can't seem to wrap my brain around, whether they be good ones, bad ones, or indifferent. There are a few holiday musts for some people that I personally don't understand. It's not that they're bad or wrong, it's simply that I don't get them,

1. Please Recycle. My whole life no one sent me a Christmas card. (Sure, my name got tagged onto the cards my parents were sent until well into college, but those don't count.) All that changed when my friends started getting married. All of a sudden, I'd made the list. It felt incredibly strange to me to think that some newlywed couple sat down a few weeks before the holidays and had a conversation about who was card worthy. It's even stranger to me that those people, the same people that I had not received a card from years past, now came to the decision that they should pay 32 cents to mail me a small piece of cardboard. What an unusual way to say Merry Christmas. "Have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of our Lord, here's a chimp with a Santa hat."

2. And Here in My Wallet is A Picture of... uh, Some Kid. Even stranger to me is opening a Christmas cards and finding a photograph inside. This odd development began around the time that my friends started having kids. Sure the kid is cute, and I'll even hang him or her on my fridge for a few weeks. (Here at the PlainOleHousehold, we actually have an entire side of the fridge dedicated to pictures of children that we've never actually seen in person). I totally get it for the first few years, babies are great and you want to show them off to the world, but there's got to be a stopping point. For example, my cousin. She's quite a bit older than me. We were never close. We never even lived in the same state. I believe that I've been in the same room as her less than two dozen times in my entire life, but yesterday I received a warm holiday greeting complete with a creepy picture of her two sons, aged seventeen and twenty-two, sitting in an awkward pose with a very odd looking sweaters on. Wallet size no less. Am I actually supposed to put this picture in my wallet? I know, it's the holidays, so it's the thought that counts and all that, but this is a very strange thought.

3. Oh Look Honey, There's Strangers Singing on Our Porch. Sorry, I don't get it. I'm not a big fan of Christmas music to begin with, and I really have a difficult time comprehending why most people's musical tastes change drastically in the month of December. (My sister wouldn't be caught dead listening to Bing Crosby the rest of the year, but the day after Thanksgiving he achieves some sort of god status.) Okay, if you like to sing, then I can understand the fun you might be having, but aside from the nursing homes or the kid's hospitals, I'm not certain that I've ever met anyone who truly enjoys being caroled. Get off the warm couch, open the door to the wind and cold, stand there inappropriately dressed for the weather, and smile a big fake plastic smile, all the while praying that these weirdos stop after one song. I can not imagine a more uncomfortable feeling.

4. It's the Thought That Counts A shout out to those of you in blog-land that preach the true meaning of the season. I start Christmas shopping the day after Christmas. In fact, I'm in a constant state of Christmas shopping. I search year round for the perfect gift for the people on my list. Granted it's a short list, only seven people, but I do put a lot of thought into it. I get a lot of pleasure out of watching other people open my gifts, I really do. That's my favorite part of Christmas. No, I don't spend a boatload of cash, but I do think I do a great job of finding just the right gifts. The student loan officer and the mortgage company appreciate my thriftiness, but I also think that my friends and family see the thought and care I put into things. Sometimes I wish they'd return the favor. Most of my family, and other people I talk to, seem to believe not in quality, or even quantity, but in fair market value and net worth. I overheard a few parents in the store today, trying to find a way to even out the dollar value of the children's gifts. My own mother told me the other day that she only has to but one more gift for me, because she spent more on my sister. I don't care what I get, or how much or it, just think of me. This year I will probably receive a fleece sweater that I won't wear, a fifteenth pair of pajama bottoms to put on the pile, a book that I've already read, a box of candy from my brother (who has known me for a long time and should know that I can't eat sugar), and a check from grandma. Yeah, yeah, yeah, ho, ho ho, it's the thought that counts, but sometimes there is no thought and that's the problem.

5. Secret Santa Needs to Check His List Twice Okay,I actually like the idea of secret Santas in a small office or in a large family where you can't possibly get everyone a gift, but it's gotten out of hand. It's now as if every workplace in North America feels the need to have a secret Santa gift exchange. No,we don't. I work in a school. There are forty-five teachers, ten-twelve support staff people, a handful of administrators, a staff of custodians, and I have no idea how many cafeteria workers. We had a secret Santa thing this year. Not wanting to be accused of being a Scrooge, I reluctantly signed up to participate. I drew Mrs. Hill. Who? Yeah, that's what I said, who? I had no idea who Mrs. Hill was. I didn't know what she taught. I didn't know if she taught. Heck, I didn't even know her first name. I asked three trusted friends, but none of them knew Mrs. Hill either. I would have asked more people, but what if I accidentally asked Mrs. Hill who Mrs. Hill was? What in the world was I supposed to buy this woman? I went with standard womanly things, like candles and soaps, but who knows if she'll like it? My wife's a woman and she'd throw junk like that away. Whoever drew my name must have at least known who I was (in addition to teaching, I coach the school baseball team), because I got a really nice coffee mug with a baseball team logo printed on it. It was heavy,so I figured that it was pretty expensive, but I gave it to a friend the next day, because I don't drink coffee and the logo stamped on there was the arch-rival of my favorite team.

Well, those are my Christmas pet peeves, I'm going to go toss my Christmas cards into the mailbox, maybe on the way back I'll stop at my neighbor's house and sing him a verse or two of Silent Night. Coming soon, the things I like about Christmas that most of you probably hate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Goodbye Laffy Taffy, Hello Taro?

Throughout time, people, not any specific people mind you, but people in general, have had to deal with some pretty difficult things. You have all those instances of religious persecution, civil rights movements, wars, famine, a time or two when some poor sap was asked to lift something really really heavy and carry it up a hill or a really steep staircase. There were folks that had to fight lions in them wacky ole gladiator arenas, fellas who had to dig themselves out of avalanches, and I once knew a guy who stood in line for a KFC buffet behind a really really really fat guy.

Sure, a lot of these things don't really compare with one another, but they all have one thing in common: they are probably the most difficult thing that particular person ever had to deal with.
Me, I've never done mortal battle with any of the big cats, I've never lugged a piano up a muddy slope, and I've never ever ever never been down-wind of Louie Anderson, however, I am dealing with something especially difficult right now, something I've mentioned in passing before, but something that just seems to have grown and grown and grown and taken over my life, kinda like a two-headed tumor monster that sucks the life out of you and calls you mean names at the same time. What am I talking about? The diet.

No, not South Beach, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Cabbage Soup, Zone, Lady Zone, Chocolate, Atkins, Metabolism, Amputation, Scarsdale, One Good Meal, Chicken Soup, The Danger Zone, Grapefruit, Fruit Loop, The Highway Through the Danger Zone, Scottsdale, Carbondale, Chippendale, Chip and Dale, Juicy Fruit, Fruit Juice, or the Arthur Treachers Fish and Chips Diet... I'm on the doctor crossed off everything on my list of good food spreadsheet, slapped me on the wrist and shouted, Soup Nazi style, "No Food For You" diet.

For those of you who haven't heard, my new diet eliminates about eighty percent of what I used to eat, and I used to think I was eating healthy. For example, my usual pre-diet lunch consisted of: a mixed green salad with spinach and some other unpronounceable leaves that Bambi's pal Thumper would probably turn his nose up at, carrots, chopped almonds, dried cranberries, and a nice fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. On the side, a bottled water, an apple, and one of them fancy-mix-it-all-up-like-you're-doin'-the-Cha-cha yogurts with the hunks o' fruit and the bits o' granola.

Post doctor visit... well, I'm still allowed the leaves, the granola bits, and the water. Gone are the presumably healthy foods like carrots, apples, yogurt with fruity hunks, the cranberries, and that lovely raspberry dressing. Why? I'm sugar free now.

The good doctor informed me that my triglycerides, which was also the middle name of the lounge singing creature at Jabba the Hutt's crib in the third Star Wars movie****, were a wee bit high.

**** source - Internet

According to the doc, anything above 150 is high, above 400 is riding that highway through the danger zone Kenny Loggins style, and above 850, well, you might as well do that one foot in the grave thing.(Subsequent Internet research has led me to believe that the doctor was right and also he was wrong. Also, he may be the prince of Siam, can be seen going to the bathroom on something called a pee-cam - but only by Gold Members - and may have invented the banana seat). My triglycerides were up near 1200. So, special diet for Mike.

Apparently (also according to the web), triglycerides are not only Lauren Bacall's maiden name and the capital of Indonesia, but they're some sort of fatty fatness in your blood that makes you (in due time)a pretty good candidate for heart disease, stroke, damage to all the muckety guts, and perhaps even the Oklahoma State Senate*.

*source - the Internet

Triglycerides come from sugar. Sugar, it seems, comes from not only sugar, but things that have sugar in them, like non-sugar-free gum,candy, cakes, two for a dollar McDonald's apple pies, cookies,brownies, Fudgecicles, ice cream, Mountain Dew, ginger snaps, caramel, chocolate, Laffy Taffy, and (who'd a thunk it) Pixie Stix.

But plain ole sugar sugar isn't the only culprit here, it turns out that starchy things like corn, carrots, potatoes, pasta, bread, Cap'n Crunch, pizza crust, my dad's collared shirts, and rice somehow get magically turned into sugars by our bodies. I was hoping that perhaps I could train my body to magically turn the starches into something different, maybe Vitamin D or hundred dollar bills or super models,but the doctor seems to think that's unlikely. The Internet is non-committal, although it does believe that romping in the sunshine while waving hundred dollar bills at super models may lower triglycerides.***

*** source - Internet

Also off the menu are fruits and fruit related things like jellies and juices. Which is both good and bad, because I love fruit juice, but I finally get to tell Richard Simmons to go the hell away.

That list of food I eat on a regular basis that I gave to the doc,it's not much of a list anymore. Really, it's more of a scribbly mess with the words meat and vegetables still sitting there in the middle of a vortexy whirlwind of red pen cross-outs. Now, my dinners consist of things like steak with a side of pork chops or chicken with a side of pork chops or even pork chops with a side of pork chops, and my lunch today is a sandwich made on a multi-grain bread with the consistency and taste of a roofing shingle, sugar free peanut butter,and a pseudo strawberry preserves that is the color that can only come from something radio-active and more than just resembles tar. On the side, I have a little baggie full of root vegetable chips, yes, root vegetable chips. I didn't know what they were either, but they made the weird dude at the Trader Joe's kinda giddy. They're made from things like parsnips, beets, yams, and something called taro that may just end those water-on-Mars debates, cuz that stuff had to grow somewhere and it sure as heck wasn't Earth (the Internet seems to believe that taro is a slutty Hollywood starlet, a province in ancient Greece, and that "taro has leaves that are 1 to 2 meters long with along, erect petiole.**"

**source - Internet (probably one of the icky sites)

I found the chips when the incredibly overzealous Trader Joe's stock clerk ran around the store trying to find stuff I could eat. It was very nice of him to go through the effort, and it was above and beyond when he started opening all the bags and offering me tastes of vegetable puffs, soy and flax seed tortillas, whole grain pancakes,poofy soy crisps, and tofu bratwursts. Now at least I have some variety in my life. Next time I have a steak with a side of pork chops, I can throw some of the orange veggie poofs and a couple of the taro chips (with real beet juice) on the top for color, at least that's what the Internet told me to do.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Seven Things about PlainOleMike

This past weekend, Bee over at Bee's Musings tagged me with this seven things about yourself meme. I thought long and hard about it and came up with these interesting tid-bits about myself to share.

1. I am deathly afraid of elevators. I'm not as bad as I used to be, but I still get very nervous when the doors close and the car starts moving. Sometimes I feel sick to my stomach, but I used to get dizzy. This made life very difficult in college when I was assigned a room on the 14th floor of the dorm building. It all stems from a childhood incident in which I was stuck on an elevator all by myself.

2. I'm an English teacher, but I failed English class my senior year in high school. It was stupid - I could have passed, but I was a stubborn idiot who chose the wrong battles to fight - I didn't like the book we had to read in class, so I didn't.

3. I hate Christmas music. It drives me nuts. I can't understand how people can listen to it non-stop for an entire month before Christmas. What I really don't get is how people, who all have their own musical tastes, suddenly drop their love of rock or country or hip-hop or whatever it is you listen to, to listen to nothing but bad music that if the lyrics were about anything but Santa and baby Jesus and boys with drums they'd hate. While I'm ba-humbugging, I don't like It's a Wonderful Life either.

4. I also hate ham. I love all other pig related meats, but ham is nasty. I can not stand the taste of it. However, oddly enough, if I have leftover ham, and I fry it up in a skillet in the morning with some eggs and toast - I love it - which is doubly weird, because in any other situation I hate eggs too.

5. I have a pair of pants that I wear to work at least once a week without a button. The button fell off the first time I bought the pants, so I put it in that weird little pocket to sew it back on later. That was two years ago. The button is still in the pocket, and I still wear the pants often - I just make sure to wear them with a shirt that stays untucked. I'm either a huge slob or incredibly lazy, maybe both.

6. I have some sort of intolerance to sugar. I don't know why, but my body doesn't process excessive sugars the right way and I get terrible migraines. I have to be very careful about the amount of sugar I eat, but not just ice cream, candy, and cake - all other sugars like fruit, juice, potatoes, pasta, breads... It makes for interesting menu planning. People don't understand it, so I usually just tell them I have diabetes (because my condition is in the diabetes family), because at least they've heard of and "get" diabetes.

7. Birds are inexplicably drawn to my car. My wife, my dad, and my friends thought I was nuts when I told them this, but they've since witnessed the phenomenon. I will drive down the road and the birds that swoop around and get out of the way of everyone else... they fly right into my car. I don't try to do it, but I have hit five flying birds in the last year (three in the grill, one square on the headlight, and one on the windshield). I don't understand it, and I wish it would stop, but for some reason all suicidal birds see me as an aviary Kevorkian or something.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ouched Limagents and Dead Fried Weasels

Yesterday I was an athlete. Not yesterday in the literal sense like the day before today and the day after yesteryesterday (what the hell does yester mean, anyway? we don't use that prefix anywhere else - like not at my current place of employment, but yesterjob... I had a delicious pot pie yestermeal... yesterChristmas, I got a sack full of paprika from my yesterboss, that's why I quit my yesterjob and gotbooted from my yesterapartment for failure to pay the yesterrent...)

Yesterday in the figurative, dreamy, reminiscing, John Lennon -Yesterday love was such an easy game to play now I need a place to hide away oh I believe in yesterday - sense. Back in the day, I was an athlete. Well, I played sports anyway... I did a little of everything. Football, hockey, basketball, baseball, track, soccer...I was the lord of the monkey bars at Clow Elementary. I could climb a tree better than anyone in the 'hood. Daily participation in incredibly vigorous games of hide n' seek, and I could freeze tag like nobody's business. I was an athelete.

The problem... I was little. I was a wee lil fella. People wondered if I'd ever grow. Mom, Dad, Nana, my sister, the mail man, the neighbor's dog, the dude that cut my dad's hair, birthday party clowns, a creepy old woman down the street that always ranted about the evils of Tupperware... I began to wonder if perhaps these people didn't have anything better to wonder about... the economy, the job market, the state of affairs in the Middle East, whether or not Barbie's shoes match her purse, the ever changing zip codes, sniffing your own butt, Bryl-Cream, a better method for making balloon animals that don't resemble a snake with a nipple for a nose, or that air-tight plastic bowl that is lurking behind the bushes and peeking into your windows at night. They had to have something better to worry about.

I did. I worried, not about my size, but about how to get better. I was dedicated to every game I played. I played football even though the other kids my age could have crushed me like a frat boy smashing a beer can on his forehead. I played baseball even though my strike zone was about the size of one of those "place postage here"sections on an envelope. I played basketball even though the only uniform the coach had for me was so big on me that pulling the drawstring on the shorts as far as I could and then pinning it in place made them look remarkably similar to the skirts the little cheerleaders were wearing. I played soccer even though most of the other players could probably kick me as far as they could the ball. I played because I loved the sport, I loved the competition, and, probably, I had something to prove.

By my way of thinking, any team that I was a part of deserved my dedication and 100% effort. If the track coach asked me to run a race that I normally didn't, I dashed to the starting line and gave it all I had. If the baseball coach decided to have me play a position I didn't play, I'd watch the other team's player, pick the brains of my team mates, and do the best I could. If the football coach asked me to move from my usual spot (back-up ball) to defensive end... well, then I'd run out there, latch onto the knee of the other squad's running back, and do my damnedest to at least slow him down a bit as he dragged me across the field. If my basketball coach asked little tiny me, "Son, I know you're only 2'9" and you're wearing a pair of shorts so large it actually resembles a dress, and not in a MartinLawrence - Milton Bearle comical sort of way, in a sad, oh dear God I feel sorry for that boy and deep down inside I wonder if he's ever gonna grow kinda way, but, that said, I'd like you to run out there and play center... for the girl's ice hockey team... in Saskatoon."You know what I'd do? I'd strap on some really tiny skates, hike up my dress... uh, I mean gather up my shorts, and skate my little but to North Western Canada... simply because the coach asked me to. Not that he was a particularly inspiring coach, that's just the way it worked yesterday.

Today, also in that figurative, nowadays, sort of sense, it's not like that. I coach baseball, basketball, and track at my school, and I deal with more whiners and little babies that I do athletes. If bitching were a competitive sport, I bet I could take forty kids to the state finals this year.

These are the excuses I've heard in the past year or so. Not the excusesf or losing. I don't worry about winning and losing, all I care aboutis 100% effort, steady improvement, and a dedication to the team. These are simply the excuses why kids didn't want to run the race I'd entered them in or play the position I asked them to play.

Running too much makes my ears burn. - this kid needs a doctor or at the very least, an ointment of some sort.

I ate too many nachos and I may throw up. - I asked him if he learned his lesson. He said what lesson, that I shouldn't make him run the mile? I said run it any way. He did throw up. It was cool. His dad gave me a high five.

My toe won't stop itching. - I'm not certain what he intended me to do about it, or how it affected his ability to play second base.

Track is stupid. - And yet, she signed up for it, for the third year in a row, and went to the state finals in three events last season.

We're not going to win anyway. - The power of a positive attitude is staggering.

My dad is worried that too many at bats will ruin my golf game. He thinks I can go pro. - And I worry that if I see your dad I may haveto shove Tiger Woods up his ass.

Jake says he's better than me. - Uh, maybe you should go beat him then.

Jake jumped the fence. - Then you'll probably win this race.

There's broken glass. - Not on the field, but about thirty feet away, on the other side of the fence. Apparently the broken glass is mocking and taunting the boy.

I don't like Brad. - To be honest, neither do I, but maybe you should harness that energy and hatred into your game.

I think I may have stubbed my liver. - I never tookan anatomy class, but I'm still pretty certain that that's verydifficult to do regardless of the sport.

I don't know what direction to run. - Forward. Now get out there.

I just joined the team to be social. - Oh man, that's fantastic, I was worried that you actually thought you were good at this. What you're really missing out on is the social scene at the finish line, it's a big party down there.

I'm only here so I have something to put on my college application. -You do realize that you're eleven, right?

I don't want to run, but my mom made me join, because being on the team is cheaper than a babysitter. - Is your mom here? Hey, someone find me Tiger Woods again, would you?

I ouched my limagent (no, that's not a typo, that's what he said), so now my knee bends sideways. - This I'd really like to see.

My shorts scratch my legs when I run too fast. - Yoohoo, Tiger...could you come here for a minute?

I'm afraid the discus kids will hit me. - This would be a possibilityif the discus kids could throw 200 feet the wrong direction, but they can't, probably because they're whining about limagents, stubbed livers, and itchy shorts to their coach.

and my personal favorite of the year...

My brother's pet weasel escaped from his cage last night, snuck intomy room, and chewed through the power cord to my computer, so I didn'tsleep very well, because my room smelled like dead, fried weasel.

That's my rant. I'm done. Trust me, coaching has it's rewarding moments, especially baseball and basketball, but there are just some whacked out people in the world today. I don't know if I can handle any more of these excuses. Next year, I may give up coaching all together, find a few truly dedicated athletes, and put together a mean hide n' seek squad. Ready or not, here I come.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Meh Thanksgiving

Today, in a celebration of all thing Turkey Day, the folks over at have set up a nifty blog spot. It is my honor today to host a post written by Joe from Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars. Joe never fails to crack me up, so take a gander at his work here and at his site. If you want my take on Thanksgiving, my post is over at Joe's site today. Isn't it crazy how we mix things up like that?

Thanksgiving was so special. My sister Lisa made a very nice centerpiece celebrating famous women in history, and, well, you know how young kids can be, it wound up in the fireplace and…oh wait, that was a Simpson’s Thanksgiving Special.

Mom put the turkey on the table and left it to set. Dad tried to sneak a piece, but Mom yelled at him from the other room to leave it alone. Dad then went to sit and wait for dinner when suddenly, the Bumpus’s dogs got in the kitchen and…oops. That was from a movie, and wasn’t even about Thanksgiving.

While I have no real special memories of Thanksgiving I do have vague recollections of a large bird surrounded by various seasonal dishes, followed by desserts. I would have to say that I could not think of any one incident that was unusual or amusing in any way. No wacky uncles asking me to pull their finger, no crazy aunts fighting over who made the best pumpkin pie.

That is not to say we didn’t have our own peculiar traditions. The first thing was that Mom got up at maybe 5 in the morning to wrestle the turkey. I have no idea why, but she liked to get a really early start. We still didn’t eat until around 3, but I guarantee you we never had raw turkey. Right around 8 or so, my sister and I got up to watch the Macy’s Parade. It ended when Santa came down the road, of course, and Santa then went to have dinner with Captain Kangaroo around 11. This was when we started to ask Mom if it was time to eat yet. After a quick yelling at, we would watch March of the Wooden Soldiers and Mighty Joe Young. Yeah, channel 11 had a killer Thanksgiving Day lineup for kids. So far, pretty normal by most standards. Don’t worry, that would change.

Of course, as with many other families, green bean casserole was on the table. This is possibly the single strangest side dish. What is weird about it? To begin with, it usually is only made for festive occasions. Ok, here is the complex recipe: dump some canned green beans in a casserole dish, cover with canned mushroom soup. At some point, sprinkle canned onion rings viola! Gourmet dining in the Crotchety household. I can see why such a difficult to prepare recipe only showed up once a year at my house. That, plus the fact that no one actually liked it may have been a contributing factor. We had it because, well, that’s what the hoi poloi ate for Thanksgiving.

And no festive Thanksgiving would be complete without Mom’s famous recipe turnips. While turnips probably taste good prepared using some method espoused by Emeril or Bobby Flay, boiled and mashed was most likely the starting point, not the finished product. Though, I will admit, mixed with mashed potatoes and gravy, then covered with ketchup made them barely edible.

The next odd part was the turkey. Turkey is normal enough, but every year, we went to Otterbein’s Turkey Farm to get a locally raised bird. It was probably double or triple the cost of a Butterball from Shop Rite, and it was known to be the best turkey around. Nothing strange about that, I guess, except, well, no one really liked turkey in our house. It was the only time my family ever bought turkey. And while we did eat turkey sandwiches until the bird was gone, that was the extent of it until the next year. No turkey soup, no turkey hash, no turkey anything.

But perhaps the single most unusual Thanksgiving tradition was the turkey dressing or stuffing. One year, many years ago, my parents had told a friend that the worst thing about turkey was the stuffing. Thanksgiving Eve, he showed up with the loads of stuff needed to prepare Dicky’s Special Dressing. No, I didn’t make the name up, though it is pretty funny in retrospect. This was before food processors, so each thing had to be minced by hand. It took hours and hours to make this. Seriously. Possibly the most interesting thing about Thanksgiving was the guy who came to make the stuffing. My old man hung out with an assortment of weird and quirky guys. There was the “My adversary did it guy.” Every possible thing that went wrong in his life was blamed on “My Adversary.” Flat tire, hole in his sock, you name it, he would explain away every single thing as being done by, well, you know. Pop’s gang included Googs, Hootch, Red, Bert, Whitey, Indian Joe, T, Deds, and Lefty. But the weirdest of all was Dicky, the stuffing guy.

Dicky was a part time musician, and his specialty was “air sax.” So, while we removed the fibrous strings from celery (swear to heaven) before mincing it, Dicky would regale us with an air sax version of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” This went on for nearly the entire 4 hours it took to make the stuffing.

But the memories of my unremarkable Thanksgivings are strong. And traditions are important to families, and our strongest memories are taste and smell. So, every year, to honor my Thanksgiving memories…who am I kidding? We go to a nice restaurant and order something we like.

P.S. My nephew won’t be able to write about his unremarkable Thanksgiving. Because his uncle Joe already asked him to

Monday, November 17, 2008

That Darwin Fella May Be Full of Crap

This weekend, I was having a nice little Saturday with my wife. We went to the Home Depot, and were considering the Bed, Bath, and Beyond if there was time. Interrupting my day, several times, was the oh so obnoxious buzz of the cell phone in my pocket. It was Tim. My friend Tim.
Tim's birthday was Sunday, and unbeknownst to me, a slew of emails had been sent out inviting the whole gang out to dinner. Since I hadn't responded to the email that I didn't receive, I was now being subjected to a full on voice mail barrage. When I checked my phone, I turned out that Nick had called, so had my sister, and Mrs. Tim, and Jeff, and Owen, but at the top of the missed calls list was Tim, with a whopping five calls in the last hour and a half.

I listened to the messages, "seven-ing" them as soon as I got the gist of what they were about, "call me, we're all going out..." But Tim's messages were worthy of noting. I don't think he ever really learned how to leave a message. He asks your voice mail questions, then he leaves pauses, as if he's giving you time to fill in your half of the conversation later.

"Hi Mike, this is Tim. What's going on today?"

Ten second pause.

"We're all getting together for dinner tonight, just seeing if you want to come with us?"

About a fifteen second pause.

"Hey, do you have Brian's phone number?"

Ten seconds of strange eerie silence.

"I've been wanting to call him. Have you talked to Stan lately?"

Fifteen second pause.

"Oh, I saw this movie the other day, "Kung Fu Panda," have you seen that one?"

Five second pause.

"It was pretty good."

Ten second pause for me to add my two Kung Fu Panda cents later.

"At least I thought so." (said as if he is defending what I might l say later on about a movie I haven't seen.)

"Well, I guess I'll talk to you again later."


"If you can't make dinner, give us a call later and maybe you want to go for ice cream or soup?"
Seriously, this is what he said. Ice cream or soup. I guess he was trying to turn the 'it's too cold for ice cream' argument before I could even use it.

We did meet up with the gang at a local restaurant, and as soon as we were seated, the topic of conversation was somehow on Tim's pants. He was very excited that he's put on a little weight. We all like to tease him, because he's a grown man, probably around 5'7" or so, but only weighs maybe 125. He seemed very happy that he was now wearing a size 33.

"So, Tim, no more ToughSkins then, huh?" Jeff asked.

"Alright, Timmy, you get to shop at the big boy store," Owen mocked.

I just sat there wondering what could have prompted the cheapest person I know to buy new pants. This is a thirty-three year old man, sitting in a restaurant, wearing a Bugs Bunny sweatshirt he wore in high school. He still has the same hand-me-down, oversized winter coat I recall him putting on for a sophomore year snowball fight. He is Johnny Frugalpants and he spent money unnecessarily? Even though I was afraid of the answer, I had to ask.

"I couldn't get my keys out of my pocket anymore," Tim responded, "The pants were too tight."

While the rest of my friends were busy laughing hysterically, that only led me to: "How exactly did you get the keys into your pocket? Did you put them in there before you put the pants on?"

Owen then suggested that to get some more mileage out of those old jeans, Tim should do the same to get the keys out, just walk across the parking lot to your car while undoing your belt, drop your pants, get the keys, pull 'em back up, and unlock the car.

We all wondered how he carries around his cell phone, which is so large it looks like he's lugging around a brick in his pocket. I do believe he has the first model of mobile phones that evolved enough to crawl out of that little bag, loose the plug into the car cigarette lighter feature, and become truly cordless.

Tim got up to go to the bathroom, and while he was gone, our food arrived. Jeff, always looking to stir up trouble, replaced the wet nap perched on the edge of Tim's plate of ribs with a sugar packet. No one thought Tim would fall for the gag, because of the weight, the shape, and the size differences, not to mention the word SUGAR written in big bold red letters across the thing.

Tim came back from the potty simply amazed that the urinals in the bathroom were a wee bit low. Now I'll admit, the plumber who installed them must have accidentally brought the plans for a fourth grade hallway or something, but I had to relieve myself, so I adapted and overcame. Jeff, who is 6'4", walked into the bathroom behind me, took one look at that kindertoilet and moved to one of the stalls. Tim, however, was flabbergasted; he could not believe the low urinals and how Jeff, being as tall as he is, didn't just give up and pee himself.

Tim: Did you see those urinals in there?

Long pause with no response.

Tim: They were so low I don't know how you could piss in there? (re-read this line, but like Tim, put extra emphasis on the word piss, spit that word out as if it were actually a mouthful of urine.Continue this manner of speech throughout).


Tim: What did you do, Jeff? How could you even piss in those things? (To get the full Tim effect, it may also help to know that the word "things" comes out in a unique Tim manner - try saying "then" and then say "thought." The TH sound is slightly different, in my world "thing" usually sounds more like the soft "thhhhh" of "thought," in Tim's it's the slightly harsher "th" of "then." I don't think - another soft th that Tim makes harsh - there's anything wrong, but it's always struck me as odd the way that word comes out.)

No response. I wanted very badly to respond with a smart ass comment like, "gravity does a pretty good job of taking the pee where ever it needs to go, just be glad the toilets weren't too high," but I learned long ago to try and not encourage Tim. Fortunately every one present understood that rule as well.

The subject was changed, but several times throughout the meal Tim tried to subtly steer it back to the height of the toilets and the problems Jeff must have had with them.

Mrs. Tim: So, Mike, do you have the baby's room all ready?

Mike: Yup, just finished painting last weekend. I'm probably gonna hang som...

Tim: I just want to know how Jeff pissed in that thing.

Later -
Owen: I think the Chicago Bulls are really gonna surprise some people this year.

Jeff: Are they gonna pop out from behind a bush and scare them?

Tim: I just want to know how Jeff pissed in that thing.

Later still -
Jeff - You know, Tim, sometimes when wet naps get really old, they dissolve into little powdery crystals. I betcha didn't know that?

Tim: (looking at Jeff as if he's speaking Swahili) I just want to know how Jeff pissed in that thing.

Even later -
PlainOleWife: Yeah, the doctor said that he's in the 60th percentile for growth and will probably be about seven pounds.
Mrs. Tim: That's what our son weighed (Yup, Tim's a daddy. With another on the way.) when he was born. He was seven pounds one ounce, but don't freak out, they loose a little weight right away. What did he loose, Tim, two ounces?

Tim: I just want to know how Jeff pissed in that thing.

This went on throughout the entire meal, interspersed with Owen, Jeff, and I asking Tim if he would be able to get various things out of his pocket: like sugar packets, wet naps, the tiny urinal, the waitress, one of those dissolving breath mint strips...

Eventually, we all finished eating and Tim went to wipe his barbecue sauce covered hands with his handi-wipe. He tore the little packet open (the sugar packet Jeff had strategically placed on the edge of his plate) and looked at it funny, expecting to see the edge of the towelette so he could pull it out of the packet. My wife started kicking me furiously to make sure I didn't miss the confuddled look on Tim's face as he tried to peek down into the packet to see what happened to his moist napkin. He looked at if kinda sideways, with his head all cocked, like he was a small dog and the sugar packet was a person talking in a high pitched voice, then he stuck his finger in it. When he pulled his finger out, covered in sugar crystals, he looked (apparently it is possible) even more confused, so (yes, he did) he stuck his finger in there again and dug around in there, to check perhaps if the wet nap was some how hidden under the sugar or in a secret compartment or something.

He honestly had no idea what had happened or what to do about it. Finally he looked up at us with a look on his face that reminded me of George W. when he couldn't open that door a few years ago.

By now, Mrs. Tim was the most embarrassed person there has ever been, Owen and PlainOleWife were laughing so hard they were crying, I was choking on a small sip of water, and Jeff, straight-faced in a brilliant manner, looked at Tim and said, "See, I told you the powderize if they get too old, you should have used it quicker."

If Darwin's survival of the fittest thing were true, Tim would have been picked off by circling hawks a long long time ago.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Estes Boys on the Back Nine

Picking up the clubs where we left off the other day, we stroll out onto the tenth tee box for the Estes House Open. Hope you have a good caddy and have been working on your short game, cuz the back nine is where the course really gets challenging.

Hole #10: We start off the second half of our round with a challenging shot requiring accuracy and loft. The tenth hole used to be the gas meter on the side of the house, but Matt missed and broke the window going into Nick's bedroom, so the hole became the hole in the window. Nick patched the hole with a small piece of cardboard,but if you hit the chunk o' box just right it flips up and the ball sneaks through. Hit the ball wrong and we've got another window pane to pay for and Nick will wake up with glass in his bed. Again. Bonus points if you manage to land the ball inside anything weird, like a shoe, a glass of water, whatever it was Nick was drinking last night before he passed out. Jeff once got three bonus points for landing his ball in a taco Nick was about to eat.

Hole #11: This hole takes patience and care, because you have to chip out of Nick's room, putt across the dining room and down the hall, and drive it out the front door towards the volleyball net. (At some point in time Jeff and his ex set a Wal-Mart volleyball net up in far corner of the front yard. We don't know why.) Hole 11, a par seven, required putting the golf ball through one of the little squares in the net. If you hit a string and make the net vibrate, minus one point. A difficult hole because of the different turfs you're working with: Nick's bed, carpet, tile, cement, and grass, also tough because of the shrubbery dividing our yard and the neighbor's.

Hole #12: If you avoided the bushes on Hole 11 you're probably set up nice for Hole 12, otherwise you're in a world of hurt, because they're seven foot tall thorny bushes, and if you bleed you loose two strokes. If you finished up safely on the volleyball court it's simple, fifty feet to the mailbox. Our mailbox was cemented into a big green bucket that served as the hole, however, you could take a risk and go for the inside of the mailbox itself for two bonus strokes.

Hole #13: Now we take a 180 and head back towards the house. Please avoid the cars in our three hundred foot long - twenty five foot wide gravel driveway and get the ball into the garage. This par three calls for putting on oily cement skills, because once in the garage, your goal is to hit the ball under the dresser in the back corner, have it hit the concrete wall back there, and shoot back out. The further you pop the ball back out the better you're set up for 14, but if you go too far you'll be stuck in the eight foot pile of trash we were to lazy to take to the curb. I suggest breath holding.

Hole #14: Another 180 and out towards the street. In fact, Hole 14 is the street. Anywhere on it, any part. If you didn't set yourself up well after 13, you may get a bad angle and your ball will wind up skipping down Estes Drive, but if you have a straight shot, you can probably bounce it off the gravel driveway, into the street, and safely into the yard across the way. With no sidewalks in our neighborhood, there are drainage ditches on both sides of the road that make for some especially nasty water hazards. If the water is under two feet deep, there is no dropping, you have to hit it out.

Hole #15: We'd usually start in the neighbor's yard across the street, but an unlucky bounce or fifty had Matt a block and a half away in a church parking lot once. The "hole" here is a pile of head sized rocks that may or may not have been some sort of house pet burial ground in the middle of our front yard. The challenge here was not to hit the pile of stones, but to have the ball land and stay in there, not easy considering the density, trajectory, and other sciency words like bounciness.

Hole #16: Avoid the trees, sneak around the front corner of the house, and drop the ball into the bed of Matt's pick-up. Surprisingly, it was Matt who designed this particular hole. He must have figured a few dings and scratches would just blend into the dumpyness of that piece of junk, there was never any damage done to the car. However, Mark learned real quick to stop parking his Camero near Matt's truck.

Hole #17: Hole seventeen was a veritable free-for-all. Experienced Estes-golfers would scatter as soon as the sixteenth hole was finished. If Mark was playing, the rest of us would hide behind his car, because the "hole" in Hole 17 was your opponents. Yes, you actually had to strike one of the other golfers with your ball. This hole was fun even though I have some scars and my right ear still isn't quite right.

Hole #18: The classic ball in the clown's mouth kinda hole. Your goal here was to get the ball onto the roof of the house, into the rain gutter, and out the downspout. The day this hole was designed was the only time any one has ever wanted to clean out their gutters. Surprisingly, we got them done quickly and only two of us fell off the roof.

So, you've just completed your first round of Estes Golf, a true gentleman's game if there ever was one. Stick around and maybe someday you'll hear about the rest of the Esteslympics. Really, they were good, competive sporting events, and as a bonus, there was a lighting of the torch for the ages.