In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it. Marianne Williamson
For all the sarcasm, cynicism and mental mischief I dole out on Mostly Teachable, I believe wholeheartedly in God. He is and will be for eternity bigger than any problem I can imagine (or more likely, cause). One of things I do in my life away from this blog is help out with different causes and make myself useful in the community. This is not an easy task, because I prefer the quiet of being alone in reading, writing and running. Each year, my home church in Saint Joseph, Michigan, First Church of God, hosts a formal Do Something work day in the surrounding area. This year 1,400 of us from FCOG and nearby churches went out and did what needed to be done around the county. Jobs ranged from painting lamp posts and hydrants to weeding and cleaning up areas that had been abandoned and weakened by misuse. For Do Something, if the job required picking up glass, needles and garbage, then that’s what we did. We are at the wonderful point in Do Something where the local municipalities realize that this isn’t our one weekend a year feel-good project, but a lifestyle we’ve adapted our gifts to. The calls having been coming in all year and we’ve found people to meet every need. In some cases the needs have been noted and taken on by grade schoolers who work without the excuses adults give. There is no bragging when we look out and can attest to 50,000 hours of service given to the community over the last calendar year. If you like the idea, well then grafting a branch of the idea can be yours. Think of yourself as a Doer and then Do Something. I’m going back to having more altruistic Do Somethings on the blog, including the return of the Social Vibe bar where you can support my favorite cause, To Write Love On Her Arms. Religious, curious or just happy to be, I’ll put the First Church of God info here, so you can learn a little about Doing Something in your own life. http://www.myfirstchurch.com
First Church of God 2627 Niles Avenue St. Joseph, MI 49085
Long ago, on an unseasonably muggy Saturday afternoon, my beloved Lori and I were married on a restaurant lawn. I use the word muggy, because it’s one of those endearing terms my parents use to describe excessive humidity. Muggy, as in it’s too flippin’ hot to do anything but beat each other into submission with oversized coffee cups. For our first few anniversaries, Lori and I would return to the site of the great coffee mug smackdown and treat ourselves to what later became known as a “quiet dinner.” Those were the days. The restaurant’s manager would always spring for dessert, usually some truffle-y, chocolate torte. Or maybe it was a tart. Definitely not a chocolate tot, because those are what fall out of the dog. Several years ago the fancy, muggy restaurant closed and the building was purchased by a family who painted it salmon color and began serving passable Chile Verde. Now I tell my child the romantic story of how mom and dad were married at the pink, Mexican restaurant.
Friends and people who are way-too- curious asked us over the weekend how we spent our twelfth anniversary. Several times, for whatever reason motivates and entertains folks, well-meaning questioners accompanied the query with “bowrrr chunka warrr warrr” noises. I always have an answer ready for this bit of over curiosity and too-much-information gathering.
Funny you should make those musical sounds, because we really did spend our anniversary building a time machine, travelling back to the 1970’s and figuring out that no sane person made “bowrrr chunka warrr warrr” noises during that entire decade!
Lori and I really don’t spend anniversaries doing anything that would be considered risky behavior (or much beyond the traditional Battle of the Coffee Cups down at Pink Acapulco) . We went to see Batman Rises (or falls, or takes psychotropic medications for his persistent moodiness), watched eight hours of Sons of Anarchy, went to Taco Bell (which is, inexplicably, painted yellow) and enjoyed each other’s company. Not once did either of us make 70’s exploitation film musical effects, although I did dress as Pam Grier. A romantic day in the life of married bliss.
My daughter insisted a few minutes ago that Santa Claus won’t bring me anything this year due to my poor attitude. She said this in response to having a cartoon about moronic sea creatures turned off. For sea animals the characters on Sponge Bob are intelligent. Relative to humans they’re…still pretty smart. Maybe I should turn the show back on. The part about Santa not gifting me this year, however, isn’t worrisome. The modern* Saint Nick story has so many holes in it that it’s a wonder today’s tech savvy kids buy into it.
The story goes that each year a morbidly obese separatist who lives in a northern commune with his wife and followers makes lavish gifts for the world’s children. Santa and his height challenged minions track which children are deserving of baubles. One night a year Santa dons a costume and sets out to distribute the toys in a sled that flies because of specially trained petting zoo mule deer hitched to it. The deers’ ability to fly may be due to substance abuse, hence Santa lives so far north. Santa lands his deer team atop the homes of his chosen children and proceeds down chimneys. Although severely burned by fireplace embers, he forces his way into homes to leave gifts. Children are urged to leave sweets for the gentleman, despite his signs of diabetes (which isn’t checked, because he’s opposed to government health care). He then climbs through fireplace ashes and alights up the chimney and to his waiting sleigh. Riding in the sled behind eight deer who subsist on carbohydrates and emit ozone depleting methane, Santa finds his way to all of the world’s young people. The morning after Santa has visited is disheartening for parents, because he gets credit for gifts which they worked all year to purchase. This is of no concern to Father Christmas, who is already planning a vacation at Zucotti Park. Who am I kidding? I hope the jolly old guy brings me Sketches of Spain on L.P.
*The real Saint Nicolas is famous for burning heretics, circa 325 A.D.
I am not a social person. For all of the bubbly, fun spirited, networky crap I put on the internet, my social skills are appallingly crude. To meet the real Andy, the one not hiding behind the keyboard and the Cookie Monster, is to meet a cave dwelling troglodyte of epically awkward proportions. Most of the time, I won’t look at you when speaking, and hugging is definitely verboten. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that I do. I’m not sure which is worse. The only thing I have a harder time with than polite human interaction and the genial hug is playing board games. Board games are the ultimate in socially awkward interaction. Part of my mojo derives from a strange aloofness born of not knowing what the blazes to say to you. My social coping mechanisms are completely broken down by having to spend two hours playing a board game with other people. Games mean eye contact and actively taking an interest in the mechanisms that separate humans from birds, or cattle. Games require cooperation and speaking in more than monosyllabic mumbles. Games require being able to gracefully lose, and to learn how to win without…I don’t know. Game playing never reaches that point with me.
When my daughter was little, she developed gamesmanship during family bonding times. Anna had a mechanized, magnetic fishing game, which I actually loved watching her play. At two years old, she developed a knack for clubbing the revolving, yap mouthed fish with a plastic pole until they bent to her will. This to me was a relatable game. Smackafish was great fun. In time, Anna adapted to the contraints of civilized society. She plays by the rules, because it preserves the entertainment value and integrity of the time together. I’m not there yet, although taping the Uno cards together in order to win has finally left my repertoire. The fun will eventually be in enjoying the closeness of friends and loved ones, and not poking them with magnetic fishing poles. We’ll see.
(This afternoon I’m too busy mourning the loss of what was left of my fence to share nasal-toned monologues via the podcast. The fence was carried off in a wind storm and last seen prancing like a series of 12-foot deer over the top of my neighbor’s roof. Rest easy, wherever you end up fence. For some background on the fence and the idiot who originally installed it, see post entitled “Henry” (3/12/12).
In the past, I think that I’ve mentioned my occupation as an office clerk. One part of my job deals with reconciling monthly billing between the company that employs me and their contracted hospitality provider. Right. You’re probably just all tingly about reading some more of a blog post about bookkeeping. Oooh. Ahhh. By trade and training, I am probably not a suitable candidate for clerical work. It’s weird to have stood over a saute pan for years and taken pride in setting things on fire and then one day transition into paperwork. Honestly, though, I enjoy the desk work. I adapt to change and overcome challenges well. If a new job required me to stand in a snow bank and wave at motorists, it wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
One of the issues with desk life is email etiquette. In cooking, you communicate by shouting time-honored, pithy phrases at your co-workers. Most of which, incidentally, shouldn’t be repeated in other walks of life. You give them the finger, they beat you senseless as soon as you step out for a smoke. Communication received. Email is more a finesse game. I am very comfortable navigating the e-world at my own company, as long as I don’t “reply all” with old pictures of myself getting beaten up. The big corporate hospitality company’s email is a little murkier. Since I’ve got one of the world’s most common first/last name combinations, my name has gotten shuffled into every global mail list for the big corporate hospitality provider. The global giant’s European divisions started including me in all kinds of mail about two years ago. Since absolutely none of the mail involved me, I got in the habit of asking to be taken off the overseas mailing lists. I’d point out that I’m a lowly middle-man from Michigan, USA and the replies were unfailing polite.
Apologies, Andrew. Best Wishes!
Such nice correspondents, but lousy with follow-up. So, I just got used to the mail. After a while, I pieced together stories and networks in corporate divisions that I’ll never interact with. I became concerned with their Uzbekistan marketing drives and invoice delays between North Atlantic oil rigs and land-based offices. When one European associate would leave for a new job, I’d shed a tear like everyone else in her division. Sigh. I really have to get off these mailing lists. There are enough storylines in my own office cubicles to fill a blog.
Living in a smallish town along Lake Michigan, there are few things we look forward to more than the start of Summer weather. Even though there was a hot snap in mid-March in which temperatures rose above 80°, the rest of the Spring was typically chilly and wet. The March anomaly left us in a weird place, as much of the population shambled out to the beaches only to freeze before getting back indoors. We ended up as a bunch of sandsicles. Now, with Memorial day in sight, the calendar and weather are finally on the same page and we can enjoy two and a half months of great weather before breaking out the parka and re-treading the snowmobiles. The arrival of great weather also heralds the reemergence of the local bikini moms. Aging women in beachwear ready to show the world that time may change them, but they can’t change time.
As a man, I have nothing against the bikini, or the sight of a woman wearing one. There is a double standard when it comes to being able to wear them in public, though. I was thinking about this while in a local Dairy Queen last night with my daughter. One of the bikini moms was out with her kids (I mean the actual children, and not the chauvinistic euphemism) in her swimwear. This wasn’t one of those train wrecks like I used to see as a child. She wasn’t wearing a crotched bikini top, or just wrinkles. Still, I began to consider the double standard. I can’t wear a Speedo to DQ. There’s this whole rule about “no shoes, no shirt, no Mikhail Gorbachev in a tiny bathing suit.” The Hunger Games has shown that we’re a culture desensitized to brutal violence, so it should come as no shock that our lives, liberty and the existence of Jersey Shore are all indicators of being an overly casual society. Since you no longer have to find a Sears catalog to see a bikini, I’ll probably just wear my coconut bra down to Tasty Freeze for a cone. Good times.
I came across a Reader’s Digest article titled 24 Things You Might Be Saying Wrong by Silvia DeMeo and Paul Silverman while searching for…well, never mind. Any time that Reader’s Digest comes up as a cross-search reference, it means you’ve ventured from the comfortable ghetto of smut, degradation and Kardashians that populate the internet and into some monochromatic Pleasantville. The gist of the piece was that you as everyman/woman/thing are probably using words and phrases incorrectly and you should learn to speak condescendingly. I want to offer a few “What you meant to say…” terms of my own:
What You Said Was: Ain’tdunna
What You Really Meant Was: Didn’tdunna. When you have the opportunity to travel and meet new folks, it’s always impressive to use the past tense term Didn’tdunna, as in “I told Jerry Jim that I didn’tdunna drop them kittens in the banana pudding.”
You Answer Every Cooking Question With: Squirrel
What You Really Meant Was: Not Squirrel. Guests during the holiday season are notorious for demanding to know what each and every dish is composed of. Knock their socks off by answering “Not Squirrel.” Tell your friends and loved ones that you’re an avowed vegetarian and you cooked with rabbit.
What You Said Was: Wii.
What You Really Meant Was: Wee. Everybody has accidents. Learning to admit that you didn’tdunna have to go is part of life.
What You Said Was: Newt.
What You Meant To Say Was: Mitt. Even Mitt Romney has trouble with this one.
What You Said Was: Fernenglobben
What You Meant To Say Was: I’d Like To Thank The Nobel Nominating Committee. This only works if you’re Lindsey Lohan and you’ve cured world hunger through mass shipments of grain alcohol.
What You Said Was: Mostly Teachable
What You Meant To Say Was: “Aw! I got Suckered By That Gimmick Blog Into Reading Another 300 Words! Fernenglobben! Newt!
Sometimes I enjoy reading stories of wilderness survival. True tales of human endurance and the will to endure and conquer pain while trapped with nothing other than the elements for companionship. Stories of men and women forced to gnaw off their own limbs for sustenance. Many of these testaments to bravery intrigue for the very basic reason that they bear no resemblance to my life. I am a Wuss Scout travelling with troop 9-1-1. I earned my last merit badge for camping at a Holiday Inn. This afternoon I started to think about the elements it takes to survive. For a person who lives on stale coffee and Tic-Tacs, survival might be hard pressed. I began to wonder what would happen if there was some Red Dawn-ey situation. In every one of these movies, mysterious invaders from the North of something (North Dakota, Northumbria, North Narnia) swoop in and indoctrinate the hapless Americans like me.
I used to be a rugged, pirate type. At least in own mind. Often, I point to the fact that I once lived on Dum-Dum suckers for two weeks.Arrr…the suckers kept me alive. Back in those rugged, old days I’d drink a pot of coffee, clamp a Dum-Dum between my teeth and go into the fields to run with the deer. Now, the fear that I’ve gone soft has been realized. When I run, it isn’t with the deer. These days running is done on the sidewalk, sidestepping old ladies with small dogs and always with a fanny pack full of water bottles. Of course, many of those old ladies have shifty, northern eyes. I eat wholesome, quality food now to keep my strength up, but secretly long for the old suckers and muddy java. Those midnight runs in the pasture may have been long ago, but they were all mine. I had a bit of the savage survivor in me, after all, it seems.
One of the things that led me to believe I’d become an adult was the purchase of a washing machine and dryer. I don’t get excited about much in life, but even after twelve years, I still find myself in the laundry room every now and then staring at these weird symbols of cultural matriculation. I’ve managed several hit and miss careers over the years, kept up the appearance of a solid marriage and raised a fairly normal child despite the fact that she possesses my genes. Even with all of this worldly success, however, it’s the washer and dryer that symbolize having made it in America. No longer do I have to go the laundry mat and talk to people about their kidney stones while trying to clean my clothes. Life has gone by the phase of sitting in plastic chairs at the coin operated laundry-o-rama, talking to distraught women about messed up relationships while watching their under garments flop around in the dryer. Nope. I just go to the basement and ponder God’s goodness to me through the gift of clothes cleaned at home while I wait.
Like all prideful things, the washer failed a while back. This was unimaginable and caused a bit of panic. This noisy, steel washtub had been there for me through all the trials of my early thirties and I was determined to resuscitate it. When my daughter was an infant and not at all a sleeper, I’d take her in her car seat and rock her in it while the seat rested atop of the dryer. I’d sit on the washer with college course text books and rock the child as the dryer lulled her to sleep. I used to wash my chef coats during those times with Dreft, because they’d come out super soft. Those were the days. More recently, the washer developed a habit of stopping while full of water. I learned, mostly by leaning on it to think through the issue, that weight on the lid was the key to making it cycle through. My mother-in-law offered a brick from her garden, and there one sits atop my washer. I now have to position the brick just so to make the washer spin out. Granted, you don’t care about this. Believe me, though, this is Downton Abbey stuff at my house. The growing pains of becoming a truly independent adult and then the realization that only a brick can save my beloved washing machine. I really either need to invest in one of those wonderful Kelly Ripa washers and get out of the basement, or just shut up and get out of the laundry room.
I’ve never been a drug user. The strongest thing I imbibed regularly was Pepsi. Last year my neurologist (what a weird thing to be able to refer to a neurologist as one’s own. “Oh, yeah. That’s my brain guy. We’re tight”) prescribed a migraine preventative drug that took me on a wicked trip. The medication really didn’t impact the frequency or severity of headaches I experienced, but I was too tripped out to notice. I started to have dreams. The dreams started out in a good place. Walmart, actually. For two months I spent each night in a series of dreams I named “Celebrity Walmart Trip.” Each night, I’d stroll the isles of our local super-store with a famous person. Night one was Walmart with Kenny Rogers (the former Tiger’s pitcher, not The Gambler). I asked about what was on his hand during the ’06 World Series. The next night featured quality shopping with William Shatner. He didn’t appreciate being called “Shat” or the fact that I giggled every time I said the word “Shat.” After a month or so, the dreams became markedly weirder. The former Captain Kirk’s head burst into flames on a subsequent somnambulist Walmart visit and the fire consumed me. Fire became a recurring theme in these medication side effect night terrors. I’d be lulled into a conversation with some woman in a bar that could only exist in my dreams (because I like Pepsi) only to be consumed by her hell fire. At least I wouldn’t have to call those women back. Dragons, murderous chickens and devil women gave way after a few months to a sort of garbled terror montage. I stopped the medication eventually and went back to the safety of just living with headaches until another doctor prescribed me some well-behaved, sleep-flame retardant drugs.
A year later, I am having calm dreams of great beauty. I’ve tried to look up their meaning on popular internet dream databases only to find that every dream somehow means that I have a fear of sexual relationships with clowns. The thing that I like about my calm, reassuring dreams is that everyone I’ve ever known comes by for a visit at some point. A nightly talk show of the mind. Sometimes pianos mysteriously fall on friends, but I’d hate to look up the meaning of that on the internet for fear that it goes back to clowns. My dreams have evolved since I was a teenager when all they ever contained was Phoebe Cates or a Camaro. If those dreams ever return, I’ll invite her to the nightly talk show and keep an eye on the sky for pianos.
The arrival of Fall makes me weepy and emotionally irresponsible. I muddle through the Michigan weather and wait out the Seasonal Affective Disorder, all the while coming up with creative solutions. On days when the clouds are heavy and the world seems to recede into darkness that won’t fade until the January thaw, I go and stare at the gas station hot dog machine. The glowing light seems to afford my soul peace and tranquility. This doesn’t help with the seasonal weight gain, though. Part of the S.A.D. dilemma is that it causes increased appetite, sleepiness and the need to be on a constant sugar bender. We-ird. I eat and tear up like Sissy the Blogger. Every time someone mentions that the World Series starts tonight and that my beloved Tigers (sniff) are sending Justin Verlander to the mound against Barry Zito, the waterworks start (“Ahhh…get me some marshmallows! This is too much pressure!”).*
Lately I’ve started to take notice of advertisements for supplemental testosterone. For the most part, these seem to be just commercials sponsored by the inadequacy industry. I don’t need no stoopid testosterone! Give me some Turtle Wax and I’ll be fine. I’m a man, and that puts me in a fraternity of men. The fraternity of understanding the onside kick, the infield fly rule and Top Gear. The brotherhood of “If it ain’t broke, let’s break it on purpose.” The boost of testosterone might help with the obnoxious, seasonal emotional jags, though. Not that I can afford it. It’s more than likely that my insurance doesn’t cover hormones, even if my doctor’s chart states “necessitated because dumbbell can’t keep his big boy pants up.” What to do? I guess that I’ll turn to other, more homeopathic maleness supplements. Since we haven’t been to the grocery store in a while, the only items in the house that might do the trick are Vitamin D pills and Ramen noodles. Get my mortar and pestle. It’s time to mix up some mojo.
*After writing this, Justin gave me reason to tear up. I’m going to need a bigger bag of marshmallows.
Ichiro was traded to the Yankees earlier today and I don't feel so good myself. Watching Ichiro over the last ten years has been a reminder that workmanlike routine and consistency are rare and wonderful qualities in modern life.
Ichiro Suzuki was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Yankees this afternoon. To you, this may seem the routine business of modern professional baseball. There has never been anything routine about the very routine-ness that is Ichiro. He’s been a career .322 hitter with the Mariners since 2001, a workhorse of steadfast on base percentage. The very businesslike way he’s fielded his position and gotten on base doesn’t make the Sports Center highlights any more, because we’re used to his excellence. The fact that he finally played a major league season in 2011 not hitting .300 was only worrisome, because he’s Ichiro. I may be a Detroit Tiger homer for life, but Ichiro has been my one baseball infidelity over the years. When the Mariners and Tigers have squared off over the years, I’ve been in the habit of calling my daughter in to watch the TV. “C’mere, because you’re not going to see anyone like this again.”
I bleed Tigers blue and orange. A Summer’s Eve swilling mo-ron told me last season that I must have just jumped on the band wagon. Sure, except the bandwagon arrived around the time I was a toddler and could just pronounce Wockenfuss. My dad used to prop me next to the old Realistic stereo speakers and I’d sit and listen to Ernie. “Swiiing and a miss” is still rattles around my brain pan. All this having been said, I was an Ichiro fan. Even if he’d played for the White Sox, this would have been so. Tonight he’s batting eighth for the Yankees, which tests even my respect for the great, working man’s all-star. He played for some woefully crummy Seattle teams over the years and I don’t blame Ichiro for wanting to finish with a contender. In all the years Ichiro’s played for bad teams, this is the first I remember him publicly complaining. Hopefully, he finishes on a high note. Ichiro inspires what should be the best qualities in all of us: hard work, consistency, and presence at the plate.
A few weeks before the end of the school year I woke my daughter up one morning and told her we were going to see the Detroit Tigers. Who knew that this was such an effective way to get kids up for school? Sitting bolt upright, she asked without a trace of sleepiness
“No,” I answered “At Wrigley.’
“What’s a Wrigley?”
Taking my nine-year old to a ball game was part of my bucket list fatherhood plan. I figured that we’d do fun stuff that every kid should experience before adulthood. Never mind the logistics of taking a little girl into Chicago without the guiding hand of mom. We checked off quite a few bucket items on this trip. The first thing was learning to ride with drunks on the South Shore line for two hours. We had plenty of conversations the rest of the day about why people shouldn’t drink at 9:00 in the morning (let alone 3 beers before the train departs). Riding the Red Line from State Street to Addison was another lesson. Learn to embrace other people. More importantly, embrace being squashed into some stranger’s boobs (not me. I’m too tall and obvious). A lady asked me on the way down to the subway if I had a back up plan. “Yeah. I’m not going to let go of the child. Same as the original plan.” Learn to enjoy exotic restrooms. Wrigley’s best kept secret is the section 126 First Aid station and it’s locking bathroom.
The experience of going to good old Wrigley Field is lost on my daughter. As it should be. She’ll get the particulars later. I know that she’s was as awed as me by the sight of the field beyond home plate when you first walk through the gate. I don’t believe in baseball cathedrals, but Wrigley’s pretty close. Someday, the Cubs will have won numerous championships under the stellar management of Darwin Barney and the billionaire owners (the Olsen twins) will have the place leveled. She’ll look back and tell the kids how dad dragged her up to see Justin Verlander throw a five hit, two earned run game back in the good old days. A bucket list check-off for any kid, even at my age.