Today the doctor told me that I can start a regular running program again. This announcement hit in much the same way that the news of pitchers and catchers reporting to baseball training camps does each winter. I looked out the window at the wind blowing snow through the tree branches and clucked “Reeeaaallly?” It didn’t take long to start to embrace the idea of running. The current temperature may be a whopping 7° degrees, but in my mind it’s always summer and I’m perpetually careening across people’s lawns with my tongue hanging out. On some those occasions I’m actually running, as well. Heading back to work, I was in pretty good spirits. Never mind the weather, I was planning core strengthening and treadmill workouts. I basically returned to work from the doctor’s office with the car travelling sideways, because of the wind, but…whoo hoo, running! The car has a nifty feature in which the back hatch doesn’t close. In high wind the hatch acts as a sail and propels the car in unusual directions. Merrily I sailed to work, clouds of exhaust fumes making snowflakes dance around the car. The magic of winter in Michigan mixed with the early stages of asphyxia.
Returning to work was a good Up-With-People training for my not-always positive self. The furnace that heats our kitchen and offices had blown the last of its furnace-y cache of good will and left the staff cold. Even Blodgett ovens aren’t enough to heat a subterranean hash house during the single digit days of January. I, like most of my ancestors before me, dress for work in the traditional garb of the ancient clan of Poindexter. This means that even if the outdoor temperature is in the low nothings, I wear a short-sleeved, pocketed dress shirt. That’s okay, ‘cuz their snazzy. I may freeze at my desk, but it will have been done proudly in the garb of a food service accounts payable nerd. Alas, all of this will one day lead to running. Fresh air, sunshine, freedom. A time when I can ascend the stairwell from my basement office, remove my short-sleeved dress shirt and run. Or at least wallow in the sun. If my predictions are right, this could happen as soon as six months from now. Yippee!
Yesterday, I happened to see an online teaser for an article detailing the ten things guys want women to know, but won’t tell them. The fact that I was Googling discounted Halloween costumes for ceramic geese should make no difference whatsoever, so I won’t mention it. The 10 Secrets article is website filler, I suppose. The author could have just easily penned 14 Things Your Cat Might Say If You Shaved His Butt (and He Could Speak), or 22 Pedantic Things to Say To Jennifer Love Hewitt If You Happen To Be Stranded In An Elevator With Her*. I can only guess what ten secrets a normal guy would reveal, but here are my 9.8 Details Guys Want Women To Know:
9.7 2/3 There is a small difference between the American male and a cactus. If you stare really intently, the difference will reveal itself.
8. Men are visual creatures. When asking us for something, please use a whiteboard to diagram the issue and the video for California Gurls.
7. When asked to watch movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels, we are mentally fast forwarding to the good parts. This applies to weepy British movies, except we replace “good parts” with scenes in which weepy hero dies of a flesh-eating disease.
6. We’d like more waffles.
5. Men are an advanced race of beings and light years ahead of your small talk about leaving lids down and replacing rolls.
7. There were no other girlfriends before we met you. We just sat home every night, vowing to propose to the first women to arrive at the door with waffles.
3. Dancing with the Stars is not an entertaining show, but men will concede that they’ve all thought about throwing Florence Henderson in the air once, or twice.
2. What are we thinking about when you ask us what we’re thinking about? Nuclear physics.
1.) When you ask us if some garment makes you fat/old/lumpy/pregnant, the answer is a complicated algorithm processed by our super-computer minds ( part of the formula is π over Kate Upton’s waist size x Ted Williams on base percentage in 1947 +/-4). In other words: shrug.
*None of which would be “Help! We’re trapped in this elevator!”
Sometime last week (which seems eons ago, now), I posted something (something) about not being able to dance. Oooh…understatement of the century. I spent five nights after posting that leaving it all on the floor for the kids. I’d signed up to be a worship leader for children’s vacation bible school and every cobweb was shaken loose nightly as an encouragement to the 320 children in attendance. When questions arose regarding my obvious lack of natural rhythm, I’d come back with “There’s definitely a little dip in my hip tonight.” No, there wasn’t. Vanilla Q. Ice, at your service. This is not to say that I don’t absolutely love music. The language of music somehow just gets lost in translation when interpreted by my booty. Music is such a part of my life, it’s a wonder the groove didn’t follow.
The last few weeks, I’d come up with an experimental running regimen in which I knocked out the miles listening to deadMau5. The rock steady beats, my logical mind surmised would be like running with a metronome in my ears. Like a heartbeat the music would thump, thump, thump me forward. This idea actually worked and I found myself running as smooth and steady as the music in my ear goggles. There you have it. Wannabe cool, aging, geezetastic runner, devotedly churning out the miles to the woomp of two-year old house music. The clubby old tracks were good and I started to play them during non-running life. The mighty, soulless groove loop became my soundtrack. Thank God that Marvin Gaye brought me to my senses. While trying to find a public restroom the other day in a coffee shop I was pretending to be interested in, I heard “Got To Give It Up” coming over the tinny p.a. speakers. Tinny, or not, Marvin is Marvin. That is my music, the siren song of a thousand failed flirtations. I may run to the unwavering 45 beats per minute of technical music, but I can’t deny that what little dip there is in my hip comes from Motown, Stax-Volt and the right Reverend Al Green. Maybe I’ll never properly dance, but it won’t be for lack of recognizing great grooves while trying to find a men’s room.
Several years ago, I ran a gimmick blog post in which my then 8-year old daughter Anna and I watched the Academy Awards red carpet pre-show and made commentary. Anna is older and wiser now, but still manages to render an opinion on most subjects. I sat down with her to watch the Super Bowl (i.e., the big copyrighted sports telecast not to be mentioned by name) and see if she had anything to offer. There were parts that made her put aside Harry Potter long enough to pay attention.
Anna on the first drive of the game: ‘Dad? What’s a quarterback? Do you have to put quarters into his back?”
“Yeah. This one looks like he needs a lot more quarters.”
On Audi’s “Bravery” spot: ” Wow! Do you think they really punched that guy in the face?”
“I think the black eye is just painted on. People can’t really just punch each other.”
“Oh. It would have been more real if they had.”
Regarding Oreo’s cream vs. cookie ad in which the actors burn down a library: “What’s the difference. It’s just a cookie.”
Anna’s first impression of Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco: “He looks like Simon Cowell.”
On the lack of progress writing this post: “Any farther? Yeah. I didn’t think so.”
On Beyoncé: “Oohh that’s flaming. What the heck? Where is she? Too much fire. She needs to dress more appropriately. Where’s her kid?”
(then, mercifully, Anna went off to brush her teeth and missed much of Beyoncé’s um, light show. She returned for the Destiny’s Child reunion to ask “What is this? A freak show, or something?” Even Anna, the skeptical pre-teenager, had to admit that Beyoncé is extremely pretty.)
Anna, amid much protest, went to bed just ahead of the first half. Someday, I’ll go over what makes up a first down with her (again) and try to steer her away from the suffering of a being a Lions fan for life. Maybe, before she’s too old to appreciate, the Lions will go to a Super Bowl and we won’t have to worry about the commercials. Thanks to the miracles of medical science, maybe I’ll be alive when that happens in Super Bowl CCCIV. That will be a lights out game.
(A very recycled Spatula post from December of 2010)
New Haven, Connecticut– Over the past few months, scenes of young people rioting over rising university tuition
costs and austerity measures have become a familiar sight in Europe. What is less widely recognized is the bubbling undercurrent of discontent among college students in the United States. American undergraduates, however, are not
disgruntled over the high cost of their education or the sluggish economic conditions in their home country. What is troubling U.S. students is the growing cost prohibitive nature of getting a fruitcake fix. The dessert, generally found on growing wild on forest floors, is one of the few legal and safe ways of loosening up for students, but the price of a buzz has been steadily rising. At several universities, including Yale, students have taken to the streets to demand a return to the cheap easy fruitcake high of yesteryear. What started as a rumor at California schools during the 1960′s has
now become a revered tradition on campuses all over the United States. A 15 year aged fruitcake can be eaten and is said to produce feelings of peace, fulfillment and the desire to simply eat more fruitcake. The problems for students seeking a fruitcake high started earlier this year when mail order houses specializing in the harvesting and aging of fruitcake sharply increased prices due to renewed demand and scarcity of wild fruitcake. Compounding the problem has been a reduction in the number of specially trained fruitcake sniffing pigs who go into the forest seeking the dessert with
their snouts. Students, unable to afford the delicacy any longer, are banding together around the country and causing mass disturbances in order to send a message to companies like Harry and David, who own a monopoly on fruitcake. In one protest that turned violent, University of Florida students threw their pants en masse into a bonfire as a show of solidarity against the fruitcake cabal. Meanwhile, Georgetown University students mobbed President Obama’s motorcade, lobbing coffee cake at the car as the first couple looked on in terror. Fruitcake got it’s therapeutic
and medicinal reputation after American soldiers during the 1940′s leaked information that they’d participated at the injections of hundreds of detainees with the dessert after World War II. Area 52 in New Mexico, in fact, is suspected as a large-scale fruitcake experimentation area for the Army, and rumored to have the highest re-enlistment rate of any duty station in the armed forces.
For all of my immaturity and foaming-at-the-mouth chaotic behavior, life still revolves around certain disciplines that were established long before my birth. I was raised in churches rooted in the Dutch Reformed tradition. A boy Calvinist. If all the teaching and correction with wooden paddles do what they’re supposed to, then the boy Calvinist should arrive at manhood as a fully formed disciple of Jesus Christ. Such is the case with me, although it seems that many more whoopings with the old Dutch paddle may have been necessary. I ain’t right. Deep down, I know that they took me out of the great Protestant oven too soon. There isn’t a pill available for the wayward sinner, and I’m sure that my Reformed kid guilt will last much longer than four hours and probably cause a backache at some point. Some of the discipline and correction stuck, however, and I owe any success that I’ve had in life the hand of God, the paddle of correction and the austerity of a genuine church upbringing.
One of the disciplines that I still live by is the unnatural need to get up way too early on Sunday. I spent the better part of my life glued to un-padded church pews at 9:30 each Sunday morning and again at 6:30 on Sunday evenings. By the time I was 10, it was ingrained in me to be dressed in the standard uniform of clip-on tie and sweater vest at least a half hour before departure time. If I accomplished this seemingly herculean task, then there was time to have a bowl of Wheaties and listen to Dr. Joel Nederhood’s radio message on The Back To God Hour. It was these Sunday rituals that informed my adult life. I still get up and around early on Sunday, even though we may not go to church until 11:00 a.m. (or, gasp, Saturday night). My wife looked at me funny a couple of Sunday nights ago when I started to get my coat on at 5:45 in the afternoon and head out the door. As I took my coat off, I explained that I wasn’t one of the kids at home on Sundays watching Wonderful World of Disney. We had church. Sundays full of windmill cookies, lousy coffee and standing around learning to socialize with other people who just wanted to get home and have their dinner. Having been raised that way, I see the benefits now. I am punctual to a point and don’t miss work or obligations. Sitting for long periods of time is ingrained within my soul. They didn’t get the being quiet and thoughtful part right with me, but oh well. Sometimes I catch myself singing the old hymns and remembering the sunlight streaming through stained glass window as I waited to grow up. You can take the kid out of the pew, but you can’t take the pew out the kid.
By the sea of crystal, saints in glory stand,
Myriads in number, drawn from every land,
Robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood,
They now reign in heaven with the Lamb of God.
There are certain gauges in every person’s life to measure their exact level of tiredness. Mood-o-meters that indicate when everything has been said and done and its time to eat a jar of Vapo Rub and go to sleep (don’t do that. Only included for visual imagery). The gauges for me are unkind behavior and swearing. I don’t swear much on this blog, for instance, except in cases where I’m writing tired or a word just sounds funny to me. Tonight I called the dog some version of “fudgeknuckle,” after I felt drained enough that there just weren’t any other words to describe her fudgeknuckleness. We love Grace, the Lazy Beagle (formerly the Wonder Beagle, but she’s tired these days, too), it’s just that she has a penchant for howling at me when I’m outdoors. I could be out running and nine miles from the house, and Grace would howl the entire time because I’d ventured outdoors. Tonight, when I’d moved ten or so feet from the house to clean the car, she started her death yowl. We’ve had burglars ransack the neighborhood, but she doesn’t wake for them. She just woots and wails at me. Flummoxed and feeble, I managed to say in a kind, loving dog daddy voice:
“Fudgeknuckle!” and then stalked off to find an inanimate object to express my wrath upon. The toaster is certain to be feeling some low self-esteem issues after I got through. I figure after some sleep and a plate of scrambled eggs, I’ll be back to my cheery self. The self that thanks to years of off-label migraine therapies smiles goofily at strangers and creeps people out. No more living on Creamsicles and dreams. I’ll live a life of early to bed, early to rise, last to say “go knuckle.” Sure I will. That, and I’ll give up Vapo Rub. We’ll see.
When I was seven years old the neighbor kid fell out of his upstairs window while in the throes of laughter about something long forgotten. He survived, and went on to a full life of falling down. To be sure, there was some bouncing around on the sidewalk. Tests couldn’t determine head injury, but his intelligence was negligible to start. I often wonder if he made it out of childhood. Those who did can look back and say “Wow. We dodged a lot of open windows.”
My wife Lori turns 40 on Sunday, and the family threw an upbeat surprise party for her. There were none of the standard “over the hill” jokes trotted out, and I’m glad. Making it to her advanced age (I’m a younger man still in his 30’s) has nothing to do with being on the decline, or over the hill. It’s a campaign medal of sorts, earned by staying away from windows. Lori has lived through the end of the Apollo program and of the Vietnam War, Watergate, 5 recessions, Disco, the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the AIDS epidemic, ethnic genocide, 9/11…the more stuff I list, the more I risk sounding like Billy Joel. The reality is what old folks always used to warn us about: One day you wake up and you’re 40. I’m glad to have the opportunity, though. Sure, you blink and miss a lot of excitement as you’re busy living. All that trying to dodge neighbor kids falling from the sky doesn’t leave time to savor life. A lot of my reminiscing about the life I’ve led is about stuff that was as unimportant then as is now (“I remember the Jackson’s Victory Tour. ‘Even got the poster”). It’s just enough to have beaten circumstance and be around to tell about it. Congratulations, Love and Best Wishes, Lori.
Now I sit by my window And I watch the cars I fear I’ll do some damage One fine day But I would not be convicted By a jury of my peers Still crazy after all these years-Paul Simon Still Crazy After All These Years
I am often shocked by what an old fart I am. Saturdays tend to illustrate the depth of ancient flatulence in my heart. The day starts with making fun of all that the pleasantly scented future has to offer. As has been my Saturday ritual for eons, I watch music videos and coffee-away whatever I did on Friday night. There was one this morning in which Britney Spears kicks this guy in the crotch followed by a moldy oldey in which Ke$ha shoots a unicorn in the head. Having missed out on whatever the recording industry is trying to sell me at a discount, I went off to do what feels right: Play interesting music and make soup.
In Jr. High (oh, here comes a dusty story) we used to make fun of the d.j’s at dances for playing elderly music. One time the shop teacher tried to play Bob Seeger’s Old Time Rock and Roll and we tossed so many objects at him (shoes, table saws) that he retreated and never played another dance. I’d like to formally apologize to him now: Sorry, you old bastard. It’s become clear how you felt. We play the familiar songs, the one’s that mean something to us over the decades. Of course, I still hate Old Time Rock and Roll. Every time Pandora tries to sneak that piece of crap into my playlist, I look around for a Skil-Saw to chuck at someone. Maybe, just maybe, I still have enough command of my faculties to embrace the reinvented familiar. Today I’m playing Adele’s 21 on a loop and making clam chowder in a bright new way. All that’s familiar as my street on a snowy afternoon, with a little bit of new soul. If the soup works, I’ll put the recipe and playlist in the new glossary page this week.
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 would like to start seeing a new phone. Siri, the voice recognition software that came with the iPhone 4S and I are having problems as a couple. My wife, the actual, living, animate being I chose to spend life with, refers to Siri as “Karen,” an homage to a character on the children’s TV program Spongebob Squarepants. Karen is the computer one of the show’s maniacal sea creatures treats as his spouse. I started out with the same kind of emotional attachment to my Siri/Karen. All day long, I’d ask the device treacle filled, lovey-dovey questions a man asks only of a woman he’s in love with such as “Siri, how do I treat trichinosis caused by bad Spam?” You know the type of getting-to-know you questions asked when a relationship is in its first bloom. “Siri? What kind of satanic messages would I hear by playing ‘Call Me Maybe’ backwards?” You know, the deeply thoughtful in-love type of questions. I never thought until now to ask Siri what messages I’d hear if I played the song forward. Alas, Siri stopped answering my asinine questions. The standard answer became “look it up yourself. Maybe.” So, with the arrival of the iPhone 5 there is excitement again in the telephonic world. My old computer wife Siri has packed up and moved to the South of France, asking only a final “Would you like me to shut the door. Okay, I’ll do that.” and I’m hanging around the phone store waiting until I qualify for a contract upgrade.
The line at our local Verizon store was pretty typical of the first rush of iPhone mania. I wish that I’d had time to ride up and down the queue on a bicycle with a rotary phone on the handle bars, offering to let people make free calls. Oh well, maybe Siri, the solid, reliable iPhone 4S and I can get some couple’s therapy. I’d ask Siri to find a local counselor, but it isn’t to be. My computer wife has taken up with a swarthy, French Droid. Ainsi soit-il.
Are people defined by their “isms?” As much as the look on our faces shows the world the way to our souls, it might be the little idio(t)syncrasies that are the real indicators of just who we are. Take for instance the tuneless tunes we choose to sing, or hum when happy. Sure, some people don’t ever have a go-to song. Many of those same people are generally unhappy tools, or they’re mannequins. When I’m truly at peace with the world, I become more annoying than usual. One of my little tells is that I sing the closing sting from ESPN’s Sports Center theme. The tune is literally just “duh na na duh na na Sports Center.” ESPN ( The Exaggerated Sports Pimping Network) has been using variations of the theme for over twenty years and it’s one of those ubiquitous riffs that just gets lodged in one’s gray matter. In our house, at least on most sunny Saturday mornings, every question asked of me is answered with this ism sliver. If someone asks for scrambled eggs, they get them served with “duh na na…” For some reason, I always end by announcing Sports Center like one of the public address announcers from Half Life. The nonsensical use of my musical ism became so out of control that I caught myself mindlessly duh na na-ing at work one day. “What that your humming? Maybe you should go back and sit in your cubicle and have some time alone to hum the batman theme.”
Leave it to the intuitively designed iPhone to be the buzz killer. The Sports Center app for iOS plays the show’s beloved sting at certain user ordained times. I set the app up to notify me during key points in baseball and football games as well as at their start and end times. The phone did so much “duh na na” over the first few months that I now keep it silent for the majority of the time. Certain moments in life don’t need the Sports Center theme, either from me or the phone. So, I have to break the ESPNism and find new ways to enjoy my happiness. The other night I found that I could “duh nuh” the entire Monday Night Football theme. Thus, a new ism was born.
The other day (I just auto-post “the other day” into every blog entry. Fill it in any way you want. For example, “The other day I gave up self-loathing for Lent”)…eh hem…The other day I was filling out the personal information on a website and one of the questions was whether I appreciated “Geek Culture.” I didn’t even know we had a culture. Apparently owning the collected works of J.J. Abrams and wearing a Doctor Who scarf to one’s wedding are now considered acceptable behaviors and people who do these things represent a culture. It’s okay to rock an Enterprise ensign’s uniform ( circa 1966, naturally) at work now, because it’s part of the geek societal fabric. Star Wars is the lingua franca of our geeky times. Right. I’ll believe it when it happens. Even a minor geek like me is embarrassed by some of the behavior that rules geekdom. I do however get all geeked up when I manage to save up enough Republic Credits in order to buy cool technology*.
The other day I broke down and upgraded to an iPhone 4S. I had the original Droid, which had taken to moaning “rooiid” at odd moments. The 4S has Siri, the voice command gimmick which has caused me to rename the phone “Karen, My Computer Wife” after a character on Spongebob Squarepants (geek). I find myself constantly asking computer wife to do irrelevant tasks a phone can’t possibly do. The phone, to it’s credit, has stopped honoring my commands after just a few days. It seems you can’t just tell a phone to make you some Ramen Noodles (“Here are three faux Asian restaurants in your neighborhood. Get bent”). The phone does give me a personalized wake-up call on command (“Geek boy? Are you talking to me in your sleep. Stop dreaming about Inception and get up for work. Oh, and get bent”). The wedding is in June, so save the date. I’ll have the iPhone send out invitations.
*Yes, I waved my hand in front of the clerk and said “Republic Credits will do.”
For the most part, I ignore the things in day-to-day life that require attention. This is part of a holistic approach to procrastination. Well, it would be an approach, but I’m waiting until next week to begin. One of the things I’ve been ignoring is the fact that my cellular phone has been calling people of its own volition. Not butt dialing, either. Butt dialing, or (heaven forbid) drunk dialing, would mean that I’d have to accidentally initiate the call. No, my celly is just calling random parties on its own. This supposedly smart phone is making bad choices. At 18 months old, it’s almost eligible for replacement. The phone is probably showing out a little bit. Really, who among us didn’t make bad choices at a year and a half old?
The calling started quietly. There were short calls to my wife’s office. When the receptionist asked who was calling, all she got was a plaintive “Drooiid.” I could explain my way out of this with “Sorry, the phone got it’s number from me.” Not so easy was the issue of the phone calling every woman I’d ever met. Girls I hadn’t talked to since Junior High were suddenly asking what I wanted and why I hadn’t called since 1987. As I’d explain that my phone has a glitch, the phone would be miserably moaning in the background “Drrroooiid.” I really am a bad phone owner and am now paying for the price. There were the months of Angry Birding the screen too forcefully. The weeks of leaving it half-naked on the counter, because I couldn’t get the cheap, plastic cover to fit correctly. The celly is making me pay by calling my coworkers and dishing on me. Deep into the night I hear “Droid.” I’m definitely trading for an iPhone.