Tag Archives: Humor

Evening Constitutional

I have intentionally been avoiding posting a blog lately because of significant changes in my life that I do not yet feel like exploring in a public forum, but still color everything I try to write. Suffice to say that in order to write about my life, such a significant event would naturally be a subject to discussion. I am convinced, however, that no matter how bad things may seem, no matter how devastating any one event may be, life continues, goes on, keeps rolling, whatever. So with that said, I can say that nothing of significance has happened lately. Other than that one thing I’m not talking about.

Pretty flower on my walk

So I went for a walk.

I have decided to try and achieve my step count goals as determined by my smart watch. It is set by default to 10,000 steps a day as a goal for fitness. In the past, I have averaged between 3500 and 6000 steps on a good day, and about 1000 to 1500 on weekends, where I tend to perch in my recliner and let the rocking motion tick away as the closest approximation to stepping. It does count them. I checked. I get a couple of hundred steps that way on the weekend. I figure I can rock myself to fitness without having to get my heart rate up. As long as I don’t have a heart attack first.

Anyway, I go for walks every evening now. I have tried in the past to make it a habit, but I found it difficult to garner any support to help gain any traction in this endeavor, but now those impediments are gone and the only excuse I have for not walking is me. That’s not a good enough excuse, so I have been walking. And walking. And walking. My goal is to go ride my bicycle for ten to fifteen miles a day, but I have a couple of years of lethargic tonnage to eliminate before I can mount my bike again, so I walk. It’s a good brisk walk, though, to get my heart rate up, since my trusty fitness app tells me my resting heart rate is too high. With any luck, I’ll be back to fighting trim in no time. No time being defined as sometime this century—before I get planted in the ground.

What I need, though, is a more picturesque walking path. Walking past houses in the neighborhood can afford some interesting things to see: you notice when someone gets a new car, or when they get their landscaping done, or perhaps an upgrade to the house. You get to meet those garage dwellers who, for some reason, prefer to lounge in the garage and watch TV rather than in the comfort of their air conditioned houses. They usually are good for a wave and the greeting of the day. I often meet people mowing their lawns, which should prompt me to mow mine, but for some reason it doesn’t. I usually tell these people that my house is right around the corner when they get done with their lawn and they want to mow more. Similarly, some are either washing their vehicles or performing some kind of maintenance on them. It is odd to see some of these houses with four or more cars in their driveway; so many vehicles that they block the sidewalk, forcing me to veer into the street to get around them. How many people live in these little 1500 square foot houses that they need so many vehicles?

One of the more intriguing questions that pop into my head is the edging of the sidewalks and driveways. Some people run an edger or weed eater along the edge of the concrete to keep the grass clear of the walking path. Some people, however, dig a trench along the concrete five miles wide and 300 fathoms deep. It’s like they are constructing a mote to protect their property from invaders or something. I walk along a nicely edged grass line and stumble into a gaping maw of a pit that runs the entire property line. I sometimes think I hear hikers calling for help from down below having fallen into the chasm. Of course, the flipside is the yards that have never seen an edger. The St. Augustine runners have crept out and almost joined forces from both sides of the concrete in an attempt to reclaim the sidewalk for nature.

It occurred to me last night that someone who walks the neighborhood every night might be a good witness in the event something bad happens. The neighbors could tell an investigator “No, sir, Mr. Policeman, I didn’t see anything. But ask Dave. He walks past here every day at this time. He’s sure to have seen something.”

Not that I would really be a good witness. I tend to forget things as soon as I process and categorize them. I tried to think of something I had seen the day before and nothing stood out. I mean I recognize landmarks, like the powder blue Mercury Mariner. I remember that only because it is a very unusual shade for an SUV. I remember the 2015 Mustang V8 Convertible 5.0, which I remember because I want one and this one disappoints me because it’s black and not red. So unless it has to do with an unusual colored car, I doubt I would recall anything of note. I can’t even remember my neighbor’s names, much less the people two blocks over.

I do see some unusual things though. I watched a bird beat the crap out of a cat last night. It would sweep down and peck the cat on the head from behind and disappear before the cat knew what hit him. I see some yards that are meticulously groomed with beautiful foliage and interesting blooms. I also see some yards that look like a tropical rain forest, with foliage so deep and thick, it’s difficult to tell if there is a house behind it or not. I swear I heard King Kong’s roar behind those shaking palms.

After several weeks of walking the route, I’m getting kind of bored with the same old sights. I need a new walking path with new views, like one with mountain vistas, rolling hills, pastoral fields and serene lakes. These walks help me burn calories, so hopefully I might lose weight, but they also give me something to take my mind off my problems. Of course, once I get going, I tend to go on autopilot, which gives my mind time to think about that which I would rather not. I do my best to try to direct my thinking toward more pleasant thoughts. I try to formulate plot ideas for my novels, develop new characters, and think about blog ideas. This gives my mind something to do. The downside of this is that, if I witness a crime, I may not be able to recall any details.


Filed under Humor, Personal, Society

Noises Off!

As the years continue their inexorable march toward oblivion, one notices certain differences in the way one lives. And with a nod to Sheldon Cooper, one can also get one’s self beat up in grade school by referring to one’s self as “one.” But I digress. When I was younger, I could bounce out of bed, bound down the stairs and bolt out the door without making a noise other than a “whoosh” as I passed my parents on the way out. I would laugh with derision at my 40-something parents who crept out of their rooms, grumbling and grousing as they headed to the kitchen for their morning caffeine fix. They seemed to move so slowly and carefully as if worried about hurting themselves by moving too fast. When they sat down, they made the oddest noises, kind of like an old car that didn’t want to start on a cold morning. Meanwhile, I was in a late model sports car that ran nice and smooth. Of course, I teased and, of course, karma cannot allow one to gloat with impunity. I am now 46 and I have had to face the differences in how my body works these days. I find myself watching the new models run past me and I can no longer bounce, bound or bolt anywhere.

In fact, if I try to bounce out of bed, I am more likely to bounce off the floor after falling over. The only way I know I can make it to a standing position is because our bed is high enough that if I put my feet on the floor, I am already halfway up. If I had to actually rise to a standing position from a regular bed, it would take me about 15 minutes of warm up exercises before making the attempt. After getting myself to a stooped standing position, I amble in short, halting steps until the blood flows enough to get my muscles working right. A process that takes longer each day; soon I fear it might last until the next morning.

But the stiffness of middle age is not the worst thing about being—well—middle-aged. It is the noises my body makes as I go through the day that are the real cause for concern. I was laying in bed watching TV the other day when my stomach started a conversation with anyone who would listen. Now, I was not particularly hungry, but my gastric system was on a diatribe that would make anyone think I was on day six of a five day fast. And it wasn’t those subtle little rumbles you excuse in polite company. No, these were gurgles and churns that marine biologists might expect to hear from the depths of the abyss. My stomach was speaking fluent whale! But wait. There’s more. Not only can my belly communicate with cetaceans, it also imitates drip coffee makers. I’m sure the mister coffee in the hotel room in which we stayed was confused by what it heard. I know I was.

Of course, my digestive tract is not the only noisemaker I have at my disposal. In fact, if I want to get the attention of anyone in a room, I merely have to stand up. The resulting pop from my knees would silence a room better than a teacher smacking a ruler on a desk. It doesn’t stop with just one pop either. Sitting or standing sounds like a stampede of kindergarteners in a bubble wrap factory. Even my dog looks at me when I stand as if saying “Dude, can you still walk?”

And my joints are not the only noise makers when I get up. I sound like a professional weightlifter groaning with the effort of hoisting a world-class barbell over his head—just from getting out of my recliner. I’m sure small children down the street must think our house haunted from all the moans and groans that come from just doing everyday chores. I can’t blame them for being afraid; I know I have scared myself plenty of times.

Making noises really isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I was younger, though. Sure, I teased my folks, but it was easy to do when you’re in a body that hums like a new car and they are driving along in late forties models that have been in need of a tune up for 20 years. But now I know that while my body is not a brand new, top of the line sports model (as if it ever has been) neither is it a rusted-out old clunker. I prefer to think of it as a classic. And all the noises it makes just add character. Besides, once I stop making noises, then it is time to be worried. Call it an early warning system. And if you stop by and hear something you didn’t expect, don’t worry. It’s probably just some part of my body saying hello.

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Filed under Humor, Personal

You Should See The Other Guy

I’m a tough guy. Oh, maybe not in the Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis way, but I can hold my own. I don’t jump bridges with cars or drive cars into helicopters, and I am not about to try to take out a gang of drug lords unarmed by myself, but I have been in some pretty tough scraps in my day. I even have the scars to prove it.

When I was 4 or 5, I kicked down a door. That’s right, I just kicked it down. OK, I knocked it down, well, ran through it actually. OK it was a sliding glass door and I was running away from a dog, but still it was my knee that took out that door. I even got stitches for my effort and a big ol’ scar running right across the top of my kneecap. I was supposed to be down for a nap, but I snuck out to go visit a friend who lived in the house behind us. His mom was Windexing the glass door and she closed it after I walked in—but I didn’t see her do that. When she went to go find my friend (I wish I could remember his name) the family dog—a mean, vicious Rottweiler, or maybe it was a Doberman Pincer, no…it had to be pit bull; (alright, it was a little yip yip dog)—came running around the corner and startled me. Remember, I was 4, so it seemed pretty scary to me. I turned and ran toward what I thought was an open door. Boy, that Windex does a good job of cleaning glass. It sure looked like an open door. Even the little pieces that lay on the ground after I broke it were clean—except for the pieces with blood on them. My blood on them. Ouch. That was my first set of stitches. It would be the first of many.

Then there was the time I decided to go fossil hunting. I was going to be a paleontologist and discover the great T-Rex. The school arranged a field trip to a quarry for my fourth-grade class to explore. I announced that I needed the proper tools for my expedition—a shovel, a dust brush, a magnifying glass and the most important of all: a pickaxe. What paleontologist doesn’t have a pickaxe? Of course I needed a pickaxe. My mother, however, decided that a pickaxe was too dangerous and a shovel was too big so she gave me a more age-appropriate tool. Of course, it was a tablespoon. That larger utensil would make all the difference as I dug and prevent me from ridicule from all the other would-be paleontologists in the class. Not.

I was crushed. How could I be a serious paleontologist with a tablespoon? My mother had crushed my tough guy image. No one would take me seriously with a table spoon. And all because she thought a pickaxe would be too dangerous. She knew I would hurt myself or put an eye out with the sharp point. Well, I showed her the error of her thinking. I didn’t need a pickaxe to hurt myself. I can do it just fine with a table spoon.

While climbing an embankment, the gravel gave way under my shoe and I slipped. The handle of the tablespoon in my hand jammed into my chin, giving me a nice laceration which bled profusely and grossed out all the other paleontologists in my class. That one got me 7 more stitches, plus 5 bonus hidden stitches.

My mother tells her friends that I was so accident-prone that, by today’s standards, she would have been investigated for child abuse. I had more cuts and scrapes and sets of stitches than most kids my age. But it didn’t stop when I grew up.

While I was in the Army, I was doing night maneuvers in an armored personnel carrier while wearing Night Optical Devices (NODs—night vision glasses) and the hatch of the APC slammed into the back of my head. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet, so the hatch didn’t hurt me, but it pushed my head into the hatch rim, which pushed the NODs into my face. I got a cut over my right eyebrow from that one—5 more stitches.

Surprisingly, I never broke a bone. Sure, I have sprained an ankle or ten, but nothing broken. One time, when I was about 10 or 11, I fell out of a tree onto a root. The full force of the impact was taken by my forearms, which bruised nice and purple, but did not break. Sadly, that meant no cast. Cool tough guys in school had casts—and not the sissy purple or pink or green fiberglass casts that kids get these days. No, we had the 100-pound white plaster casts that could split a skull. All the other tough guys and the pretty girls would sign them. Oh, how I wanted one. That would prove I was a tough guy. But it was not meant to be.

Today I am sporting a new scar. I have a nice scab on my lower lip. I thought people would see it and ask about the fight I surely must have gotten into. I would give them a smirk and a pause and say glibly, “you should see the other guy.” But no, no one asked that. What they did say was “did your wife beat you up?” Kind of a deflating comment, that. Makes telling the real story even worse. I was boiling ziti and was going to taste it to see if it was done. Since ziti is a tube pasta, it holds water. Scalding hot water. This water squirted onto my lip and burned me. Not very tough, I know. But at least I didn’t cry.

Ok, maybe I’m not the toughest tough guy and I’ll never be an action movie hero, but I still have scars. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?


Filed under Humor, Personal

The Secret is in The Planning

In the time-honored traditions of middle-class America, we are on vacation this week. This is Spring Break for Houston-area schools, so we decided to take advantage of the time and get back to nature to unwind. There is nothing like communing with God’s creation to put one in touch with the basic joys of life. Yes, relaxing in the great outdoors can change one perspective, alright. Camping, hiking and fishing are such simple joys. Simple. Joys. It just takes a bit of planning.

We started planning this trip several weeks ago, having altered our original plans of a trip to New Orleans. In fact, my wife and I love to travel. In the three years we’ve been together, we have been all over the country and to Europe. We love nothing more than a spontaneous road-trip to some out of the way, small, historic town. We have even been camping a time or two.

Now, I come from a long line of campers. My grandfather and granny were both outdoors types. They raised my mother to be an outdoors type; and she, in turn, raised me and my siblings to be outdoors types. Some of my earliest memories are of camping. When my father, an Army officer, was transferred to a new command, we camped en-route. When we visited Disneyworld, we stayed in Frontier Land instead of the fancy new Contemporary Hotel with the Monorail going through it. That would have been such a cool place to stay—but no, we stayed in the Hotel Starcraft, the pop-up tent camper my parents bought. Not that I’m bitter or anything, I thoroughly enjoyed Frontier Land. Movies and cartoons in the amphitheater every night, listening to my mom real us to bed from the classics of literature like Moby Dick and other camp related activities are some of my most fond childhood memories. But to a 10-year-old—who loved science fiction—a hotel with a monorail is hard to beat. I was also in the boy scouts and went on every camping trip they had planned.

When I was in my twenties, I decided that minimalist camping was the truest nature of camping. Planning was simple: I took a tarp, a sleeping bag and a cooler and cooked over a fire. This served me well in the military, where they bivouacked in similar fashion. Now that I’m well into my 40’s, camping takes on a whole new dimension. I need an air mattress, a nice sleeping bag, a cabin tent, Coleman stove, cook table, lanterns, axe, flashlights, etc etc. Basically, I’m talking about a portable version of home. This involves logistics. This involves planning. This involves…stress.

My brother and I have planned several camping trips for our traditional male bonding expeditions. In fact, we are currently planning another one for this summer. I have also taken camping trips with my wife and others with my sons. Sadly, I haven’t been able to go camping without at least one trip to Wal-Mart at some point during the venture to pick up some forgotten supply. You know what they say: if you can’t get it at Wal-Mart, you don’t need it. One time, my brother took us an hour drive to another county to buy beer.

At any rate, we are camping at this very moment. Lake Millwood is in the southwest corner of Arkansas and I have a history here. My grandfather and Uncles built a cabin on this lake a long time ago, and we used to have family reunions there. The cabin is long gone now, replaced by a subdivision or some other development, and the lake is a now state park. It is very beautiful here though. The sun setting through the trees reflects off the still waters of the lake. The crickets chrip, the geese honk, the frogs croak and you can hear an owl hooting in the distance.

We just finished dinner—one-man meals (also known as hobo meals) with hamburger steak, potatoes and carrots rolled up in foil and set on the fire—having eaten while watching that beautiful sunset. I am enjoying a bowl of my new favorite tobacco while I write this and Michelle is just enjoying the evening. Such peace. Not the experience we had last night.

We arrived yesterday evening around 6 pm just as the sun was dropping to the horizon. I planned to set up our camp kitchen so Michelle could prepare a wonderful dinner of campfire stew while I set up the tents. Everything worked like clockwork and the site was up before it got too dark to see. But with nightfall came the north wind. It was cold. I was in shorts, having left Houston with 72 degree weather and it was dropping into the low 50s here. I have camped in cold weather and I have a good sleeping bag and I have learned a trick or two from all those Boy Scout camps and military bivouacs about staying warm. The secret is to wrap in a cotton sheet inside the sleeping bag. Helps retain the body’s own heat. This works as long as you’re in the bag. The problem arises when something compels you to leave to bag. Something that makes you walk over to the wonderful facility the most experienced camper always sets up as close to as possible for just such an emergency.

But when it is 40 degrees, that walk is the last thing one wants to make. Going from toasty warm in a bag (OK, my nose was freezing, but I can deal with that) to a teeth chattering, shiver of a walk is a miserable experience. So last night was far from comfortable. Now, tonight, after a trip to Wal-Mart for more supplies, hopefully, we can make it through the night without chattering the teeth out of our heads.

We are looking forward to tomorrow with a hike in the morning (to warm ourselves after what promises to be a cold night again—just check the forcast: 42 degrees—with exercise to get the blood flowing) and canoeing and fishing in the afternoon. The weather says no rain all week, so at least we have that going for us.

Yes, getting back to nature is a wonderful time that everyone should enjoy. Plan carefully, make a list and pack warm and make sure a Wal-Mart is not too far away.

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The Price and Worth of Aging

It has been a while since I blogged. In my defense, it has been a busy month, but that really is no excuse. The only thing I can say is that, during this month of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and work travel, I have found one thing I cannot deny: I am getting old. Not decrepit old, like a helpless stooped-over, cane-walking, can’t take myself to the bathroom old; but rather the kind of old that makes noises when I get up, can’t remember anything, and slowly going blind old.

Part of my business trip was to re-certify to train safety trainers on pole climbing. This is a very physical activity and one I have been doing for a decade now. The good news is that with all the practice, I can still do it without any stress-related injuries. Safety aside, there are plenty of other reminders of my advancing years, such as trying to find a sleep number I can live with. The Radisson—a comfortable enough hotel I have stayed at many times—uses the sleep number bed in all its rooms. For those who don’t know, a sleep number bed is essentially an air mattress on top of a piece of plywood. If you do not activate it, you get a very firm sleeping surface.

Well, the first night in the room, the dern-fool machine would not inflate. As it was late and I was tired from a day of flying, sitting in a classroom and then climbing a pole, I didn’t feel like fooling with it, so I slept on the uninflated bed. Fortunately, the next morning, I woke up without too much physical effects, except for the fact that both arms wouldn’t work and I had to walk to the bathroom slowly while trying to remember how to stand up straight. I managed to work the kinks out and had a very good day all the same.

That evening however, I was not going to endure the board and started playing with the control again. After pressing every button three times in various order, I managed to get the pump to fire up. I quickly retried the sequence until the pump resumed and I could feel the mattress inflate. It is an interesting sensation to lay on a mattress as it slowly inflates, lifting you up while you’re on your back. When I let go of the button, the indicator said “35.” I played a little more and found the more air you put in, the higher the number. It took that night and the next to determine I like it between 45 and 60, depending on my mood.

Now, an elusive night’s sleep is not the only issue I have with advancing years. Even on my nice euro top Restonic (and a more comfortable mattress I challenge you to find) at home, I still rise with a groan and more than a few creaks and pops. They could record my morning walk for the new soundtrack of your favorite breakfast cereal. Snap, Crackle and Pop could retire to a villa in the med for all the noise I make. And I have to make such short, little steps just until my body realizes it is walking, and the part of the brain that says “hey, I’m upright…I’d better take over the controls now” does just that.

You would think that the brain would have no problem doing that, though, with all the sleep it gets. If I sit still in a quiet room for five minutes, I yawn. I tell you it is a struggle to stay awake some times. I have to get up and dance a jig to keep the blood flowing in order to stay alert, especially when I have to sit in some of the meetings I am compelled to attend.

Which leads me to another thing: you know how your computer seems so much slower now than when you first got it? The brain is the same way. Why, I used to be able to do several things at once and never miss a beat. Multitasking was the way to go and I went. I could chat on the phone, watch TV, read a book, and cook a four-course meal with ease. On a good day, you could add paint the house and reshingle the roof—but only on a good day. Now if you try to talk to me while I am doing anything, anything at all—walking for example, I have to stop what I am doing to be able to process whatever it is you are telling me. My brain likes to do one thing at a time these days, and some days not even that. It takes a sharp kick in the medulla oblongata to get any neurons firing lately.

But there is one upside to all this: some call it wisdom, but I think it is more simply seeing stupid for what it is. Forrest Gump’s mom used to say “stupid is as stupid does,” and let me tell you that woman was brilliant. All around are people doing stupid things, saying stupid things and generally being—well—just stupid. In the news, politicians do stupid things, celebrities get caught being stupid, and at work, the powers-that-be make stupid decisions.

I find it amusing to see policy changes come down that look suspiciously like policies we used to have several years ago, but got away from because they didn’t work. Change your leadership and some new moron suggests the same lame-brained idea again, and none of the yes-men who remember the first time we tried that debacle will speak up to change his mind, so we do it again. And guess what? It still doesn’t work. It didn’t work then; it doesn’t work now. Einstein said the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and expecting different results. Corporate America is, by that definition, crazy as a loon, and I get to sit in silent judgment thanks to my advancing years.

So getting older may come with more noises than I am comfortable making and less comfort over all, but at least I can see stupid right in front of me. Of course, with my failing memory, it may be only a matter of time before I forget what it is I am silently laughing at.


Filed under Humor, Personal, Society

Read Any Good Books Lately?

I read a book yesterday. Now, this may not sound like anyone’s definition of a great accomplishment, and it usually doesn’t meet mine, but given that I have not read and finished—from cover to cover—a novel in more than a year, it is bordering on a real accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, I read all the time. I read technical reference manuals, educational books, management theory books as well as technical articles from around 30 different publications and of course, the news. I just have not had the time with all that I am reading to squeeze a novel into the mix. Until, that is, yesterday.

I have been a reader as long as I can remember. I have had a collection of novels in every bedroom I have occupied since I was 10. When I was young, I would look forward to the scholastic book fair coming to the school, where I could count on getting at least one new novel. My mother subscribed me to a children’s book club but I found the books to simplistic and boring. She then subscribed me to a teen book club with titles like My Friend Flicka and Black Beauty. The problem was that genre did not interest me in the least. I found the Science Fiction book club on my own and ordered many titles and quickly found myself up to my eyeballs in books. So many, in fact, that I couldn’t read them all. It was my fault though. It seems the rules of the club were that they would send a flyer with the next month’s selections and if you did not want them, then you marked “NO” on the card and sent it back before the ship date. I never sent the dern fool card back, so I got lots of books I did not really want.

When I was in the Boy Scouts, I was at a Jamboree and I had a copy of Peter Benchley’s Jaws. A friend asked if he could borrow it while I worked the booth. Three hours later, I found him reading in the back of a truck. He almost had it finished! I was dumbstruck. How could anyone read so fast? I told myself that one day, I would read that fast too.

Later, after my mother cancelled my membership in the Sci Fi club, I joined the Military Book Club, which had the same rules and thus the same problem. My mom cancelled that one too; but not before my library began to rival the New York Public Library. All the while, I was still buying paper backs from the Ben Franklin down the street or B. Daltons and Waldenbooks in the mall. As a teenager, I preferred novelizations of movies and TV shows over more esoteric works. I used to get into trouble at school because I would be reading a book when I was supposed to be working on class work.

I was about 15 when I discovered Stephen King. Salem’s Lot was the first book that I read that scared me. I have read almost everything he has written, at least up until Misery. After his accident, his writing changed somewhat. Either that, or my tastes did. I continued to read off and on all my life, even to the point that I could read a full length novel in about 5 or 6 hours. I had finally achieved my goal of speed reading, and I even had full comprehension and recitation. This served me well when I seriously went back to college.

So, is it a big deal to read? For a writer it is. A writer who doesn’t read is like a cook who doesn’t eat. We have to keep ourselves immersed in the language if we are to use the language to convey ideas or stimulate discussion. As I said, that I finished a novel is a big deal. I only hope my poor tired eyes forgive me. It’s bad enough I strain them writing on this netbook, but to then follow that up with reading for 4 or more hours straight is bordering on abuse.

What did I read? Doctor Who: Autonomy. Big Doctor Who fan here. I even got my wife hooked on the show. Good story, but the writer needs a bit of work with plot flow and syntax. Of course, he’s British, and the rules vary over there. That’s one of the joys of writing. What’s right and correct here is considered bad form across the pond and vice versa.

But even with that, I may even buy another Doctor Who novel. Most of what comes out of the big American publishing houses is drivel anyway. That is, until my book gets published.

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Filed under Humor, Personal, Society

Just Here for the Foot Rub

The term Metrosexual has been ascribed to those men who partake of activities not usually considered particularly masculine. Men who have their hair “done” as opposed to “cut,” or use “product” instead of shampoo and partake of activities like manicures and pedicures fall into this category. They buy designer clothes in brighter colors with name brands that usually have been modeled on a runway. Now, I have never really made a big issue of being “Macho” or even particularly masculine; but I have always considered myself a man’s man. I go to a barber shop, not a salon. I trim my nails with either a pair of scissors or a knife (or sometimes my teeth) when they get too long. I buy clothes off the rack.

It is not that I think such activities are feminine, they just do not appeal to me. I can think of any number of things on which to spend my money. I understand that women love the spa treatment and I understand that many men do as well. I have long said “more power to them” for doing it. If they like spending a small fortune primping and spoiling themselves, who am I to criticize?

Well, the other day my wife and sister announced that they planned to go to a nail salon to get the spa treatment: manicure and pedicure. I figured it would be a good time to lube the car or go fishing or watch Nascar…waitaminute—that’s not me. No, I thought I might read a novel, or perhaps write a blog or any other activity men do when the wives do their thing. Then my younger brother and his wife both said they were going to join them. I looked a bit askance at him for his metrosexual ways, but did not chide him. Like I said, to each his own.

Well, all of them to a person suggested—no—insisted that I join them. “It’s great, you’ll love it,” they all said. I assured them that I would not get out of the experience what they did and that I was quite comfortable as I was thank you very much. I offered a little more resistance to their insistence, but they did get my attention when they mentioned that the pedicure comes with a foot massage.

Now, I can think of very little as comforting and relaxing as a foot massage (except maybe a scalp massage) and since I suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS) I really have come to appreciate foot massages. My brother topped the persuasion off by offering to pay for the pedicure. Well, since it wasn’t costing me anything, I figured I had nothing to lose. So off we went to the salon.

Now, most women and some men will understand when I say the smell of a hair salon is a singular odor. It is one that, once enjoyed, is not quickly forgotten—no matter how hard you try. It’s one that you really cannot get used to either, unless maybe if you work in that environment on a daily basis. Then, after six or seven weeks of unrelenting exposure, and if you haven’t given up the location of the rebel base and any other secrets they want, you may develop a desensitivity to it.

The good news is that the salon had several open spa seats and could take us right away, thus allowing us to get out of the smell that much sooner. After removing socks and shoes, I put my feet in the boiling cauldron that was the foot wash. After about 10 seconds, I pulled my beet red tootsies out with a yelp and the nice attendant offered to adjust the temp. From then on, thankfully, the experience was actually quite pleasant.

While soaking in the foot wash, the chairs had shiatsu massage giving my back a workout. Several of the Cadillac type chairs had the shiatsu along with vibra-massage, but the vibrating mechanism was broken on my chair. After soaking for a while, one of the salon workers came along and asked if I wanted my feet scraped with a razor. Now I’m thinking that she’s after state secrets again; the image compounded as I watch my sister having her feet jabbed under the toenails with what looks like a dental pick. Of course, this was not the case, and I did have my feet scraped and it actually felt quite good—even the part where they pick at your cuticles with the dental-pick-looking thingy.

But the best part was, of course, the foot massage. Oh, I could sit for the rest of my life while someone runs a firm thumb along my plantar surface while squeezing my metatarsals. I think I lost track of time during this part, although I am sure it didn’t last long enough. Bliss, your name is foot massage. Sadly, the massage eventually ended, and the lady told me to put my socks and shoes on.

I wondered briefly why—as they did for my sister and my wife—she didn’t ask me what color I wanted for my nails. Some questions are best left unanswered I guess. Maybe it was because she saw that I was a man’s man. Perhaps she knew that, despite having just enjoyed a pedicure, I was not a metrosexual. Somehow she just knew I was not needing my toenails painted and thus did not ask what color I wanted. My brother Dean got blue.


Filed under Humor, Personal, Society

Painting a Different Canvas

The battlefield was torn asunder with the tracks of combatants after being weakened with torrential rains. The sky was gray with approaching thunderclouds and the air was thick with moisture from the impending storm. Four men swallowed the apprehension of the coming battle as they triple-checked their weapons before combat commenced. Two would fall. Two would emerge victorious.

My brother and I stood at the ready, our hoppers filled with ammunition and our pods full of refills were at the ready. Our battle masks were checked and in position and we had found our cover and concealment to protect us from the enemy: my two nephews. This was my first time participating in the event. Some call it a sport, and while there is definitely a physical aspect to it, it is more of a game than a sport. Drew, my eldest nephew had been playing several times and my brother, Dean, and his youngest Alex had played at their last post in Hawaii.

The referee, a young man about 19 or so, checked if we were ready before blowing the whistle to start the game. Dean and I fired several rounds in the direction of the enemy lair before moving rapidly to a new firing position with greater field of fire and more cover. Several balls whizzed by my head as my nephews tried to draw a bead on my movement. I saw movement from the enemy stronghold and fired several rounds as Drew dove for cover. Paintballs are very low velocity (even still they sting something fierce) and the wind can carry them off target pretty quickly. Needless to say, on that engagement, Drew was not hit. But I kept him pinned down as my brother tried to get into a better location while firing at Alex.

On the next round, Dean and I fired at the target just as one of them was leaving their shelter. Neither Dean nor I aimed, nor intended on hitting anyone. We just laid down cover fire. But no sooner had we fired did someone holler “I’m hit.” Call it chance, call it luck, it resulted in a kill for us, so we call it providence.

We played something like 10 rounds and got fully covered in mud and paint (though some of us more than others). I was shot in the eye of my mask twice. It is a surreal experience to watch at a kill shot arc right into your face; more so the second time. I will admit there is a sense of satisfaction watching your enemies get splattered with paint from your gun.

Hostilities were ended when all the ammo was expended. I was covered behind a large tire waiting for Drew to lean out too far from his cover and Dean was trying to draw Alex into his line of fire. Dean was hit and left me pinned down on two sides. Paint was flying past me on both sides and it was all I could do to keep them from getting a lock on my position. Fortunately, Alex ran out of ammo and had to leave the game. Drew and I faced off and I knew I had less than half a hopper left. I tried to make Drew shoot and miss, hoping he would run out. I even jumped out and danced a jig trying to taunt him into firing. My ploy worked and he fired several rounds before hollering “I’m out.” We one without one single kill shot in the final game. Kind of disappointing, but a victory is a victory.

We recapped the game as we cleaned up. Alex constantly wondered out loud (and loudly) how we were able to hit them so consistently. My brother just retired from 20 years of active duty Army, and I was a 9-year Vet when I got out in ’93. We were trained for combat. As much as my nephews may play video games and even paintball, nothing prepares one for combat better than combat arms training with the real guns. We won. But we won by one round. Chalk that up to youthful vigor and endurance. All I had was experience and skill. Enough to win, though, so take that youthfulness.

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Suicide by Soda

This evening Michelle and I decided to enjoy a night out with dinner at a new restaurant and a comedy show at the improv. The food was very good at this new place in Town and Country Village called The Yard House with a wide—if pricey—menu. After dinner, we strolled through Barnes and Noble to kill some time before the show started. We should not have done this. Once we got to the improv and got parked and got inside, all the good seats were taken. We had a partially obstructed view of the stage from the top level in a corner.

The headliner for the evening was Henry Cho, who—in case you are unfamiliar—is a Korean comic that was born in Tennessee. He was quite funny and we thoroughly enjoyed his set. I laughed hardest at his warm up act, a comic named Mike Speenburg who was relating the funny side of growing up in the 80s in the south. Hilarious stuff, Google him and listen to the Pizza and Corn bit or the Suicide bit.

Listening to Speenburg reminded me of my experience with suicides. I was in Boy Scouts when I was 11 or 12 years old in Newport News Virginia, back in 1975-ish. The scouts had (they may still have, I don’t know) these events called Jamborees where the entire pack would show up in scout regalia and set up booths and do things like crafts and activities and eat too much food and drink too much soda. There was even beer available for the dads who wanted it. Back in those days, society wasn’t under the impression that kids needed protection from life. There was such a thing as beer and guess what? Dads drink it. But not the scouts. The age limit back then was 18 and it was enforced at the vendors, even if the dads let their kids have a sip every now and then.

But I didn’t even want any. I had tried a sip once and gagged on it, so I never even considered drinking it again until I was 17. With beer out of the picture, soda (or if you’re from Minnesota—pop) was what was left. Have you ever gone to the soda fountain and had no idea what flavor you wanted? Well, one kid had the idea—and no, I don’t know or claim that this was the very first time someone thought of it—of getting a little bit of all of them. Just take your cup and hit each lever in the fountain.

Back then, the fountains had Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Orange, Grape, root beer and Tab (in the days before diet coke). The secret to this concoction was the proper level of the proper flavor. If you got all of them in equal portions, it was actually quite nasty; hence the name suicide. Leave out the Tab, minimize the rootbeer and keep the orange and grape balanced, and you had a pretty cool drink.

But flavor aside, it was just cool to drink a suicide. All the scouts in my troop went to make them that day. This was also in the days before free refills, so the soda stand operator monitored the activity closely. Also, since there were no refills, it was a treat to get a soda at all. We were all duly thankful for the quarter our parents gave us to get the soda, but just a “coke” wouldn’t do. It had to be a suicide. One, the name sounded dangerous. Two: the soda stand guy would yell at anyone who made one, so it had the whole forbidden thing going on.

I haven’t had one in years, though I caught my son making one. I asked him about it and he said “I invented this new drink.” Yeah. It gets invented every generation, and those of us who remember when it was our turn simply nod and get the pepto bismol just in case the flavor mix isn’t right. Of course, with free refills, the danger edge has been taken off, so I doubt it can be considered as cool as it once was.


Filed under Humor, Personal

But I Need This, Don’t I?

Why do we do things we don’t want or shouldn’t? I’ll tell you why. We’ve been brainwashed, that’s why. Like some spy movie, we have had our minds altered by the nefarious villain. Our will has been sapped and manipulated by the evil forces of the enemy. They know us. They watch us. They control us like a puppet on a string. Who is this enemy? Is it Big Brother? Is it Kaos? Is it Spectre? No…it’s marketing companies.

Haven’t you found yourself buying something that you felt you had to have, despite the fact that—until the moment you got it—you never even knew you needed it? How do you think that happens? You watch TV. You read books. You surf the internet. Companies that make products have a simple mission: to sell their stuff. They don’t really care who buys it, as long as someone buys it. But those companies don’t know how to sell it to the masses. They hire people, or outsource to a firm, that specialize in convincing other people to part with their money.

I got a phone call from a company the other day that wanted to know if I would like to participate in a key contest where they would send me a car key and if it fit the lock of a Ford Ranger, I got to keep the truck. I said “Sure, why not?” If I don’t want the truck, I still get $10k cash (before taxes). No reason to pass up a chance at free money. Besides, I also will definitely win either a 300 bucks, a dream vacation, a flat screen TV, or a shopping spree (or some such nonsense). When I bought a car several years ago, the ad I took into the dealership had a similar consolation prize. I would win either a TV, 1000 bucks, a home entertainment system or a basketball. My son said that with my luck, it would be a flat basketball. I won the basketball. It was not pre-inflated.

So, I get this key in the mail. The company calls me to ensure that I got the key and set up an appointment for me to try it out. Now, I have had telemarketers call and give me the cue-card spiel, but never have they send a key in a hand-written envelope and made several calls to get me to listen to the spiel. I am somewhat suspicious of the whole thing, but now I am curious enough to go. And maybe that’s just what they expect me to do. Maybe I’m playing right into their evil clutches.

Their plan may be to lure me in with the promise of riches (ok 10k isn’t riches, per se; but it is money after all) then they spring the trap. Perhaps it will be a time-share, or maybe an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a real estate investment firm, or I may have a chance to start my own business with only a modest initial investment. Then again, it could be legit. It could be a company trying to get the word out of their new store and this is just a contest to build name recognition.

I hope so. I don’t need more stuff that I don’t need. Our house is too full of stuff we don’t use to go out getting more of it just because some marketing firm made me think I needed it. That is the scheme, you know. They use imagery of beautiful people (who remind us a lot of ourselves—in a deluded way) using their product to make us want to be those beautiful people using the product. That creates a “need” where one did not exist before. These firms have employed doctors and behavioral scientists to figure out the best way to get into our heads.

I guess the best way for me in this case is a chance at a free truck or cash. I’ll let you know what happens.

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