Thursday, December 30, 2010

Turning the page

I am baffled that we celebrate so many holidays that mark the passage of time. New Year's and birthdays are prime examples. Each signifies that another year has gone by. Glass half full advocates will view such things as a new beginning. Glass half empty types would say we are simply celebrating another day closer to death.

The turning of a calendar page is such a contrived thing anyway. Where did time actually begin and when does it actually end? What possessed whoever the primitive person was who began marking time? Was it one of the earliest manifestations of morbid fascination for figuring out how much time we have squandered and how much time is left to be squandered?

I am no one to talk. I am obsessed with time. I have an awesome collection of wristwatches, all ticking away the seconds of my mortality (well almost all...I need to get some new batteries for a few of them). Perhaps it is natural to become obsessed with time the older you get. Because when you are young, time drags because you think you have an endless supply of it. When you reach middle age, it slips quickly through your hands because you become painfully aware that supplies are limited.

But time is like the weather, everybody bitches about it, but no one can doing anything about it. Poets wax poetic about it. Songwriters write songs about it (Jim Croce wrote about keeping time in a bottle and then ironically died young in a plane crash). Science fiction writers create endless plots about how to cheat time and achieve mortality.

But time outlasts them all. None of us understand it. Shoot by the time you think you have figured it out by living long enough, your time is up. Father Time is essentially a practical joker shaking your hand with a joy buzzer.

Why am a writing about the futility of time and celebrating its passage? Well, I wanted to squeeze out one more blog post before the year ends and I didn't think I'd have time to write one tomorrow night. I'll be too busy celebrating the arrival of a new year.

Ironic isn't it?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seeing the light (and pulling the plug)

I have always liked Christmas lights. I don't really understand how they became associated with the holiday, but I enjoy them. In the past, I would enjoy them on other people's homes, but I never got inspired to put them on my own house until this year.

As with most things these days, my motivation for putting up Christmas lights on my house was for my children. I kept reminding myself of that while I was standing on top of a step ladder clinging to my gutter forcing the little light clips on at one-foot intervals. I also reminded myself of that fact when I lost all feeling in my hands and realized that, although I'd spent nearly $100 on lights,  I'd only bought enough to stretch half way across the front. And I reminded myself it was for the kids when I hopped in the car and drove to the store to buy more lights.

Every night, I'd plug the lights in wondering if I was going to get electrocuted in the rain and every night after the kids went to bed, I'd slip into the rainy, cold night and unplug the lights.

Ironically, I don't think my kids noticed the lights. What they did notice were the other houses we drove by that had elaborate light shows with dancing reindeer, sparkling snow globes and inflatable Frosty the Snowmen. Feelings of inadequacy began to seep in when I compared these mega displays with my meager strip of white icicle lights. To add insult to injury, one small two-foot section of my modest lights went out in the center of one string for no apparent reason. It all reminded me of why I had never put up lights on my house before.

It is, however, one of those things you are supposed to do.

But now Christmas is over and the lights need to come down. I wish I could get away with just leaving them up like a friend of mine does each year. When I told him I'd spent a couple of hours hanging lights he said he just went out and plugged his in. Said they were a bit faded from being out all year, but they still worked. Now granted his are the old fashioned big-bulb type. I think they are less noticeable in the daylight than the icicle variety I have that hang down. With my luck, I'd leave them out and they wouldn't work next Christmas so I'd have to replace them anyway.

Although I like Christmas lights, I will be relieved when I've tucked them into boxes with the rest of the decorations and stow them in the garage. Something happens to the magic of Christmas lights and decorations when the clock strikes midnight on December 25. They become as dismal as the piles of discarded wrapping paper from too many presents littering the floor around the Christmas tree.

On that note, my two-year old son came marching through the living room when I came home last night demanding to know where Christmas was. I told him it was over and he said that it wasn't. It was Christmas Eve and he wanted his presents back.

I feel that way about Christmas in general. I always long for the feeling of Christmas coming and dread the emptiness of it being over. Oh well, the stores have already begun swapping out Christmas crap and replacing it with Valentines crap. So I have that to look forward to.

In the meantime, it's time to get out the step ladder and pull the plug on Christmas 2010.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things you are supposed to do

I have never been particularly good at doing things I'm supposed to do because you are supposed to do them. It is not that I am philosophically opposed to doing things I am supposed to do. I just don't always know that I am supposed to do things that I am supposed to do. I also do not always understand the origins of some things that I am supposed to do and why.

Oh, I understand and accept common courtesies such as writing thank you notes and acting like you want some gift when someone gives you something you don't want or really like. It is other things I don't understand. For example, years ago my first girlfriend's mother used to wrap boxes of chocolates and keep them under the tree without a name tag in case someone dropped by unexpectedly and gave them a gift. She would then slip away, write their name on a gift tag and covertly stick it on one of the unmarked gifts under the tree as if she was going to give them a gift in the first place regardless of whether they gave her one. When I questioned the sincerity of such a gesture I was told it was what you were supposed to do.

Personally, I would rather give a person a gift with no expectations of anything in return. And I'd rather get an unexpected gift without feeling obligated to reciprocate. But this view, although paid lip service by many, is usually superseded by the unwritten rules of "things you are supposed to do."

I wonder if there is someplace where all of these things you are supposed to do are written down. That would have to assume that there are universal things you are supposed to do rather than things that you are supposed to do that were cited by your parents simply because their parents beat it into their heads that they were things you were supposed to do. And they believed this because their parents in turn impressed upon them that they were things you were supposed to do.

I am willing to bet most things you are supposed to do evolve that way instead out of some universal law dictated by the natural order of things. Most people don't question things we are supposed to do because questioning them is something we are not supposed to do.  Besides, the only answer you ever get when you question doing something you are supposed to do is that that is what people do. There is a paradox here somewhere.

I am greatly pleased that wearing live cats as hats is not one of those things you are supposed to do.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total lunar eclipse over my hammies

Last night I saw my first lunar eclipse. It was the first total lunar eclipse in almost three years. And it was the first total lunar eclipse to take place on the Winter Solstice since 1638.

It was the first lunar eclipse I have ever seen because a) I am normally totally unaware of such things b) if I am aware of them, I fall asleep anyway and c) I live in the Seattle area and most things in the sky are obscured by clouds most nights. I managed to see this one because, a) I read about it on the Internet, b) since having children, I seldom go to sleep before midnight and c) by some miracle the clouds lifted last night and I could actually see the moon.

The photo above is supposedly how it looked from Seattle. I found the image on Wikipedia (thank you Yatharth Gupta whoever you are). I tried taking my own photo, but I haven't yet mastered all of the technical mysteries of my Canon Rebel (translated I haven't read the manual and basically still point, shoot and hope for the best). All I ended up photographing was a big, black square (which is basically what the eclipse looked like at about 11:30 p.m.). But then again, the whole thing could have just been obscured by a cloud. You never know in the great Pacific Northwest.

I am surprised that no one tried to super glue some significance to the fact that th eclipse was taking place on the Winter Solstice. It didn't seem to have any affect on me.

I did have a strange urge to go into a Denny's during the eclipse and order a Total Lunar Eclipse Over My Hammies just to see how the server would react. Given that it would be a Denny's during a full moon, eclipse  or not, I imagine the server would simply ask me if I wanted fries with that.

Note to Denny's: this would have been a great marketing opportunity. A Full Lunar Eclipse Over My Hammies could have been a ham sandwich with two fried eggs with the yolks removed. The next total eclipse will take place on June 15, 2011, so you have time to flesh this one out if you want. Just give me some of the credit, okay?

But I digress. I'm looking forward to the June 15 eclipse. But if I miss that, there is supposed to be another one on December 10th next year, too. Maybe I'll read the manual for my camera by then. But then again, it will probably be cloudy anyway.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Watching football

Of all sports, I enjoy watching football the most. I do not claim to understand all of the nuances of it, but I like the spirit of it. What drives me crazy, however, are the endless string of commentators who babble on during the games. I find their inane diatribes mind numbing at best.

What kind of insight does, "they need to come up with some big plays" provide? And don't get me started on sports casters ability to turn nouns into verbs (as in, "credit him with the pass defensed").

Although I like to watch football, I am also appalled at watching the other people who like to watch football. On the rare occasion I actually go to a game, I watch in horror at the out of shape blobs squeezed into football jerseys that should only be stretched as tight as they are if they are being pulled over shoulder pads and body armor. These jerseys are stretched to capacity by bellies that put Santa Claus to shame.

And the spectacle of it all. The wigs, masks and face paint rivals Mardi Gra in its garishness. But the thing that always blows my mind is the level at which these rabid fans believe that they actually have anything to do with whether the team wins or loses.  Now granted, noise becomes a factor in a game, but the actual physical act of playing the game lies strictly with the men playing the game, not with the mohawked fan wearing the kilt pounding his head against a pole in the end zone stands.

I understand the need for individuals to identify with people, real or fictional, who can live out realities they can't. But it is sad that many of the people I see at football games can't seem to accept that wearing a football jersey doesn't make you a football player any more than wearing a cape makes you Superman.

It is also easy to fall into the trap of second guessing everything that happens on the field. I catch myself swearing at a missed tackle, a dropped pass or a fumbled ball. Then I remind myself that I have never played football out of the confines of a backyard and that I was a drum major in the marching band during high school.

Perspective is everything, especially while watching football.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I broke the wing off an angel

It wasn't a real angel. It was a little plastic glow in the dark angel that someone taped onto my office door. It fell on the floor and I accidentally stepped on it and broke the wing. But I felt bad and glued the wing back on with a glue gun. It's not that I'm superstitious, but I don't need the bad karma breaking a wing off an angel implies.

Technically, it was probably more of a glow in the dark Cherub anyway. Or since this is the holiday season, it may have been a baby Jesus with wings. Funny thing is, the next day five more of the things showed up at random spots in my office. I rooted them out and they are all sitting on top of a commuter coffee mug next to my computer monitor with their little glow in the dark arms reaching up toward heaven (or the sky if you don't believe in such things).

I am not sure why angels have wings anyway. You'd think heavenly creatures could simply levitate without resorting to flapping their wings. But while we are on the subject, why do demons and hellish imps have wings, too? You would think they'd need them since they are supposed to be spending their time slinking around on their bellies in the fire, brimstone and icky ooze of hell.

But I digress.

It can't be good to break a wing off an angel around the holidays even if it was an accident. Now granted, technically the angel had wings so it shouldn't have fallen on the ground anyway unless it was indeed a fallen angel (or cherub). So that would mean breaking its wing off wouldn't be a bad thing because it was headed to hell anyway.

Come to think of it, that is why demons and imps have wings. They are supposed to be fallen angels. It kind of makes sense now. But I am just winging it. Ha, ha...

Now I am really going to hell.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, the Elvis tree is still in the building

I honestly couldn't tell you any more when the Elvis tree began. I can tell you that I bought the white, artificial tree from K-Mart (which seems pretty appropriate). And many of the ornaments came from uncontrolled buying binges on eBay. But I can't pinpoint when the tree took root.

I suppose it began as a rebellion against mainstream conventions associated with decorating for Christmas. And it was fed by the convenient aspect of combining my unexplained obsession with collecting Elvis crap with decorating a tree.

Now that I have a family, I have bowed to conventional decorations on one level of our house, but I have held onto the tradition of constructing and decorating the Elvis tree. My toddler children so far find it fascinating and spend a great deal of time pushing the buttons on the musical Elvis ornaments for abbreviated versions of Blue Christmas, Here comes Santa Claus and I'll be home for Christmas. I have forgone my tradition of placing a model of Graceland under the tree until my kids are old enough to resist the urge to touch it.

Some things are just sacred and Graceland is one of them.

But I do sense my four year old daughter beginning to wonder what the whole Elvis tree is all about. A few nights ago, she was playing in the room where it shone it all its blue splendor. An Elvis Christmas CD was playing on the DVD player. Suddenly my daughter got this very thoughtful, serious look on her beautiful little face. Then she turned to me and asked, "Papa, why do you have all of this Elvis stuff."

I got the same feeling I imagine the Grinch had when Cindy Lou Who confronted him and asked why he was shoving the Christmas tree up the chimney. I stammered something about just collecting Elvis stuff over the years. She nodded her head and replied, "I like Elvis music. He sings handsome." Then she resumed playing.

So I dodged that bullet, but I don't imagine there will be too many more Christmases left that I can put up the Elvis tree in peace without explaining to my kids why.

The problem is, I don't have an answer. I've always kind of looked at the tree as a lark. It's like this perpetual art project that represents everything good and bad about our culture. And regardless of any deep philosophical or psychological reason for it, I just think it's pretty.

But I suppose I'd better start working on a better answer.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Cave paintings

I wonder at times if blogging has become as archaic as cave paintings. Compared to the digital fast food social sites like Facebook and Twitter, blogging has just lost its newness and appeal to most people. For one, it takes too long of an attention span to read a blog post versus a Twitter or Facebook update about what you are having for lunch.

I was so enthusiastic when I started blogging. I felt so cutting edge and progressive. Blogging was my opportunity to share all of these fascinating stories I'd stored up for years. I was pretty damned prolific in the beginning, posting on an almost daily basis. I covered my cave walls with enough stick figures to entertain thousands. Trouble is, my cave seems to be a bit hard to find. And, I seem to be running out of paint and wall space. On more than one occasion, I've even painted the same pictographs over and over.

Kind of like this post. I think it is at least the hundredth time I've whined about blogging. Yet I still bundle up in my fur robes and trudge on back to the cave.

At times I ponder about what will happen to my cave paintings when I'm gone. It is hard to imagine a time when Google will close up shop and scatter all of its various digital properties to the winds. But even the dinosaurs eventually trudged off slowly into the sunset to become petroleum products. Have I built a digital house of cards by storing all of my cave paintings in one blog?

I've toyed with converting my blog posts into a primitive hard copy book. There are several self publishing options out there. But having one copy of a book of my rambling digressions seems a bit sad at times. They don't call the paper book covers dust jackets for nothing.

Once again I've become maudlin and cliche about leaving a legacy when I've gone.

Maybe that is my legacy.

Ug...need more paint.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I've got a turkey, wanna neck?

Actually the clever pick-up line is, "I've got a chicken, wanna neck?" And actually it isn't that clever and never worked for me anyway on the few times I'd holler it out the car window when my friends and I would pretend to cruise Main Street when I was a teenager growing up in Boise. Unfortunately, it also dates me since no one uses the term "neck" to describe making out anymore.

But I digress right from the beginning.

It is time for my annual post about my Thanksgiving journey to Boise. Though technically, I didn't post anything last year about our trip to Boise. Something about having two toddlers skews my sense of time, place and posting.

Anyone who religiously follows my blog knows by now that every year I make a pilgrimage back to my birthplace in Boise, Idaho for the ritual sacrifice of the turkey for Thanksgiving (I'm willing to bet the turkey doesn't see that much to be thankful for in the holiday). The primary reason I go to Boise now is to allow my children to spend as much time as possible with my mother. She is 85 years old and I want my kids to have some sense of her while she is still with us.

There aren't a great deal of options for getting to Boise. Either you drive and risk encounters with winter storms going over a couple of passes, turning a nine hour drive into a marathon affair (not something you want to chance with two toddlers in the car) or you fly and risk encounters with winter storms that turn an hour and twenty minute flight into a marathon affair or cancelled flights and lost luggage.

We opted for the latter. I should have known better when all of the planets were aligning against the trip. We were leaving Monday afternoon at 12:45 p.m. They began predicting snow a few days earlier. When we woke up Monday morning, my daughter had a fever. We looked outside and it was snowing fairly heavily. One of our three cats puked all over the stairs as we were leaving. It took 40 minutes just to get to the freeway from our house.

Still we made it to the parking garage and the airport in ample time to make it through security, have some lunch and make it to our gate. After mediating a debate with my son and daughter over whether to have pizza or hot dogs for lunch, I got the first e-mail alert on my Blackberry that our flight was delayed. Snow was coming down fairly heavily by now, so I assumed it was just the standard weather delay. We made our way to an airport play area to kill time until the new flight time. That's when the second (and third and fourth) flight delay notice came in.

Four hours later we were stumbling down an icy stairway carrying our children and two strollers,  making our way to a Horizon aircraft that is too small to use a civilized jet way. I was a bit relieved to actually be on board the plane and tried not to get annoyed when the pilot announced that they just had to deal with a few maintenance issues and get the plane de-iced before we could be cleared for take off. An hour later we were bumping along toward the runway. The pilot then announced that they had to go back to the gate to deal with some more maintenance issues.

After resolving the maintenance issues and getting de-iced and refueled, we noticed our luggage being taken off the airplane. After two hours we were told we had to get off the airplane because they were having issues now with their radios. We bundled up our kids and headed outside through the snow and back to the gate.

I want to go on record now that Horizon was not prepared for snow in Seattle. They seemed under staffed, under informed and unable to cope with anything going on at Sea-Tac on that fateful day. I got in a line at the gate counter and handed my boarding passes to a surly ticket agent who didn't say a word . She simply typed away on her computer and then handed me new boarding passes saying we were on standby for an 8 p.m. flight to Boise.

I watched the monitor above her head for the next hour or so and saw that we had been given seat assignments. I stood in line again and the surly gate agent told me that she wasn't ready to officially move our status from standby to confirmed and that I should wait around. I watched the 8 p.m. flight status change to 8:30 and then 9:15 p.m. Another ticket agent announced that the airplane we were waiting for was having maintenance issues. Then suddenly they changed the gate we were to leave from. A surge of passengers rushed off as we frantically packed our kids and scurried off to the new gate.

We finally boarded the plane at about 11 p.m. and sat there waiting for it to be de-iced. At close to 11:45 p.m. we finally took off in what appeared to be a total white out. We touched down in Boise around 1:30 a.m. their time. The car rental place was closed. It didn't really matter because although we'd made the flight to Boise, our luggage and car seats hadn't.

I waited in yet another line to file a missing luggage report. I was assured that the luggage would be on the first flight from Seattle the next morning. Then I gathered up my family and called the hotel for a shuttle. The shuttles had stopped running, so they sent a taxi instead. The taxi driver took pity on us and drove us around to several mini-marts trying to find diapers at 2:30 a.m. We couldn't find any so ended up at the hotel with one diaper and one pull up to last the night.

To make a long story short, our luggage didn't arrive on the first flight from Seattle the next morning. It came in at 2 p.m. I was able to get the hotel shuttle driver to take me to Albertsons to buy diapers in the morning and then to the airport to pick up a rental car. Almost two days of our Boise trip were spent waiting to fly or waiting for luggage.

I have written my semi-annual complaint to Horizon Air asking them to give me something, anything to make up for the nightmare. I'm assuming they will respond that they couldn't do anything about the weather and pony up 1000 frequent flyer miles in good faith.

I would prefer free flights to Mexico, because the next time I fly somewhere, it better be tropical and serve a decent Margarita.

Oh yeah, it snowed in Boise and the average temperature was below zero.

It was good though, that my kids got to see their grandmother.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

My life as an onion

If I were to wager a strong guess, I'd bet that the forbidden fruit Eve partook of in the Garden of Eden was more of a forbidden vegetable. And that vegetable was probably an onion.  Because what symbolizes life and reality better than an onion (including the tears when you chop it up).

In a very layman and uneducated sense, I subscribe to the multiple worlds theory of physics in which there are multiple realities or universes existing simultaneously at any given moment. We navigate through these multiple universes by the actions (or inactions) we take in life. And as we move through these universes, we create layer upon layer of experience that is much like the layers of an onion. To understand your life, you can't just peel away layers, you have to view them as a whole. Because the onion, and your life are nothing without all of the layers.

I also think that, rather than viewing experience as linear, we need to step back and view it as layers of simultaneous reality happening independent of a beginning and an end. We are more aware of the layer we are  on because it is closer to the surface of our onion. But if you were a worm burrowing straight down through the onion, you'd find all of your experiences at that moment.

This is why, I think, as we age we have these odd flashes of what we believe to be vivid memories of the past (for want of a better term). Sometimes I'll be walking along and have this odd feeling that I am sharing space with younger versions of myself living out their layers of the onion.

For some reason we seem to be able to look down through the layers with more clarity than we can look up through the layers. Maybe this is where Quantum Physics comes into play. If indeed there are an infinite number of universes existing at the same time, we don't become aware of them until we actualize them by our actions. In other words, you can see all of the universes you've touched, but you can't distinguish the ones you are going to touch until you actually touch them and add them to your onion.

As I age, this theory is somehow comforting to me. I just haven't figured out what eventually happens to the onion when you die.

I just hope it doesn't end up on  hot dog or a bowl of chili.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Making a withdrawal from my daylights savings

I'm not a big fan of Daylight Savings Time. For one, it means I have to figure out how to change the time on 40 clocks and appliances scattered about my house. And I have to figure out how to change the clock in my car with one hand while driving because I never seem to notice the clock until I'm on the road and trying to get somewhere.

I also don't like the government arbitrarily messing with my body clock. Because just because they theoretically give your hour back in the fall after ripping it away from you, your body never really catches up. This is especially true if you have small children in the house. Setting your clocks back in the fall has absolutely no meaning to them and they will now get up when their body clock says it is time to get up.

I think the clock read 5:30 a.m. this last Sunday when my two-year old son sat up and declared he wanted to watch Tickerbell and the Lost Treasure. He then proceeded to sing the theme song from Little Einsteins while slapping out the drum beat on my back. This was followed by repeatedly putting a pillow over my face and pulling off and crying, "boo." My four-year old daughter quickly joined in the fun. My extra hour slipped out of the room along with the cat, both being chased by toddlers.

Dante has a level of hell just for whoever came up with Daylight Savings Time.

Personally, I like walking to the train in the morning in the dark. It is peaceful. And this is Seattle. Even if the sun is out in the morning, its behind a cloud, so giving me an extra hour of daylight means absolutely nothing.

You can bet our ancestors didn't try messing with time. I'm sure they dragged out of their caves as soon as the sun came out and scrambled back in as soon as it when down. They didn't need the village elders to decide they could save firewood by going out an hour earlier in the spring or an hour later in the fall.  The carnivores waiting outside in the dark dictated strict adherence to nature's clock.

Oh, I am sure there is a federal agency somewhere with the sole responsibility for defending Daylight Savings Time with a vast arsenal of charts and graphs showing us how much energy and money we save each year. Honestly, I don't care whether they are right or wrong. I just want them to leave my body clock alone. Go regulated plastic bags and bottles and leave my freakin' clocks alone.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Fly monkey, fly!

I am pretty much convinced that those people who do all of the polling about how people are going to vote and predict who or what will win could save a lot of money by simply asking me how I'm going to vote on any given office or issue. I have consistently voted in just about every election since I started voting back in 1976. And just about everything I've ever voted for goes down in flames.

Oh there have been a few anomaly's. I did vote for Jimmy Carter. I also voted for Bill Clinton and Obama. And I am glad they won, but if they knew my track history, they would have likely asked me to vote for the Republican opponent to jinx their campaigns.

I think part of my problem with picking losing initiatives and candidates is that I read the damned voter's pamphlets and try and figure out what the best choice is. I should just pick candidates the way I pick horses at the race track (usually a scientific method based on what memory the horse's name triggers or what color silks the jockey is wearing). I'd probably have a better record backing a winning proposition.

I have to conclude that a majority of the population doesn't research the issues and does vote based on important factors like which side the candidates hair is parted on or what color their yard signs were. Because every election night I sit in my easy chair and shake my head as the results trickle in.

I must say I kind of miss the actual act of voting before everything was converted to mail in ballots. There was something satisfying about entering the voter's booth and punching out holes next to your candidate or issue of choice. And it was kind of cool to hear the geriatric volunteers call out your name as having voted as you slipped your ballot into an actual ballot box. It was much more romantic than sitting in my easy chair in my underwear with a ballpoint pen drawing a line next to my choices while Man Vs. Food plays in the background.

But I suppose the mail in ballot eliminates the whole dangling chad issue that saddled us  with George W. for eight years and created the whole economic mess we're in in the first place. On a side note (nice way to say digression), while I was in San Antonio last month, I saw lots of these "Miss me yet" t-shirts with George W's image on them. I'm sure the gift shop people thought I had Teurette's because I'd blurt out an expletive every time I saw one of the damned shirts.

End of side note.

I wish there was an alternative to the democratic system of voting that didn't involve someone like Idi Amin and a secret police force with unlimited resources. My problem with voting is that I don't believe that because a majority of people approve something that it is automatically the right thing to do. But then again, I am a creative deviant in a world that demands order in a disordered universe. I firmly believe that if someone got enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot declaring that black is white and the initiative got a majority of the votes, people would run around the streets screaming that it was about time the Republicans straightened that question out.

Fly monkey, fly!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

There's got to be a morning after

The beauty of this blog post title is that it will drive traffic from people Googling "bad song from the Poseidon Adventure" to my blog at which point they will say, "Hey, this doesn't have anything to do with the Poseidon Adventure." It may even turn their life upside down.

Just a little Poseidon Adventure humor, ha, ha.

By morning after, I am referring to the morning after the debacle that was election night in the United States. Although I am bummed by the backlash of the unwashed masses returning the Republican weasels to the hen house to finish off the last of the chickens, I am more concerned that a local initiative to allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores seems to be failing.

Democracy sucks. Give me a benevolent dictator any day. Because I hate to think important decisions are being made by people who base their voting decisions on the number of times they have seen a candidate's name on those annoying little yard signs that infest the roadside like dandelions on your neighbors lawn. I hate those signs. I am tempted to sponsor an initiative to get them banned. But the irony is that I'd have to print up a bunch of little yard signs urging people to pass the initiative banning them.

But I digress.

I suppose it really doesn't matter which party is in the majority. I've grown to accept that our political system basically negates anyone effectively accomplishing anything. I think Democrats are equally ineffective as Republicans, I just support them because they are nicer people, mean well and for the most part intelligent. Republicans are narrow minded, self-centered banjo players who idolize evil people like Sarah Palin. And I mean this in a nice way.

Deep down, I believe the act of seeking any political office makes a person, Democrat or Republican, suspect and unworthy to lead. We should select our leaders by kidnapping the best and the brightest and locking them in the Senate and House chambers and trade them food for decent laws and programs.

It could work.

Regardless, at least the mind numbing political commercials are done. It will be nice just to watch ads for the new Leopard Snuggie for awhile. I'd like to just pull one over my head until the Republicans fix the economy like they promised or monkeys fly out of my butt.

I've always liked monkeys.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It is what it is

Someone said to me the other day that they thought the phrase "It is what it is" was overused and cliche. This was right after I used the phrase. Ironically, it was only the second time I'd remembered using the phrase. And in the phrase's defense, it may be overused and/or cliche, but it is also dead on accurate in many cases.

Even Freud chastised people that a cigar is sometimes just a cigar. As a species, we are too quick to look for hidden messages or meanings in everything. We wonder what god's plan was or whether something was a government conspiracy or a big business ploy. But you know, nine times out of ten, it is what it is and there is no DaVinci code to crack. Maybe the Mona Lisa was smiling because she had gas (or Leonardo passed some).

I suppose this is disappointing to some people. If you climb to the mountain top and ask the guru in the cave what the meaning of life is and he or she says, "It is what it is," you are likely going to be a little pissed off. Because it is human nature to thrive on mystery and intrigue. We want there to be some master plan. And if the guiding principle to life is that shit just happens, there are lots of people who aren't going to want to get out of bed in the morning.

I don't think I believe shit just happens, though. On more than one occasion, I have made it clear that I firmly believe we make our own reality. So I believe shit happens because we make it happen. We set the stage for it to happen by the actions we take before it happens. But when it does happen, it is what it is. Because at that point you can't make it unhappen.

Oh, you can learn from it happening. But staring at it, dissecting it and stirring it around, doesn't change it. Asking lots of questions about why it happened doesn't change it happening, either. It is futile. I ask my children all the time why they do things like stick toast in the DVD player. They inevitably respond with something like, "Because." Why? Because there actions are what they are and they are who they are. Something motivated them to stick a piece of toast in the DVD player. Maybe it was just curiosity or they just like to see the DVD drawer open and close. Figuring out what the motivation was doesn't change that it happened. And more often than not, it won't keep it from happening again. I can tell them not to put toast in the DVD player and next time they won't. They'll stick a Pop Tart in there instead. And I'll ask them why and they'll respond, "Because." They cycle will never stop until I simply stop asking them why.

Time to digress. I have always been bothered by people who major in Literature of any kind or era. As a writer, I don't appreciate people who dissect writing. And by dissect, I mean they literally spread a piece on cardboard and pin it's legs and arms back for a vivisection, looking for god knows what. Maybe Melville was really just writing about a friggin' white whale, did you ever think about that? And what have you really accomplished by putting writing under a microscope? Writers are only projecting bits and pieces of themselves in their writing. It shouldn't be held up as some holy grail that masks the secrets to the universe.

End of digression. Just be thankful I didn't get started on film history majors.

I'll leave you with a quote from a great proponent of the philosophy of it is what it is, Popeye. He said it best when he said, "I yam what I yam and it's all that I yam."

Monday, October 25, 2010


I was in San Antonio a few weeks ago on business and managed to swing past one of America's top icons. Well, at least it is the most famous attraction in Texas -- the Alamo. It is hard to forget the Alamo since most people in my generation grew up with the phrase, "Remember the Alamo" etched into our small brains. And, after all, it is where at the very least two popular American icons from our early history died: Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

Davy Crockett's fame may have died at the Alamo if he hadn't been one of the early experts at self-promotion. He created his famous frontier persona to win a place representing Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. His exploits were turned into plays and dime novels. Something tells me living up to his own legend landed him in Texas facing a vastly superior force of the Mexican army defending their country's property rights.

Davy Crockett ended up executed along with Jim Bowie who lent his name to the Bowie knife, a large hunting knife almost as big as a machete. Bowie wasn't from Texas, either. He was born in Kentucky and spent most of his life in Louisiana. He became for a fight on a sandbar in Louisiana in which he killed his opponent with his Bowie knife after being shot, clubbed and stabbed repeatedly. Bowie moved to Texas after the fight and eventually became a Mexican citizen before the revolution landed him in the Alamo trying to figure out how to fight thousands of soldiers armed with rifles with a big knife.

Obviously, I didn't spend a great deal of time at the Alamo reading up on the history. I was too busy trying to decide whether to buy a shot glass with a image of the Alamo on it or a Christmas ornament with the image of the Alamo on it. I didn't buy either, but I did buy my kids a couple of polyester coonskin caps which they refuse to have anything to do with. My daughter insists her hat was a cat and keeps it in a bag with her other stuffed toys. My son simply won't touch it.

I was a bit disappointed since I had one of the caps when I was a toddler and wore it proudly while prancing around in my diaper. I suppose wanting to be king of the wild frontier skips a generation.

But I digress.

More fascinating to me than the actual Alamo (which is pretty damned small in real life) were the Texas volunteers who staff the park. To Texas' credit, they don't charge you to visit the Alamo. Thus they rely on volunteers to keep people in line and stage odd reenactment tableau's on the grounds.

I took photos of the people dressed up in vintage uniforms from a distance because I have phobia of such people similar to my phobia of people who hand out free samples at the grocery store (a long story). I was afraid if I approached them they would engage my in scintillating conversation about trench latrines and hard tack.

I did find the reenactment people a bit more friendly than the people working in the actual Alamo itself. I stepped into the hallowed ground of the main structure and was immediately accosted by a volunteer who berated me for wearing a hat inside this holiest of Texas holies. He spied my camera and also warned me that photography wasn't allowed. Presumably flash photography is as offensive to the spirits of the brave but not terribly realistic defenders of the Alamo as baseball caps are. I fought the urge to suggest that I am sure Davy Crockett never took off his coon skin cap in the Alamo and just took off my hat. I hid my camera in it while the volunteer followed me around the crowded former church turned fortress waiting for me to try and put it back on again.

I have to admit that it was kind of neat seeing the Alamo. After all, it did spawn several movies including one of the only ones John Wayne died in (he was playing Davy Crockett and they couldn't figure out a way to get around him dying in the end when they wrote the script) and one where Billy Bob Thornton played Davy Crockett (hopefully sans a vial of Angelina Jolie's blood around his neck).

And all and all, San Antonio was a pretty cool city. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Man V. Food

I hate to admit it, but I spend an inordinate amount of my very little free time watching the the Travel Channel and in particular the Man V. Food series which one would think would more appropriately be shown on the Food Network. I suppose, Adam Richman, the star of Man V. Food does travel around the country in his search for disgustingly large portions of food to consume, so there is a travel angle. And if you are a traveler who likes to go to new cities and discover where you can get the world's largest hamburger, omelet or pancakes, the show is a must see.

I am not sure why I am obsessed with watching Adam (I was going to call him Mr. Richman, but after watching him consume a five pound jumbo Stomboli (sort of an inverted Calzone) in Butte, Montana, I feel as though we should be on a first name basis) eat amounts of food that would choke a horse. Maybe since I have lost 50 pounds, I am living vicariously through his self-indulgence. This is not to say that I have eaten a pizza the size of New Hampshire or a steak dinner that pretty much encompasses the whole cow. But I kind of enjoy watching Adam act as though he is not going to be able to choke down 500 oysters and then pulling it out in the last minute.

I truly worry about how long Adam can keep his prodigious eating talents on the air. I do notice that most of the programs I see are reruns. And I ashamed to say that I don't change the channel even though it is the same program I've seen ten times before about a hamburger joint in Boise (the city of my birth) that serves hamburgers the size of frisbees.

I suppose it is the same compulsion that draws people to sideshows in carnivals to stare at two-headed calve fetuses in a jar. I watch with horror as Adam, a seemingly normal sized man, eats a 72-ounce steak and all of the trimmings with no thought to the consequences to what all of this will have on his body. And other than what I assume is a healthy salary he gets from the Travel Channel, the only other reward Adam seems to get from eating a 12-egg omelet is a t-shirt and his picture on the wall of the restaurant.

As morbidly fascinated as I am by watching Adam eat, I am equally as fascinated in a more disgusting way at the people in the restaurants who watch him live while he confronts hostile food products. On last nights program about the Jumbo Stromboli, one belligerent red neck berated Adam to "put on his man pants" and finished the "bleeping" Stromboli. Being a man in Butte apparently means you can consume things larger than your head. And judging from the red neck's belly he consume lots of things larger than his head and definitely many things larger than his brain.

Adam is, however, only 36 years old. If he keeps this up his over indulgence until he is 40, we'll be seeing him on the Biggest Loser, a show I've also watched. It isn't nearly as entertaining watching people lose weight as it is watching them pack it on.

I suppose the beauty of watching Man V. Food is that it does let me consume mass quantities of food without gaining a pound. So for that, god bless you Adam Richman!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The blogger always posts twice

It was a gray commute in this morning. Fog had set in on the Puget Sound and washed away any color it may normally have. I just stared out the train window, marveling at the number of cranes there were. I counted 14 until the shoreline slipped away and was replaced by the train yards.

The cranes seem like such patient birds. They stand there stoically waiting for fish, unmoving and without any emotion. I can't imagine a crane laughing. I wonder, though, what they think about as they stand in the water waiting for breakfast to swim by. Or do they think at all.

These are the deep thoughts I think as I ride the train in the fog. I kind of regretted deleting the Twitter app from my Blackberry, because the moody fog was just ripe for a 190 character witty tweet. Though I wasn't really feeling witty. I haven't felt witty for some time now. Perhaps I never was and am just realizing that now.

I did think about blogging while I was counting cranes. I thought about all of the farewell blog posts I read over the years and how odd that seems. How do you quit doing something that isn't really anything to begin with? And who are you saying farewell to? I've come to the conclusion that blogging is about the most solitary form of writing there is. Most blogs are hidden by the masses of other blogs out there that the odds are astronomical that they are ever read. It's kind of like being marooned on an island carving your journal on the rock walls of a cave pretty much certain no one but hermit crabs will ever look at your words.

Anyway back to farewell blog posts. Seems like a pretty pompous thing to do. It's kind of like quiting a job thinking you are irreplaceable only to discover that your replacement is already putting pictures up on your office wall. Life is like waves on the beach, constantly erasing tracks to make way for new ones.

I envy the cranes, though.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

This too shall pass...eventually

I have never thought too much about kidney stones. Like everything else in life, until you experience it, you don't really give it much thought. Now I have experienced a kidney stone first hand and I am here to testify I'd have rather been left in ignorant bliss grateful that other people had them and I didn't.

I do not go to doctor's easily. I associate going to doctors with that same feeling you get when you open a package of cottage cheese that is a few weeks past its pull date. You do it because you have to out of morbid curiosity, but you are pretty sure that once you open the lid, you aren't going to be able to get rid of the stink.

I went to the doctor because twice I'd gone to work feeling fine and then ended up on the floor in the men's room blowing the porcelain tuba, much to the discomfort of my co-workers on the other side of the men's room wall. And the last straw was when some idigit planted himself in the bathroom stall with what I assumed was a copy of War and Peace and didn't come out for what seemed like an hour. So I ended up puking in my wastebasket in my office.

I figured something was wrong because it felt as if someone was sticking a knife in my groin and the waves of nausea kept coming long after my breakfast had. Fortunately for me, the doctor on call at the offices I go to wasn't one of those who simply told you you had a virus and to call if you were on your death bed. She looked at my urine sample and suggested that traces of blood in it indicated I could have a kidney stone.

My immediate reaction was relief. At least it wasn't my appendix, stomach cancer or some unknown disease brought on by my nasty disposition. I was a little concerned when I asked how you treat kidney stones and she said you simply drank water and waited for them to pass. This did not sound like a fun leisure activity to me. But to confirm I had kidney stones, the doctor scheduled an ultra sound at the hospital for the next day.

After another night of vomiting everything I even looked at, the ultrasound was a relief. I even forgave the admissions clerk who typed out loud and muttered constantly about EPD numbers, whatever those were. She also kept giving me accusing looks because some paperwork wasn't printed out ahead of time and I seemed to be a subversive type trying to infiltrate the hospital for an unauthorized ultra sound. But finally, after about ten minutes of typing and muttering, she printed out some forms, handed them to me without making eye contact and pointed me towards the radiology waiting room where a cheerful man took my paperwork and told me he'd let someone know I was there (presumably someone who knew how to work an ultra sound machine).

I sat in the waiting room watching a hostage crisis on CNN and reading a sign on the wall urging me to notify the person at the desk if I waited 15 minutes beyond my scheduled appointment. After 25 minutes, the ultra sound person came to get me and took me to a small dark room. Without a word she squirted some liquid on my stomach and began the ultra sound. She finished in about 20 minutes and told me she'd send the results to my doctor.

After another night of vomiting (I can never eat another Hawaiian steak slider as long as I live...not sure what I was thinking), the doctor called and said there was a blockage in my kidney and I needed a cat scan. So once again I was sitting in front of the same muttering admissions clerk devoid of EPD numbers and appropriate paperwork trying to infiltrate radiology for a cat scan. Another ten minutes of typing, muttering and nasty looks and I was once again in the radiology waiting room staring at the sign telling me to notify the front desk if I waited longer than 15 minutes. Ten minutes later I was escorted into a room for a quick x-ray and then scooted off to a room for my cat scan.

As I lie on the table listening to a computer generated voice telling me to hold my breath, the pain in my kidney started up again. The scan was quick, thank god and I was told to wait in the waiting room again while they faxed the results to my doctor. Within 15 minutes she called and told me an on call urologist had looked at the scans and said I had a kidney stone the size of Connecticut that wouldn't pass without medical assistance. She told me I needed to get into the urologist's office right away.

Within 15 minutes I was at his office trying desperately not to vomit on the counter. I was rushed into an examining room, handed a small kidney shaped dish (ironically) to puke in if necessary and told I could lie down on the examining table if it felt better. At this point, I believed the only thing that would make me feel better would be to have my kidney removed. Then in rushed a cheerful urologist who asked me if I liked to fish. I shook my head. Then he said, "If you were a fisherman, this stone would be a keeper. It's a whopper!"

Okay, when you are lying on a table writhing in pain trying desperately not to puke your stomach out, laughter is not the best medicine. Then the doctor proceeds to show me colored drawings of distorted kidneys and bladders and tells me this is what mine probably looked like. Then he said that I was being checked into the hospital for an operation in two hours to push the stone back in my kidney because it was stuck in the tube leading to my bladder and wasn't going any where. Then they were going to put a stint in my wing wang (my terminology) to allow me to pee freely until they brought me back to his office in four days to use an ultra sound machine to break up the stone so the pieces could pass.

Fifteen minutes later I was back in front of the muttering admissions clerk who was livid that I'd been there earlier for a cat scan and was now trying to barge into an out patient operating room. She was on the phone jabbering about the EPD numbers and how she couldn't admit me without them. I clutched my kidney shaped puke dish in my hand and let my head down on the desk while she babbled. She looked up and asked if I needed a bigger dish. I desperately wanted to puke on her, but shook my head.

After what seemed like hours, she put me in a wheel chair and wheeled me up to a room. Within minutes I was wearing one of those comfortable hospital gowns without a back and having IV's stuck in my hand. Mercifully, the IV's provided pain killers and anti-nausea meds. I almost fell asleep as they wheeled me into an operating room. Next thing I knew I was awake and being given a big orange pill that would "help me pee."

They wheeled me back to my room, handed me a menu and told me I could order anything I wanted off from the room service menu. Despite just coming out of surgery, I was really hungry. It had been awhile since I had been able to keep anything down, so I ordered soup, a sandwich and some ice cream. I'd barely finished it when they told me to get dressed because it was time to check out.

I felt fine when I got home. The only noticeable side effect from surgery was that I felt like I had to pee every ten minutes and the medicine made my pee looked like blood orange juice. The next day, I had an appointment at the urologist for my pre-op to get the stone blasted. I got there and was escorted into a surgical room where I was told to sit in an leather recliner while a nurse went over what would happen on my surgery day.

The surgery day arrived and I checked in, donned my comfortable backless gown and waited to be knocked out for the final chapter in the stone saga. Once again I woke up in a recovery area. There was no noticeable pain. They handed me a strainer and a cup and told me that I needed to watch for bits of the kidney stone. They told me they wouldn't be any bigger than a grain of sand. The first ones weren't. But as the night progressed, I became impressed by the magnitude of the stone. My collection jar rivaled my marble collection as a kid. And I marveled as the pieces kept coming.

So now I think everything has passed. On Monday I get to look forward to having the stint removed. I shudder to think of them doing that while I am fully awake. And I'm curious as to what they will tell me after analyzing the stones. If it is of a certain type, there is a pill they can give me that is supposed to keep anymore from forming. And god knows I don't want anymore.

I realize this post has included entirely too much information about my kidney stone, but hey, who else am I going to tell.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Don't write the blog if you can't do the time and I am older than Hawaii (the state)

I skimmed through an article in today's paper about an upturn in people getting sued over things they wrote online in blogs or in comments on blogs. Not that I am a fan of frivolous lawsuits, but professional writers are held accountable for what they write, so its about time the amateurs stopped assuming free speech means they have license to spout hate and lies without consequences.

I know I've been guilty of criticizing things in my blog, but I have always tried to draw the line at not making personal attacks on any individual or group. And I always emphasize that any of my criticism is my opinion based on my experience.

It surprises me that it has taken this long for the legal system to venture into the online libel world. I know that I did a great deal of research into what could be done to get damaging blogs removed from the Web a year or so back. And the harsh truth was that you could do very little. Blogger doesn't censor or get involved with disputes over content. You can complain to someone's Internet provider, but that is basically useless, too, unless you can prove someone is committing a crime. And up until now, there seemed to be very little libel law that could be applied to the Web.

Not being a lawyer, I am assuming there still aren't laws that prevent damaging crap to be posted on the Web. From the article I read, most of the law suits seem to be filed in civil courts. And the average person can't afford to file a suit against someone because of a blog. So even though lawsuits are being brought against a few abusers, I bet there are millions of other bloggers out there getting away with verbal murder.

I doubt whether new laws would be effective policing the Web, but I do think the entities hosting blogs should have higher standards and rules of conduct for people who use their services. Blogger shouldn't just ignore abuse, it should investigate complaints and bar the abusers.

On a totally unrelated and random note, Hawaii  the 50th state on August 21, 1959 and just celebrated its 51st year of being a state. That makes me older than bubble wrap, which turned 50 last year, and the state of Hawaii.

Now that is a crime.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whatever works

I want to come out and say right from the top that I am not a big fan of Woody Allen. I find most of his movies to be autobiographical variations on the same neurotic theme based on Woody Allen's favorite subject: Woody Allen. And though they are always well-crafted and scripted, they generally annoy me in the same way I am annoyed by sitting in the same room with anyone from New York. I can't stand their accents and I'm sick of hearing how great New York is compared to the yokels in the rest of the country.

So with that declaration out of the way, I was skeptical when I was flicking through the On Demand movie selections and ran across a movie I'd never heard of called Whatever Works. The only reason I considered it was that it starred Larry David, the genius behind Seinfeld. And although I find him annoying for many of the same reason I am annoyed by Woody Allen, I also think he is funny. But even though I saw that Woody Allen had written and directed the film, I decided to give it a try.

The film centers around lifelong New York resident (where else does anyone in a Woody Allen script live) Boris Yellnikoff , a former Physicist turned chess teacher. Yellinikoff, like every Woody Allen character, suffers from frequent anxiety attacks, insomnia and hypochondria. Yellnikoff fancies himself a genius and pretty much thinks everyone else in the world is an idiot (again something he has in common with Woody Allen). Yellnikoff also thinks life is basically pointless (he limps from jumping out of a window in a failed suicide attempt), as is religion, relationships and people in general and he rants about this to anyone and everyone, including the audience watching the film (an annoying little plot gimmick that could have been left out of the script).

Yellinikoff meets a naive Mississippi runaway named Melodie St. Ann Celestine who is a couple of decades younger than him (similar to all of the women Woody Allen has been involved with)  and allows her to stay at his apartment. He rages at her and begins to her impressionable young mind to match his world view. His creed when it comes to love, is "whatever works" versus true love conquers all. Ironically, while molding the young girl's mind, Yellinikoff softens his own rigid view. Melodie falls in love with Yellinikoff and he marries her.

I started out not liking the movie. The dialogue began as classic Woody Allen intellectual, neurotic babble. But then when the Melodie character was introduced, something changed. I got drawn into the storyline and really ended up loving the movie. Maybe it was Larry David's personality overcoming Woody Allen's ego. But the film was smart, funny and entertaining. The plot twists were absurd, yet clever. Maybe I'll even give another Woody Allen film a try.

What can I say, Whatever Works works.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The six-year itch

August 4th was my sixth year anniversary of blogging. My very first blog post title was, "No, I'm not a rabid Elvis fan" in which I tried to deny any obsession with Elvis despite the fact my blog was called Dizgraceland and I called myself Tim-Elvis. Me thinks the blogger doth protest too much.

After six years, my blog is still called Dizgraceland, but my Web name is no longer Tim-Elvis. For awhile, I called myself Tim-Id. Finally, I just changed it to Time.

I used to pride myself for my blog longevity. Near as I can tell, most people stop blogging after a couple of weeks. A few die hards stick with it for a few months. Some even make it past a year. I don't know of anyone who has blogged for six years. I think I am truly a Methuselah in the blog world now.

My blog has never really had much of a following. I used to think it was just a matter of time before I got discovered and would be an Internet celebrity. After six years, I can safely say that isn't going to happen. I am sure there are many reasons why very few people read my blog. For one, I read very few other people's blogs. Oh, I used read some regularly. But most suffered the malady that infects almost all bloggers. Blogging regularly is a major time and energy suck. It can also be an emotional roller coaster. So most of the bloggers I read have long since stopped blogging. Their blogs remain like an abandoned gas station that went belly up when they moved the Interstate.  

Back to why people don't read my blog. Since I started blogging to basically indulge my frustrated muse, I don't really write the type of stuff that most people give a rip about. It is probably why I could never get any of my fiction published. And there is this niggling little realization I've come to as I've aged along with my blog. I'm really not as good as a writer as I think I am. Or thought I was. The beauty of a blog, though is that it doesn't matter. No one pays me to write this so it doesn't have to be good.

I kind of blame social media for chipping away at the fabric of the blog world, too. With Twitter and Facebook sucking people's attention spans away, very few people have the patience to read or write a blog anymore. It's a pity. When I used to have people who would read my blog and comment, it was kind of like a social book club where people would share their views on the topic. A blog used to be like a cracker barrel you could sit around telling jokes while you whittled on a stick.

Not that I have ever sat around a cracker barrel. I'm old, but not that old.

The other hard thing about blogging for any length of time, especially as you age, is writing something new. I can't tell you how many times I've started writing a blog post thinking I've come up with a gem of a new topic only to discover that the reason it was flowing so easily and familiar like was because I'd written about it a couple of years ago. Sometimes I've found I've written the same blog post two or three times. Perhaps this is more a flaw in my aging mind than a pitfall of blogging.

If I have had any regrets after six years of blogging, its just that I can't be as open and honest in a personal blog like I naively thought I could be when I started blogging. There are now whole industries out there that mine the Internet for bits and pieces of personal information. And what you used to think was harmless to share with the world can be used in amazingly devious ways. It is a stalker's paradise.

Anyway, despite the boredom, burnout, fear of stalkers and lack of inspiration, I keep blogging. Perhaps I'll get a t-shirt that says, "Keep on bloggin' " kind of like those "Keep on Truckin' " shirts from the 70s. 

Or have I already done that? I'd better search my blog archives.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Ugly Americans


North Vikings don't be blue,
Frankenstein was ugly, too!
All right, clap, clap-clap.
All right, clap, clap-clap.
--East Junior High Cheer circa 1972
One of the vast dis-services Hollywood and the television industry has done is fooled us into thinking that there is a world out there populated by attractive, articulate and well-dressed people who rarely age or have weight issues. It is perhaps why I rarely venture out on my lunch hour. Because barely fives minutes after I take light rail uptown I catch myself wanting to scream "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape" like Charleton Heston in Planet of the Apes. Because a trip into downtown Seattle is like a trip to a totally different world populated by people who make apes look pretty damned attractive.

It is my own fault. I wanted to buy a backpack since I have been walking a mile to and from the train station these days. And my shoulder messenger bag is getting old and just doesn't cut it on longer hikes than a block. And since I am basically cheap when it comes to buying things like backpacks, I couldn't stomach forking over $80 in a luggage store for essentially a bag for my lunch. So I wandered into the downtown Ross.

If you aren't familiar with a Ross, Dress for Less store, I congratulate you. A Ross is a discount store. It is just like a Marshalls or a T.J. Maxx. They all carry "named" brand merchandise that wouldn't sell at major retailers because it had a defect or was just plain ugly. I rarely buy clothes at such stores, but I do occasionally buy things like backpacks there. Because they are pretty dirt cheap.

The problem with a Ross and particularly a Ross located in the seedy belly of downtown Seattle is that it attracts the same people who you normally see on the corner of Third and Pine in downtown Seattle screaming about government conspiracies and grabbing their crotches. Ross is one of those downtown stores you basically want to get in and get out of as quickly as possible before you are wedged into a rack of holiday sweaters by four large women with baby carriages loaded with a minimum of three scream kids each.

When I entered the Ross, I half way hoped I wouldn't find what I was looking for. Because if I did, it meant I would have to stand in line at the check stand with 40 other people. I weeded through about 100 back packs tangled together on wall racks, rejecting anything plaid or garish. That left about two back packs for me decide between. I opted for a Swiss Army backpack made ironically in China for the same people who make the Swiss Army knives (which has always baffled me because Switzerland is supposedly neutral on everything so why do they need an army or knives).

I hustled over to the checkout line that wound around in a configuration that would have made Disney proud. There were about ten checker positions, but only about four checkers. Of them, only one seemed to be focused enough to process more than one customer every ten minutes. One checker dealt with the same customer the entire time I was in line and was still dealing with her when I left. They seemed be engaged in a tug of war over a plastic hanger that a shirt had been hanging on that the customer was buying. Apparently Ross' policy is to keep all the plastic hangers but the woman buying the shirt believed it should go with the shirt.

The checker who finally helped me was nice enough though I could tell her heart was not fully into checking the eight or nine pockets in the backpack I was buying to make sure I wasn't trying to secret any plastic hangers out of Ross. After I paid for the thing she slipped it into a large Ross plastic bag so that I could walk back to work proudly displaying that fact to everyone in downtown that I was a discerning shopper and spent my lunch hour at Ross.

I suppose my rambling point here was that there wasn't a single person in Ross or within a three block radius of the store when I left who didn't look as though they'd been mugged with an ugly stick. I suppose I am being harsh in judging the people pawing through the crap at Ross. But even if ugly is only skin deep like its cousin beauty, I'm willing to bet it has pretty thick skin.

As long as I'm messing with cliches, I will have to admit that ugly, like beauty, is also in the eye of the beholder. And I imagine the people I think are ugly don't think I'm any George Clooney, either. But even allowing for my standard of what constitutes as ugly, Ross had more than its fair share of people who could have been employed full time at a carnival sideshow.

So what is it about places like Ross that become lightening rods for the good-looks impaired? Is it economics? Do people with money have more options for masking their ugliness? Because you don't walk into a Nordstrom and see near as many ugly people and if you do, at least they are dressed in natural fiber clothing that fits.

I'm being unfair with Ross. They aren't the only store that has a higher per capita number of ugly people. There are other places that attract even uglier people. State fairs and Denny's also seem to be places where ugly people flock. I find it particularly ironic that the ugly people at state fairs seem to love to go through the livestock barns and make fun of the pigs.

 It would be an interesting study to survey people going to Ross, Denny's and the Puyallup Fair to determine why they are hotbeds of ugliness. I imagine the results of the study could be titled, "It's not pretty being ugly."

I've been trying to finish this blog post for days and it's getting pretty ugly. So I'll stop digging the hole I'm in and stop. I hear there is a sale on at Ross and I want to get there before it gets too picked over.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monkeying around with my muse

I believe the Monkey Playing Cymbals merits some more explanation. So if you click on the link on the left (the highlighted "Monkey Playing Cymbals" text) you will find the first blog post dedicated to the little bugger. He eventually took on a life of his own and had his own blog for awhile. But he gave that up because he has a very short attention span (he is a monkey after all) and in all honesty, he is only a mechanical toy that doesn't really work.

There, I said it. The monkey isn't real. Oh, he is a real object, but he doesn't really talk or move outside of my imagination. This may come as a great shock to anyone who already followed the monkey on my blog. But at least I now have the monkey off my back.

I really shouldn't blame the monkey anyway for not having interesting things to blog about. I could blog about many things going on in my life, but unfortunately, since this is a public blog, I have learned the hard way not to share too much personal information on the Web.

I used to think it was okay to just blurt out anything about my life and history. But a brush with a stalker and a heightened awareness of identity theft and fraud have made me err on the side of caution as to what I talk about.

I will say that I have been trying to sell a 1978 Bally Playboy Pinball machine online. I'd bought it about 12 years ago in my bachelor days. It took up the better part of my family room in my old house. For the past five or so years, it has taken up a corner of my garage covered with blankets. It is a great vintage machine that actually still works. It is just like a machine I used to play at the Student Union Building when I was in college and the Playmates depicted on the machine were Hugh Hefner's favorites. Since he never seems to date anyone under 23, I imagine they have long since retired.

Anyway, I have trying to sell the machine at a site called Mr. Pinball. Right after the ad went live, I received this e-mail:

Do you still have the above item for sale for sale?i would want to know the present condition as well and arrange for the shipping myself,i';ll like to know if you would accept a cashier cheque.....kindly email me back as soon with your final asking price.i reside in U.K and your quick response will be highly appreciated.
Thank you.
In the good old days, I would have been elated and trusting about receiving such an inquiry. But I was immediately skeptical, especially since Mr. Pinball warned buyers and sellers about scam artists trying to bilk people with a scam whereas they send a counterfeit cashiers check for more than the amount of your item (to cover shipping and your inconvenience). The check apparently clears and you wire the shipping money to an address designated by the scammer. Then the bank discovers the check is bogus and you are libel for the money you've wired.

So even though I figured the e-mail was a scam, I replied to "Mr. Perry Bridge" who for some reason lived in the UK but had no command of the English language or any apparent knowledge of pinball machines. I sent a few photos of the machine and said I'd accept a check but wouldn't ship until it cleared the bank (this was before I'd done research on the cashiers check scam). 

Mr. Bridge fired back this e-mail:

Thanks for the quick response.i will be buying the machine you have
for sale,so kindly reserve it for me.However, the payment will be
deliver to you this week or next week...So please as soon as you
receive the payment, get it cashed immediately, deduct the money for
the item and send the remaining balance to the shipping agent that
handles the shipment via Western union money transfer. Moreso, I'll be
giving you an extra $40 for keeping this item for me till the
shipper's come for the pick up and to know you're selling this to me.
So in view of the above, Here are some of the details I will need for
final issuance of the Check or MoneyOrder to you.
(1) Full Name
(2) Mailing address, not please
(3) your direct telephone number both home and cell.
Once you get back to me with all the above informations, the payment
will be issued out immediately and it will be sent to you.
hope to hear from you.
Best regards.

All of my red flags were flying full mast at this point. I did a quick Google search and discovered Mr. Perry Bridge who uses the e-mail addresses "" and "" was quite the active buyer. He had used the exact same e-mail trying to purchase several other pinball machines, a horse trailer, a horse, and various other big ticket items online that would require a hefty shipping cost wired back to the shipper (who we can bet was Mr. Perry Bridge). 

Okay, all of this depressed me. There was a time when a cashiers check was pretty much as good as cash. Now if you sell something online, you are pretty much stuck using Paypal or only selling for local pick up and demanding cash. 

I thought about goofing with Mr. Bridge like I used to do with the Nigerian spammers in the old days. But, although it would waste the spammers time, I didn't have the energy. 

I realize that this was a major digression from writing about the monkey, but I think in a roundabout nonsensical way, it was relevant. The moral is that, not all monkeys are as they seem to be and there is a lot of monkey business on the Web.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The sun also rises in Seattle

After a long, rainy winter and a long, rainy spring followed by a rainy June, we finally have some warm, sunny weather in Seattle. And even after all of the bitching about the rain, people are already complaining about how hot it is.

It is simply the nature of people who live in this place of endless gray drenched greenery. I personally like a more moderate climate. Give me temperatures of about 70 to 75 degrees max and I'm fine. I don't really mind rain as long as it is in moderation. I just get sick of day after day of drizzle and drabness. So even the relatively high heat is a welcome change.

Growing up in Idaho, I got used to summers that often erred on the unbearably hot side. To me summer was the dead time. No matter how much you watered things in the summer there, they were brown and brittle. I spent most of my summers hunkered down in my room with the shades drawn waiting for the sun to go down. So I can kind of relate to how vampires must feel, if, they existed.

I can't believe I've resorted to blogging about the weather. My creative muse seems to wax a wane a great deal lately. My Monkey Playing Cymbals is ignoring me right now. He has been smug since he had an extended cameo appearance in Toy Story 3. I hate to break it to him, but the movie just furthered the stereotype that Monkeys Playing Cymbals are annoying little shrieking villains who narc on their friends. I suppose it isn't really a stereotype in his case.

I do miss the monkey being more active in inspiring my writing, however.

But I digress and I am sure most people don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about. But either you know the monkey or you don't.

It sure is hot out.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Always after me lucky charms...

When I was a kid, I was big on lucky charms. No, not the cereal. I mean objects that brought you luck. They came in all shapes and sizes. They could be simple as a shiny penny or a pretty rock. Or a feather or a four leaf clover.

Rabbits feet were hot items as lucky charms for awhile. I'm not sure why they were considered lucky. They certainly weren't lucky for the rabbit. You used to be able to buy them at grocery stores or Dime Stores. I assume they fell out of favor as lucky charms when the animal rights advocates pointed out that a rabbits foot was put to better use on the rabbit than on a key chain.

I was thinking about lucky charms recently not because I believe in them, but more at why people project attributes such as luck or magic on an inanimate object. It dawned on me that nothing has power until we empower it to have that power. If you really believe something brings luck, you kind of stack the deck psychologically that it really has that power.

I think the same applies to religion or politics. You have to give an entity or institution power before it has any over you. Ditto with relationships. You have to give up power to another person before they have any over you. Conversely they have to give up power to you before you have power over them.

The beauty of this theory is that if you recognize that you are the one empowering anything to have magic, luck, healing properties or power to cleanse your soul or psyche than you are really the source of the power. So you don't really have to give it away. You just need to use it.

I suppose this is too simple of a theory to catch on. It also wouldn't be too popular because it eliminates the ability to blame your circumstances on someone or something else and forces you to take responsibility for everything that happens to you. You can't blame things on bad luck, god's will, mother nature or your parents. If you are in a bad relationship, lousy job, crappy neighborhood or have a bad haircut, it is something you have the power to control or gave up that power to put you there.

Okay, I'm not saying you can control the weather (but you can control putting yourself at its mercy). And maybe you can't control some diseases, but you can control how you treat your body to allow yourself to get sick. I am suggesting that before you blame fate and the blue bird of happiness for crapping in your cereal you retrace the steps that got you in the situation you are in. Then seize the reins of power and get the hell out of dodge.

More power to you if you do.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Random acts of randomness

After rambling yesterday about the maddening quality of repetition and sameness in life as we age, I was remiss in not pointing out that the occasional encounter with a random thing does break up the mundaneness of it all. Point in fact: I was driving to the train station this morning on my usual route encountering the usual traffic at the usual places and stopping at the usual lights when I noticed a watermelon in the gutter next to the road.

This struck me as odd. One might expect an apple or an orange perhaps, cast off from a passing car. But you don't normally see a whole watermelon just sitting there down and out in the gutter wondering why part of its ambitions to be part of a summer picnic had been thwarted. This was a whole, unscathed watermelon, mind you. It hadn't been tossed in the gutter. It had been placed or perhaps rolled there. The only thing odder fruit to be found just sitting in the gutter would be a coconut or perhaps a pineapple. But even those could have accidentally fallen out of some one's grocery bags. Watermelons, however, don't just happen.

Now granted this watermelon was in the vicinity of a real estate office that is surrounded by life sized fiberglass models of animals. There is a life sized elephant, a giraffe, a gorilla and I believe a zebra. It is a virtual Noah's Ark of fake animals staged for some unknown reason under a tree in front of the office. But these have been there for several years and have merged into the sameness of my everyday experience driving to the train station. The watermelon is a new anomaly.

I am actually quite fond of random things. They spice up the mundane. I was in a lawyer's office with my family the other day signing some papers when a transient looking gentleman popped in the front door and proclaimed that there was a live opossum outside and he just wanted us to know about it because we had small children with us. The lawyer thanked him and returned to pointing out where I needed to date, initial and sign a document. I had to resist the urge to jump up and say, "Hey kids, let's go out and play with the live opossum. They are lots more fun than the dead ones we have at home."

I work in downtown Seattle so I am actually pretty used to random things. One of my co-workers was waiting for the bus outside our building a couple of years ago when a man wheels up to him with a shopping cart loaded with hams and asked him if he'd like to buy one. I debate sometimes whether this was a random thing or just odd. This is a fine line we are talking here.

Since I am contradicting my post from yesterday anyway, I must say that I find any movie done by the Coen brothers an exception to the rule when it comes to breaking out of the hackneyed plot realm. I love their films because they epitomize a sort of organized randomness. It is refreshing in a "I don't really understand it, but here's something I haven't seen before" way.

Kind of like the watermelon in the gutter this morning.