Monday, November 30, 2009

Exercising Your Akimbo

Last night I exercised. I did a few sissy push-ups and a few crunches, staggered back to me feet and threw myself on the sofa all akimbo, worn out, huffing and puffing, wondering if a heart attack was speeding on it’s way.

And you ask why the heck do I do it – why do I use words like akimbo? Can’t I just say something simple like flopped on the couch? And what does such a word even mean?

Well, I’m glad you asked, because I certainly don’t know but I’m going to consult the all-knowing and very powerful Google, and I’ll get right back to you.

Sorry to keep you so long, but this word is way more interesting than you’d think. I discovered how I probably got it in my head that it meant getting tossed around like a rag doll, which it doesn’t mean, but it was used that way on Seinfeld, and since I’ve seen every episode, I must have picked it up when Elaine was dancing at the Christmas party and jerking around, and was described as “dancing with her limbs flailing and arms akimbo.” That was a pretty funny episode, and I bet she got plenty of exercise practicing that dance.

According to Wikipedia, akimbo means standing with your hands on your hips. There is also a rock band named Akimbo, so I went to their website and found out that you can book them by calling a number with an area code of 206. They don’t say where they’re located, but another site said that “Jon Weisnewski (Bass/Vocals) and Nat Damm (Drums) have solidified a unique and devastating sonic battle axe left embedded in the skulls of their enemies.” (www.punknews.org) Sounds like my kind of music.

Why is this important in the great scheme of life? Because when we go around heaving heavy words like akimbo all over the place and naming rock bands after them, we are enriching the English language and making it a much better experience for our children, our children’s children, and our children’s children’s children ad infinitum - which is another heavy word worth toting on your colossal English tool belt.

And what does this ad infinitum mean? Do you ever stop with the questions?

I know it’s Latin, and I know what it means, but is there a rock band named after it? That’s what I’m curious to find out. I’m going to go check. Hold on a second.

Did you feel the whoosh of me zooming back? I have fast internet. I couldn’t locate a rock band per se, but I found something musical (I think) that is much more intriguing. It’s an “Analog Modular Synthesizer Frac-Rak Modules by Alex Iles.” I’m not going there because some things you’re better not knowing, but this phrase perfectly illustrates my point. Words should be entertaining if they can’t be sensible, and this Frac-Rac thing tickles my fancy, which is located behind my knees, a particularly sensitive area especially on children. If you want to tickle them until they wet their pants (which is cruel and I do not condone), tickle their fancy rather than their feet (which can kick) or armpits (which can leave a distinct odor).

Distinct. That’s another great word – it’s got a bad smell built right in, so it’s like giving someone a double whammy when you say they have a distinct odor because of the word stink in there. Odor is bad enough, but a stinky odor is just foul.

Bet you didn’t think of that, did you? See, it’s good to exercise your cleverness with the English language, and it sure the heck beats sit-ups and push ups.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fat Begone!

Around the holidays I start having wardrobe malfunctions. My waistband moves up or down, trying to find a place to rest with all the new me it has to cope with. If it moves up high, the fat goes under the waistband, but I get a really serious case of camel toe. If it moves down, the fat squeezes up over the waistband to form an unattractive toadstool. It’s a universal problem with average sized women who overindulge on occasion, and I realize that I’ve touched on this subject before, which only goes to show that there are no easy solutions.

If I buy a size bigger pants, that would take care of the problem, but it would be the end of being average. Right now, with only a few extra pounds, I’m uncomfortable. If I lose the weight, which would mean cutting carbs and candy, I can be comfortable again. This is torture, since I live for buttered bread and Milky Ways, but it’s doable with a week of suffering as long as I don’t have too much fat to begin with.

However, if I buy a bigger size, in the short run I’ll be comfortable, but in the long run, it’s just a matter of time before the bigger sized waistband starts choking me, and this time I’d have to lose twice the weight if I wanted to get back to average.

What I really hate is that period of time when I become uncomfortable, which occurs after every social gathering where the host puts out spreads of sumptuous food (and this can be just potato chips and dip). Beiing kind-hearted, I try to save the host the unpleasant chore of storing all those leftovers by eating and drinking non-stop the whole time I’m there. In fact, I’ve looked up from the buffet table to find that I’m the only person left in the room, and snoring is coming from the host’s bedroom.

So today I set about to find an undergarment that will camouflage that inner tube of fat around my stomach until my weight loss resolve kicks in, which sometimes takes awhile. I know I’ve worked on this before, and I actually found a solution for under a dress, but I’m dealing with jeans, and that’s a whole new set of problems. I went to Fred Meyer’s undergarment section and was surprised to see all the different girdles, body suits, corsets, etc. available for people in my predicament.

I tried a couple of them on. A full body suit is flesh colored and looks like one of those old-timey swimsuits that is one piece with legs stopping just above the knees. I’m happy to say I lost at least two pounds struggling into the thing. It had “stays” all around the torso, which are hard pieces of “boning” that hold the suit up and keep the fat in. I think you could stand a body suit up on your front porch at Halloween and scare off goblins.

The disadvantage of this item, including the inability to get out of it quickly enough if you’ve had a couple of beers, is that the fat has to go somewhere. Where the undergarment ends, fat lurches out and forms a rim that can easily be seen under the thickest sweater or pants. Also, the 60 little bra-type hooks needed to rein in the fat also showed under my t-shirt.

So I tried a high waisted girdle, but it had the same problem. You’d think your internal organs would have the decency to move over and give the fat a little space, but they won’t budge. It has nowhere to go so it balloons out the top and underneath. The fat isn’t high enough to enhance your bosom (what a funny word), instead it just makes you look like you’re sagging, and the fat pushing out the bottom makes your thighs look like they’re wearing twin tourniquets.

I tried combining a long shaping bra with a tall firming girdle, but the fat all went to the no-man’s land between them where the two didn’t overlap. I looked like I had an hourglass figure with a mini hula-hoop in the middle.

I decided to bag it and go on the diet right away. Except that there are leftover pieces of a super-yummy chocolate pecan pie that I’ll need to plow through. I can’t lose weight with temptations in the house. Plus I’ll need to finish off some really soft chocolate chip cookies my daughter made. But the second I get through those, and the rest of the bag of Oreos, I’m losing that fat, or my name isn’t Megan Fox.

Window Washing Sucks Less Than a Vacuum

Today I decided it was time to get my home ready for Christmas. We have these big windows, and in the winter, when the sun is lower than our passive solar overhangs, the sun shines through the windows and illuminates the spider crap that’s all over them.

I think because we have a one-story house, and the overhang sticks out about six feet all the way around the house, spiders think our place is the Ritz-Carlton. The light from all the windows attracts insects which get caught in the spider webs so it’s like a big bug buffet out there all the time.

Spiders, like all of God’s creatures, have to go to the bathroom; therefore there are little brown and black spots everywhere like millions of grasshoppers have been engaging in tobacco-spitting contests. Some of the spots slide down the glass. Then it dries and hardens to a cement-like substance that takes a vigorous scrubbing to dislodge.

Why am I telling anyone about this? Just because.

So I’m out there in the cold with the squeegee, and my husband and son are sitting on the couch watching some bikini TV show. I’m used to my husband and children passively watching me work. I’m like a lot of women who just get tired of nagging and do it all – which appears to be the goal of every man’s and child’s life.

Today, though, it didn’t sit well with me. I came in and made some snide remarks, which usually fall on deaf ears, but for some reason my husband got mad and turned off the TV, jerked the squeegee out of my hand and went outside to get away from the nagging. I could see that he wasn’t putting in quite the effort that I had been, but I decided even if I had to do some of the streaks over, that was way easier than doing it all alone. After a few minutes of staring at the TV where the almost naked girls had been, my son said, “Dad just gave me a dirty look. Have you got something I can do?”

These are words I have never, ever heard my son say. I dabbed at my tears of joy. “Well, I guess you could grab the duster and dust.” He did it without too much complaint - it is, after all, the easiest housework in the world. When he was done I asked if he’d help me get the Christmas stuff down out of the attic. I figured I’d better make hay while the sun was shining. This is when the avalanche of griping started.

“It’s not even December. Why are you getting all this stuff down? Where are you going to put it? You’re just cluttering up the bonus room with all this crap. Oh my gosh, how many boxes are there? Why do you have all these fake poinsettias? Nobody likes all this crap but you. Why don’t you just get rid of it? Who came up with all this decorating bullcrap anyway? You’re going to spend all that time putting all this stuff up and then just take it all down a month later…..”

I just let him go on and on because he was continuing to help as he bitched, so I wasn’t about to fly off the handle and have him use that as an excuse to walk out of the room. The second he was done he left to go get a haircut.

Meantime my husband was still washing the inside windows. He got finished and started putting the squeegee and ladder away. “Leave all that, I have to do the outside,” I said. “Well, I’m not doing them,” he said, and sat down. I immediately went and got the vacuum. He hates the noise the vacuum cleaner makes. I turned it on and started vacuuming right where he was sitting. He got up, grabbed the squeegee and went outside. I turned the vacuum off. He came back in. I turned it back on. He went back out. I figured if I kept vacuuming, I could get all the windows washed. Unfortunately, even going really slow, I had to finally stop, and he came back in, leaving a couple windows undone. I finished the job, pretty satisfied that I’d gotten my two lazy boys to help out. We all went to a restaurant for a late lunch, my son went back to U of O because there was supposed to be a party he didn’t want to miss, my husband went back to the remote control, and I went shopping. Not a bad day at all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black and Blue Friday

In case you just arrived here from Jupiter (how’s the weather? Seen any good meteorites?), today is the biggest shopping day in the United States, and maybe the whole world. Maybe in the jungle, cannibals are offering two torsos for the price of one. Or buy one torso and get a leg for free. But I doubt it – that seems like too good a deal. Plus, I think our retail bonanza is tied to Thanksgiving, which is an American holiday.

As a way of giving thanks for their abundance, people in this country try to eat up all their abundance in one day the form of giant birds, mountains of mashed potatoes with gravy, butter, sour cream, and salt plus an accoutrement of breads, vegetables, and desserts with butter as the main ingredient until they have to go lie on the floor or sofa or ambulance stretcher to recover. The lucky people give extra thanks because they get to sleep in the next day.

The unlucky ones must set their alarm clocks for 3:00 a.m. so they can wake up out of their L-tryptophan stupor and return to work to await the herd of bargain-lusting shoppers wanting to bust down the door for savings. We in America call this day Black Friday, I’m assuming because the guy unlocking the door for the crazed shoppers gets knocked down and trampled in the stampede, resulting to black scuff marks all over his face, arms, stomach, and legs.

If you’re really and truly unlucky and work for Michaels in the Metropolitan Portland area, then you had to push yourself up off the floor, drunk on bourbon pecan pie and shots of Jack Daniels quaffed on the sly with your alcoholic Uncle Bob, and put yourself in the mood to peddle arts and crafts at 5::00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to other overstuffed and miserable drunks who felt the compulsion to leave the comfort of their warm homes and beloved friends and relatives in order to get a leg up on Black Friday shoppers who dared to wait until the rest of the stores open at 4:00 a.m. the next day.

If you take the time to notice, you’ll see that the previous paragraph was all one sentence. You’ll also observe that American stores have become so obsessed with trying to get a leg up on other businesses that they are kicking down the very institutions that brought them business in the first place. If they open their stores on Thanksgiving, then why bother even having that holiday? Sure, the grocery stores make a killing on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but if you force workers and shoppers to forsake their traditions so that your business can make money, what happens to the tradition? No one is home having Thanksgiving dinner with their families because they’re out shopping.

Same thing goes with Christmas decorations in October. They will eventually replace all Halloween decorations, and then that fun family holiday that gives adults an opportunity to hang out with their children and socialize with their neighbors as they gather free candy in the freezing rain – even that will fall by the wayside. And as you continue to blather about “holiday” festivities and Christmas lists earlier and earlier, consumers get more and more disgusted with the whole business. In case you store owners also just arrived from Jupiter, let me give you a heads-up: WE HATE CHRISTMAS ADS ON THE TV, RADIO, IN THE PAPER, ON FLYERS, AND CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND DECORATIONS, EVEN RED AND GREEN COLORS – WE HATE THE MERE THOUGHT OF CHRISTMAS before Thanksgiving.

Those of us who get our holiday shopping done early (sometimes on December 26th of the previous year) are going to continue doing that whether you advertise and decorate at an obscenely early date or at the proper time, and those of us who wait until the last minute to shop, (sometimes on December 24th), are going to continue doing that. Or else we are going to ignore the whole Christmas thing altogether, be forced to report to work on Christmas day, buy up everything on sale before the after Christmas sale, and say to hell with it.

In my humble (though always right) opinion, if we’re stupid enough to forget to buy a carton of eggs on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I can guarantee that no one is going to starve to death as a result, so I can’t see any excuse for a lot of these stores to be open on Thanksgiving and other traditional family gathering holidays. Give employees a break, for crying out loud. And don’t start sputtering about the exceptions, about the people who don’t have families or who don’t celebrate traditional holidays. It’s a lame excuse for money-grubbing, and you know it.

But will any of you listen? Of course not, because you’re too afraid that someone is going to get a little more of the market share than you are. Well, let it be known right here and now – I refuse to shop at Michaels for the rest of this year, and possibly forever, because they forced employees to work on Thanksgiving for no good reason. You can take your market share and shove it up your tofurkey for all I care (see previous post if this doesn’t make sense, and if it still doesn’t, go back to Jupiter).

So there.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Tofurkey Day!

Well, I’m happy to say this was a fabulous Thanksgiving, and I am so stuffed that I will have to make my entry short because I need to be supine right now with my belly sticking up in the air like an island in the Pacific.

Our friends had us and a few others over for dinner, and Laurie was trying to be a great hostess. Her daughter and I are both vegetarian, and since we couldn’t eat the turkey, she graciously prepared us a turkey substitute called “Tofurkey.”

This thing was a roundish ball of, judging by the name, some kind of tofu that had been colored to simulate a turkey breast. It almost had me fooled except for the ends. The “breast” had been formed in some kind of plastic casing that had been twist-tied at both ends, creating a molded, puckered look. The human body has an orifice that has that same puckered look, and it was about the same color. I couldn’t look at it, honestly, it was grossing me out totally. My friend’s husband carefully sliced the Tofurkey like a real turkey, and left one of the puckered ends on top. What a hideous presentation.

It’s hard to eat fake meat anyway. It never has the taste or texture of real meat, though you know they’ve tried really really hard to make it a suitable substitute. You have to use a lot of sauce or something and your vivid imagination to think that something called Tofurkey is going to taste like turkey. But when it looks like an, well, puckering part, it’s not going to pull off the masquerade.

I ate it, just to be polite, drowned in it’s own Tofurkey gravy and eaten with a mouthful of mashed potatoes to further disguise the taste. Memo to Tofurkey producers: put the pucker on the bottom or somewhere I can’t see it if you EVER want me to celebrate with your product at Thanksgiving.

The rest of the meal was an absolute delight; we all stuffed ourselves and then listened to our children playing Van Halen songs on the electric guitar. Oh, and did I mention that my family went skiing this morning and the sun was out? Seventeen runs – not too bad for the first day out, and no bickering among us, mostly because the kids slept all the way to the mountain and back.

I really wish I could find something more to complain about, and something to make fun of, but the sofa is calling me so loudly I’m going deaf and can’t focus. Happy Thanksgiving – yes, it was!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Duck if You See This Turkey Coming

On this, Thanksgiving Eve, I think it’s time to talk turkey, or if you come from Louisiana - Turducken. I typed that and my spell check lit up like a turkey grease fire. That’s because Turducken (there it goes again) is a completely unnatural species of animal that I first learned about from my sister-in-law’s husband’s in-laws in Baton Rouge.

Whether the Cajuns invented this atrocity, or just acquired it, I don’t know, but it definitely sounds like something that came from their neck of the woods. They eat crawdads and gators and blackened everything, plus it seems to me like something Emeril might come up with. I heard rumors that he wanted to solve the nutria problem in Louisiana by using creative recipes to cook up the water-dwelling, pre-historic rodent that looks like a gargantuan rat on steroids.

For those of you who have been fortunate enough to never hear of this creature (the Turducken, not the nutria, which is at least a somewhat attractive member of the rodent family, once you get over its mammoth size eight food whiskers), I suggest you quit reading right now, because you’re not going to want to know. Trust me. This is an abomination against nature.

You’re still with me? You know, you can lead a horse to water but if he refuses to drink, well, I rest my case.

A Turducken is a chicken stuffed inside the intestinal cavity of a duck, which is then stuffed inside the intestinal cavity of a turkey. This unwieldy beast is then stuffed inside your oven where it cooks unspeakably, unevenly, and unbecomingly. Understand why I despise it?

Who would have come up with such a thing? There is something about reaching up inside a bird that lowers the threshold of my appetite to begin with. I used to have to turn my head when my mother stuffed fistfuls of dressing into the anal cavity of our family turkey, and I sure wasn’t about to eat any of that stuffing. If I didn’t witness it coming straight out of a separate pan, I wouldn’t touch it.

So to put a whole bird, or de-boned bird, or whatever in the hell it is into another bird is just not right. But my sister-in-law’s in-laws swore it was the best thing on the planet besides marrying your first cousin, so we got one for Thanksgiving a few years back.

I don’t like eating duck for any reason – they are so cute when they come up to you quacking for breadcrumbs, and Daffy and Donald could be their relatives. Eating chickens doesn’t worry me so much after one time when I was little I picked up a chick at my grandfather’s house and a mother hen flew out of nowhere right on top of my head and flogged me with her wings for about two hours. I think chickens are treacherous. I’ve never been intimate with any turkeys so they don’t bother me one way or the other. But on general principle I prefer not to eat anything that’s been shoved into something else’s guts. Have I belabored this point too long? No, I haven’t.

I’ve been vegetarian for years, so I didn’t partake of the Turducken on those grounds, though I would have become vegetarian that very day if it was the only way to avoid the hideous thing. The others reported that it was okay, ranking between possum and road kill, though nothing special. I think even they were grossed out. All I know is this: If a food is called something with the word Turd in it, I’m staying away. I advise you to do the same.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rumpus Dreams

I’m going to get my hair cut tomorrow and my salon let me hang four of my framed photos there. Unfortunately, that’s all they’ve been doing is hanging. None have walked out the door under someone’s armpit yet, but they are, perhaps and all things considered, overpriced. I thought if I used a double mat, I could double my price. Apparently the world of art doesn’t work that way.

My favorite of the four is a picture of a dory boat on the beach of the Oregon Coast. A couple of fishermen, one in no shirt and a ponytail, were reeling the boat onto its trailer. The boat wasn’t much to look at, but the reason I took a picture was the name of the side, “The Codfather.” Get it, “COD” father? It had a little string of fish hanging on a line just under the name.

I think it’s fun when people have a sense of humor like that. I took another picture that I haven’t framed yet of a muddy white pickup truck with a dirty teddy bear in the front grill, a porpoise glued to the roof, and assorted little statues of mermaids, elves, miniature lawn gnomes, and what-not glued to the hood and all over the dashboard. I don’t know who would buy such a picture, but it might be quite impressive in a dorm room or rumpus room.

Speaking of rumpus rooms, my brother once had a dream that there was a cow in the unfinished basement that he was turning into a rumpus room. The dream disturbed him no end because he likes to analyze dreams and believes they have a lot of insights. I think it had to do with the cow he killed when he was five. He was supposed to close the feed door after feeding the cows with his great grandfather, but he couldn’t quite reach the latch so he did what all little boys in his shoes would have done – he ran away from home and joined the circus. No, of course he didn’t do that because it was getting too dark, so he pretended he latched the door and ran like wild dogs were chasing him to catch up before something got him in the night.

The favorite cow, named “Pet,” got in the feed and literally ate herself to death, which was a financial and emotional tragedy for everyone. Pet made her way up to the pasture before she keeled over and died. The next day the kids went up and sat on her. We were too young to know any better, and it was the only way we were going to get to ride a cow. I think Pet came back to haunt him, and what better place than plopping right in the middle of the rumpus room he was trying to fix up.

For me, dreaming has everything to do with what I’ve been doing that day. If I’ve been cleaning house, I’ll have a dream that the vacuum breaks and the floor is covered in confetti and the neighbors are in a pack on their way over for a party. Tonight I’ll probably dream about that pickup truck – I’ll be driving down the road in it and the teddy bear will blow off the grill and hit the windshield in really slow motion, taking out the porpoise as it crests over the roof. Except the porpoise will be a cow. Sounds pretty entertaining – I’m off to bed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How I Get My Material

Nobody asks me how I come up with my ideas, but in case they ever do, I’m going to practice my answer.

I have no system. I get up in the morning thinking, “What will I write about today?” and my next thought is, “I’m hungry,” and I don’t think about writing for awhile, until I think, “I’m still hungry,” and that goes on until about 10:45 at night, when I panic and realize that if I’m going to meet my goal for the day, I need to make a beeline to the kitchen and grab something to tide me over while I write.

If you’ve ever read de Tocqueville’s, Democracy in America, you were probably forced to by some nincompoop like my college professor who taught American Literature. I protested on the grounds that it wasn’t even written by an American, for crying out loud. We got in a knock down drag out fight that resulted in me having a B grade from all my work but getting a C in the course because of my attitude. Oh how I despised that man. I have to go outside and spit…..Okay, I’m back. What a bad taste the memory gives me.

His name was Carafoil or something like that, but I called him Caro-vile. I was clever back then. I wanted to get my English degree, and I wanted to do it after working all day and going to three hours of classes four nights a week and paying for it out of my own pocket. The very, very last thing I wanted on earth was a man who thought he was God’s gift to English majors and, for that reason, really didn’t need to do much teaching because he felt that entertaining us with jokes and rambling reports of his ultra stupid life was a much better way to kill three hours of class time week after week.

Pardon me while I go evacuate my innards……..Okay, I’m back. That feels better. It’s hard to imagine after all this time that he still can make me nauseous.

But why was I talking about him? Oh yeah, when I wrote the word “beeline” up above, I remembered something from de Tocqueville about bees that was interesting. Bees will go out into the world and find some honey, and they’ll come back to their home in a straight line. If you want to find honey, you can actually follow a bee and it will lead you to it. That’s where the term “beeline” came from. I followed a bee a little ways once but couldn’t get over my neighbor’s fence quick enough.

Another interesting thing in that book (which was published in 1835) was the story of a farmer who had some kind of opening in his living room ceiling and bees came in his house and made a nest up there. They had their little habits, coming and going, humming and buzzing. The farmer and his wife thought they were right good company. Today, one bee gets in and people fly out the house like teenagers busted in a bar. Out come the cans of RAID, fly swatters, a big shoe, my brother’s bad breath (he can drop an insect at 7 paces), and all other lethal means to eliminate the ghastly thing before it, heaven forbid, bangs itself to death on the window trying to get out.

So there you have it, that’s how I come up with my ideas. Aren’t you glad you didn’t ask?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Movie to Kill Time

I just watched the most asinine movie called, “The International.” I don’t know what the critics had to say about it, but here’s my review.

We were renting this in the comfort of our own home, thank goodness, and so we saved $150 between the three of us when you add up the price of the movie tickets, popcorn, sodas, Milk Duds, and Jujube’s)

It started out and you knew SOMEBODY was going to get offed because of the music and the tension, but we didn’t really know which of the two characters it would be. And the method was fairly ingenious. It was looking like a good choice as the plot started to gear up and everyone seemed suspicious.

Then the other guy from the opening scene gets killed, and the good guys (Clive Owen and Naomi Watts) begin an “international” manhunt that leads to more plot twists and suspects, one after the other. My daughter asked, “When is this movie ever going to be over? It’s been on forever.”

This is not a good sign. An exciting movie, full of intelligent plot twists and suspense, will yank you in so that you don’t come up for air long enough to even think about the time.

Not this egregious curse of a movie. Everyone who could take us out of our misery by ending it gets killed off. In one magnificently stupid scene, the bad guys (a mean, selfish bank) decide they need to kill their hired assassin because the good guys are on to him. A bad guy meets him at the Guggenheim to set him up. He gets shot, and Clive Owen, who’s been tailing him, runs over after the shooting to try and get a couple of names out of the assassin before he croaks. The guy’s on the floor, looking like he’s dying, and says, “Help me out of this thing, I’m suffocating.” Turns out he’s got on a bulletproof vest so he doesn’t get a scratch from all the bullets fired at him.

We all breathed a sigh of relief because finally, FINALLY, one informer is left standing who can squeal and the movie will be over. The second Clive Owen gets his vest off, big surprise, someone starts shooting – BEFORE he talks, of course. They shoot the crap out of the Guggenheim, with new bad guys appearing like cockroaches in the night. And you won’t believe it. Mr. “Get This Thing Off of Me” is hit by 40,000 bullets to the chest after two hours of shooting during which one of the good guys is hit in the neck and spews a geyser full of gory clots into the air like Old Faithful. “Oooo, that’s gross!” my daughter said, and it was, but in the stupidest way.

With this informant dead, my daughter and I discussed whether to commit slow suicide by continuing to watch the movie, or walk away without knowing the ending. My husband had done the smart thing by falling asleep in the Lazy Boy.

Finally, Clive convinces a brand new informant to end the movie, and it looks like it might just work until that one gets killed, too. “Will this movie never end?” wailed my daughter, which woke up my husband.

The movie did end, ridiculously, when the script brought in a hit man out of the blue hired by the sons of one of the informants killed early in the movie. No real justice is served. Clive Owens doesn’t get to see the bank’s activities brought to light – this final bad guy could have been persuaded to talk if he hadn’t just been killed. The final scene is of Clive standing on a rooftop looking bewildered, probably because he’s thinking that if he’d hired the hit man a couple of hours earlier, he could have taken out ALL the bad guys and avoided a lot of useless film time for nothing.

In a desperate attempt to bring closure to this monstrosity, newspaper clips are shown during the credits about how the bank ends up getting huge profits, how its behind the scenes dirty dealings are causing weapons to proliferate in Third World countries (which is what the plot is based on), and how Naomi Watts is appointed to lead a new investigation, which she spent the whole movie doing, to no avail, so you know the bank will continue with business as usual.

So thanks Hollywood, again, for stealing what seemed like nine hours of my life to watch a movie with no intelligent plot that didn’t even have the basic decency to satisfy the suffering audience at the end. However, my husband thought it was good, but considering that he slept through most of it, I don’t know if I’d count that as a recommendation. My Final Grade: F - See it at your own risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Terrible Teens

In 8th grade, kids have to carry a ten-pound sack of flour around to give them an idea of what a nuisance it is to have a baby in their teens so they’ll wait until they’re older. There used to be a program where prisoners would talk to kids and show them how bad life is when you break the law. I think it was called, “Scared Straight.” These are good ideas. It’s like a flu shot – it gives you a small dose of discomfort so you can avoid the big misery of the real thing.

One thing they should also do is have a room full of teenagers and bring in couples who are desperate to have a child. They should let the teenagers just talk about their lives, and how no one understands them and how stupid their parents are, especially when they insist that their rooms get picked up every few months and the dirty, moldy plates get brought to the kitchen. “It doesn’t bother us, why should it bother them? It’s our room, not theirs. If they want it clean, they can come in and clean it.”

And then when it’s question and answer time, and the couples innocently ask some general thing to communicate, for instance, “How do you like school?” the teenagers could answer, “why are you people always up in our faces? Why don’t you get a life of your own?”

And then they could start asking for money and a ride to someone’s house in a snide and snarky tone of voice, and get mad at the would-be parents for not jumping up and doing it on a minute’s notice.

Finally, they could start blaming the prospective parents for things like making them be in that room answering stupid questions instead of out with their friends. “Your just like all grown-ups, you only think about yourself. You have no idea how hard our lives are.” And if the parents-to-be ask if there’s something they can do to help, the teenagers can say, “Yeah, right, like you could understand or even want to do anything,” and walk out the door, slamming it as hard as they can.

Yes, I know, I’m painting a pretty rosy picture of living with teenagers, because it gets a lot uglier than this. If anyone would have warned me, I might have reconsidered. The only consolation is that, rumor has it, the nasty alien thing living in your child’s body will eventually leave, and your sweet daughter will reappear sometime in her 20’s or 30’s. I only hope I can survive that long because, if looks could kill, I’d be fertilizing daisies.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sorry I'm Late

I just had a wonderful Indian dinner with friends, and when it was all done and I was happy as a clam, they started talking about taxes and the new health plan. I immediately got indigestion, and since I procrastinated all day writing my blog, and now I'm too cranky to be funny, I'm taking the lazy way out and using a poem I wrote a while back. This still counts as my blog post for today, if I can hurry and get it done before midnight.

I do not premeditate being late.
I really try not to procrastinate.
I want to be on time, honest I do.
But then my keys hide, and so does one shoe.
I set my clocks ahead, but it's all for naught.
Sometimes being late isn’t always my fault.

If I leave my house almost right on time.
A bus on a narrow road puts me behind.
Red lights conspire to slow my pace.
They’re never green when I’m having to race.
Road construction blocks my path.
Flagmen don’t care about my wrath.

And if I'm late, I'm just like my brother,
We both got tardiness from our mother.
She made us be careful and take our time.
She said, "If you're late, it's not such a crime.”
"Better late than never," is what she'd say,
But most other people don’t feel that way.

My bosses scold, and I dread all the fuss,
My husband fumes and starts to cuss.
My daughter pouts when she’s late for school,
My son says, “Mom, this is really NOT cool.”
Puntuality is always my goal.
But it's something I can't seem to control.

Oddly, I have friends who are never late.
You’d think they’d complain when we make a date.
They know what time I’ll dash through the door.
Five minutes behind, just like before.
You'd think my lateness would make them distant.
"You're late," they say, "but at least you’re consistent."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Birds of a Feather

I was thinking about friendships, and I realize that I tend to like people who are like me. That’s because we have things in common. If I’m in a group of people, and they’re all talking about American Idol – they know all the contestants’ names and call in and vote a dozen times – but I don’t give a flying rip about the show (and I’m just using American Idol as an example, you can substitute any show, like Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, Jerry Springer - it’s all the same difference). If you don’t watch the show, it’s probably because you’ve tried to sit through one episode and you concluded that it was pretty dumb. And if they watch it, then it stands to reason that they’re dumb, too.

Humans have an immense capacity for thinking everyone else is stupid. Women demonstrate this repeatedly. A woman will say, “I can’t believe she did that!” Frequently the woman will lean over and put her hand to the side of her face so the public won’t be able to hear her catty comments. What she’s really saying is, “She’s so bizarre, I just want to take her and shake some sense into her.”

Women always want to shake some sense into somebody. We think we can fix people. We start with our husbands, which doesn’t get very far, so we have children and enjoy a small measure of success while they’re helpless, but around age two the battles start and escalate until they reach their teens and we concede the war.

So women go to work on their friends, but they have to be careful if they want to actually keep the friend. “I really liked your hair short,” is the kind of subtle comment they’ll make to try and get you to change. Or, “why don’t you try yoga, I hear that’s a really good way to get in shape – I’ll sign up with you.”

If you migrate toward people more like you, there’s less to fix and, consequently, less irritation. For instance, people choose the Republican Party because they want to hold onto their money and buy gas-guzzlers and McMansions to show they have succeeded in life. People choose the Democratic Party because they feel guilty about succeeding in life and want to share some of their wealth with those less fortunate. You’ll choose the group that makes you feel most comfortable, and set about criticizing the other group and try to convert them as much as possible.

Sometimes I wonder where I’m going with these tangents. But one thing I’m certain about, even within my own circle of friends who are a lot like me, I can still find things about them that I wish they’d do differently. And everyone I know is like that. I have one friend who thinks women should never be caught shoeless without a fresh pedicure. After she has people over in the summer, all she can talk about is how so and so’s feet looked so bad and how she can’t believe they go around in flip flops with those yellowish looking toenails. I have a relative who talks incessantly about how other people act so inappropriately, yet she has the social graces of a baboon.

And then there’s me, who wishes I could do a makeover on everyone. I’d have the negative people shut up, the mousey people stand up, the unhealthy people slim down, the mean people beat down, the prices at my favorite stores marked down, and my income jacked up. That’s how I’d make the world a better place. But in the meantime, I’m going to try and accept people just the way they are because, God love ‘em, they weren’t lucky enough to be born like me. And I’m pretty positive that everyone else thinks they’re just right, because it doesn’t seem like anyone I know has ever changed for the better, no matter how much good advice I give them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Somebody's Got to Be the Straight Guy

I’ve always been the straight man, or straight person. I’ll see a joke coming and set it up. Like last night at that concert I was telling you about. My friend took a picture of me, and then a couple of minutes later we were looking at the pictures, and since it was dark in there, and the screen’s really tiny on those phone things, at first all I could see were just shades of color. I said, “Is that me?”

They laughed, so I realized it must not have been. The other thing is, I’ve got braces on my teeth due to some faulty dental work (I had very straight teeth and the last thing I wanted or needed before the faulty dental work was braces). I look hideous in pictures and I’m not exaggerating. They did a little blurb about me in The Oregonian and sent a photographer to my house, and he must have taken 500 pictures, but since every camera makes me look like some toothless doofus no matter how I pose or the skill of the photographer, I looked like an idiot. “It wasn’t the best picture of you,” my friend Joyce said, which I thought was very kind.

Anyway, I hate getting my picture taken, but not as much as I hate seeing the picture. Laurie was sitting in the middle, holding up the pictures for both of us to see, and as my eyes finally got focused on the camera, I saw that she was showing a picture of her pet frog, an ugly close-up shot from an angle that distorted him and made him out of focus so that he looked like a brown cow pie with a giant froggy eyeball. I piped up and said, “Is that me? I just don’t look like myself with these braces.”

Laurie and Olivia about wet their pants because they could obviously see the frog in the picture. Tears started rolling down their eyes, I’m not kidding. They were bent over like they were checking their shoes and laughing, only coming up to wipe away the tears, then bending back down again. Now, mind you, we all had a couple of pints of IPA, except Laurie had that black poison of a beer – a porter – because she must have thought she needed more hair on her chest, so maybe that made them a little more susceptible to my humor, but that’s what I’m talking about being the straight person.

I had a friend once named Steve Bingham who I snubbed all through high school but “met” in Fort Myers Beach, Florida when I was there with two girlfriends spending the summer after my sophomore year in college. Bingham (that’s what we all called him), by sheer coincidence, had come down there with a pack of his friends, and we ran into them and invited them to our apartment. A hurricane was raging outside – wind bending the palm trees almost 90ยบ and sheets or horizontal rain pounding the windows. I discovered that Bingham was naturally very funny. We were listening to The Who, and I had on a pair of headphones so I could hear over the wind, even though the speakers were up plenty high. Did I mention I’m going deaf? Anyway, Bingham would ask me questions like, “You’re ugly, aren’t you?” and then start shaking his head up and down in an exaggerated way to get me to agree with him. Everyone in the room thought I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I could, though I pretended I couldn’t and I’d start nodding yes along with him. Everyone cracked up. I could see them all giggling, but I kept a straight face. They acted like it was the funniest thing on earth. There was beer involved there, too. Then Bingham would say, “You like girls, don’t you?” and I’d nod and smile. “You eat Palmetto bugs, don’t you?” and so on. Seems like we did that for hours until we were overcome with hunger and walked downstairs to Vi’s Restaurant to get Key Lime Pie.

You know, I think some of this stuff gets lost in the telling, but I’m sitting here laughing like I’m at a comedy club thinking about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed about that frog picture – it probably wouldn’t have been so funny if the frog hadn’t looked so bad. I woke myself up snickering about it in my sleep. See? When you laugh, you forget about the bad things, like how hideous you look in braces. For a couple of minutes, anyway.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Concerts Make Me Sleepy

I just went to a concert by a group called Playing for Change with a couple of my girlfriends. We had dinner first at The Aladdin Theater, and it was packed. There was a table for two, so a couple sitting at a table for four agreed to change with us, so I felt I needed to entertain them with whining that our food was taking forever to get there and asking for some of theirs when they were served. Boy were they laughing, especially after I’d had a couple of IPA’s on an empty stomach. Everything I said was funny. Ha Ha

After we ate we went in and got our seats. The band came out and were quite good, except when they played reggae music which, excuse me if I’m not diverse in my musical taste, but it all sounds pretty much the same to me (which is the exact thing my dad used to say about my rock music). Besides, I like songs I know better than new stuff, especially at a concert. But it turned out to be good that they played those songs because then I was able to grab a little shuteye.

I enjoyed the concert – it was mostly an older crowd and we were swaying back and forth, a couple of people lit their Bic’s, and it was like old times. And actually, it was a whole lot like the concerts I went to back in the day. The Allman Brothers or Leon Russell came through Knoxville, Tennessee practically every other week, it seemed like, and there were about twenty of us who never missed a concert. Back then there was a cloud of smoke at every concert, and the majority of it was not tobacco. Complete strangers passed those funny cigarettes back and forth – it didn't matter if you partook or not, it was good concert etiquette to pass whatever was handed to you along. Someone would put a doobie in your right hand and you’d already have one in your left to pass off. I’m sure the second-hand smoke was enough to have an affect on those of us who were there just to hear the music. Oh yeah, that reminds me, we saw the Doobie Brothers, too.

I remember getting so sleepy because I had to be at work early every morning, and I’d pray that the concert would get over. Then finally the lead guitar guy would do his excruciatingly long solo of eardrum busting high notes, and when he quit everyone cheered – but I’m sure it was because it was finally over, not because anyone liked it. Then they’d leave the stage to pounding feet on bleachers and hollers and claps, and I would start praying again that the lights would come on.

But they never did. After the racket continued for a while, the band would sheepishly come back out, put their guitars on, and start playing the one song you’d been waiting to hear all night, which brought the house down. And they dragged the song out for an eternity, and then they’d go back off stage, and the freaking lights would still stay off. Doggone it! They’d come back and do a slow song nobody on earth wanted to hear, and when they were done we gave them polite applause and the lights went on, and I could go home.

Same thing happened tonight. Playing for Change comes back out and does their “Stand By Me” signature song, getting the audience to sing with them amid the cheering, swaying, and Bic lighters, and then they leave again, but the lights stay off, and there’s one guy still up on stage. He slowly raises a microphone to his mouth and everything gets really quiet and he starts singing, “Amazing Grace.” Well now there’s a slow one that he made even slower – and I thought, “this is the same formula they were using back in the day.” But I had to give him credit, he sang it very well, and it was all the more special because he was actually blind – wearing an eye patch even.

All in all it was a great concert, but now you must excuse me. I’m very, very sleepy – just like in the good old days.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't Answer It!

I’ve gotten to where I’m afraid to answer the phone. In my office I don’t have caller ID, so I don’t know I’m about to get a sucker punch until I hear the pause on the line, then a nasally voice says, “Is Mr. or Mrs. So and So at home?” You know good and well that it’s not a friend or family member because they’d know you were home when you answered the phone. To toy with them I say, “This is Mr. So and So.” They stutter and then, like the polished actors they are, get right back to the script and start telling you, in earnest, that this is NOT a sales call. They simply have a small survey that will only take a few seconds, and could you please tell them if you have a heater in your house (no), does it have an air filter (yes), does anyone in your house have asthma or allergies (no), what is your age group (infant), are you working (get serious), how many children are living in the house (two dozen, I think. I’ve lost count).

Then they tell you that, based on your preposterous answers, you’ve qualified for a free in-home consultation at absolutely no obligation to you, it’s a free service they’re offering to people in your neighborhood because you’re special and they happened to be right down the street doing something important and can just drop in, say on Tuesday, or Wednesday if that would work better.

Do people really fall for this? Because I can tell you this, if you let them come to your house, they’ll convince you to buy some air filtration system that costs more than the crown jewels and, when it’s all said and done, you won’t notice you’ve got it, though you’ll try to convince yourself it’s working and saving doctor bills and removing dust in your home, though dust is like air – it goes where it wants to go and doesn’t need to consult you if it wants to lay in a grey film over everything you own, air filter or no air filter.

Sometimes I get calls from people wanting to give me an amazing vacation package to some new resort, but I have to bring my husband, and we have to sit through a ninety-minute sales pitch to buy a time-share, though they don’t put it that way. They say they just want to make sure we’re aware of all the amenities, which they list in exceptionally cheery tones.

I’ve been on a couple of these and they aren’t so bad, really, until the sales person takes you in the little room and tells you he’s not going to try and sell you on the place because it’s really the best deal on the planet so you’d be very wise to get in on it now because prices will go up and they’re running a special offer TODAY ONLY. After you say about forty no thank-you’s, the manager comes in just to make absolutely sure you know how stupid you are for passing up this once in a lifetime deal. You have to agree out loud that you are stupid before they’ll turn you lose, but it’s worth it.

So I’ve pretty much given up answering the phone. I let the machine take the call and then call people back who aren’t hustling me for something. I figure I save about two hours a day doing this, and my wallet can breathe easier, even if I won’t be able to until I buy the gold-plated filter. Personally, I get along just fine with dust.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why We Love This Dog

My dog is curled up in my lap (yes, she is a lap dog), and she’s hot. Not “attractive” hot, though I think most dogs would say she is quite cute with her black curly hair and black eyes. The eyes are her best feature when you can see them, which is only when she looks at you askance so that the little sliver moons of white show.

No, this dog is really hot. She’s like a heating pad, which works okay in the winter because it gets cold sitting in front of the computer, but in the summer we’re both shifting positions, trying to get some cool air in, but she won’t get out of my lap even if we’re both miserable, and if I put her down because I can’t take it anymore, she looks at me with those sliver moon eyes and whines all pitiful-like until I pick her back up.

Speaking of whining, this dog is always seeing something out the back door and wanting to check it out. I open the sliding door to let her out, and she just stands there with her nose stretched out, smelling the cold air rushing in. I’ll start to close the door, and she leans way forward and takes a step. I stop the door and she sniffs some more, and I lose all patience and try to shut the door quickly, but then she tries to bolt through it before it closes. So I open the door enough for her to get through, and she finally goes out on the patio and barks a few times. If I stand there, she ignores me and just looks around for an eternity. If I walk off, she turns toward the door and wants to be let back in right away. I read somewhere that a doorway is something that a dog is always on the wrong side of.

Dogs are pretty entertaining, though, aren’t they? I mean, this one will play with you by pretending to bite your hand or pull on your sleeve and growl. You push her away and she comes back, pretending to bite again. It’s all in good fun until suddenly, for absolutely no reason, she gets mad. She lunges at you and bites pretty hard, which usually doesn’t hurt because she’s only a 9 pound Yorkie Poo, but sometimes her little pointy tooth will make contact with a bone and it hurts like the dickens. She growls like you’ve become a burglar and she’s morphed into a Doberman, and she’s got a particular growl that if you hear that, and you get your hand or face or any other part close to her, she’d bite hard enough to make a lasting tooth impression in your flesh.

My son loves to get her to the biting stage because he thinks her growling is funny. I say to him, “You’re gonna get bit,” and he grins and looks at me and, every single time, puts his hand a little closer to the dog’s mouth and she shoots out like a lighting bolt and clamps onto his hand, and he yanks it away howling, “SHE BIT ME!” like it just came out of nowhere. He gets all upset because those bites really do hurt, and acts like the dog is disloyal and unfaithful, and shows me the tooth mark before he goes away pouting, clutching his bitten hand and mumbling, “Bad dog.”

I can’t tell you how many times this has been repeated at my house. Over and over and over again. My son will go off to his room or somewhere and then come back out a little later, still pouting, and won’t make eye contact with the dog, who’s just sitting there on my lap minding her own business, the altercation already forgotten and her little stub tail thumping soundlessly against my leg.

The dog is the central figure in this house. Everyone wants to know what the dog is doing at all times. When the kids come home, I ask them how school was, and then I tell them about the adventures of the dog that day. “She treed a squirrel,” or “she rolled in something so foul it made my eyes water,” or “she saw some crows and barked her fool head off for half an hour.” I honestly don’t know what we all talked about before the dog. She’s everyone’s best friend, but she likes my lap the best.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Stinkers

I wanted to go to a movie, and let me first say that just about every one out lately sucks. There have been a couple of good ones, but I’m going to ignore them because they’re not as fun to write about.

I went to Fandango to check out what was on and the reviews. What’s amazing to me is that the reviews are all over the place. One movie fan says, “This is the funniest movie ever,” and the next one says, “don’t waste your money, wait for the DVD.”

I could understand if these reviews were in the middle, like “it’s not a great movie but it’s a lot better than cleaning the toilet.” Then you know that it’s nothing to get excited about but something good enough to pass for entertainment. But when the reviews are so far to the left and right, who can you believe?

I also get confused about the professional critics at the LA Times, Variety, and USA Today. For instance, I read the LA Times’ review of “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” I read the whole review and can’t tell if it’s a movie worth seeing or not. The only thing clear is that they like George Clooney. Well, so do I, and he’s almost enough of a draw that I’d go see anything he’s in, except that I don’t quite trust him anymore. He was in “Burn After Reading,” a movie I thought was beyond stupid.

Which leads me to my main complaint about some movies. They try so hard to do something new and different, and if it’s really really different, the critics will praise it just because it’s not the same drivel they see all the time. They’ll give the movie a good review even if the director thinks a plot is something in a cemetery, even if the story is remarkably unbelievable, and even if the characters act bizarre just for the sake of acting bizarre. In other words, in my and the rest of the sane world’s opinion, the movie stinks, but the critics love it.

Sometimes the reviews are obviously slanted to favor a movie. Maybe the critic is getting a kickback. You see this a lot on DVD’s. There will be some glowing remark like, “the best movie of the year” and then the reviewer will be in microscopic letters under it, and it will be someone like, “The North Dakota Plains Mostly Monthly Observer.” My favorite, though, are those movies released at the first of the year and someone reviews them, saying, “One of the top 10 movies of 2009.” There have only been 4 movies released so far, and this one is so bad it can’t even make the top 5 list.

Well, enough griping about movies. We’re going to see “Couples Retreat” which promises, according to the fan reviews, to be both a “laugh out loud comedy” and a “complete waste of time.” But it sounds better than “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” because of these telling reviews by fans: “this movie suct really bad,” “This movie was beyond horrible!” “This movie would be declared cruel and unusual punishment if shown to Guantanamo inmates,” “a stinker of gigantic prortions,” “Pointless yawner and time waster,” “I want my money back.” See? These kind of reviews I can trust. Sorry George. You may be pretty, but I’ll stick with watching you again in “Brother, Where Art Thou?” Now that was a fine movie, and you were brilliant every time you said, “My hair!” Can’t you please get Hollywood to wise up and give us a good, quirky, entertaining story to spend our hard earned money on? We’re counting on you. And quit taking parts in these lousy movies, it’s not fair to us women who have to give up the eye candy because we don’t want to be pistol whipped by a lousy plot.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

In honor of Friday the 13th, I’ve compiled a list of interesting superstitions I Googled up just now.

Spit on a new baseball bat before you use it the first time to make it lucky (this explains some of the spitting on a baseball field, but the other 99.9% is a result of a wad of chew or boredom).

Here’s an interesting one. If you get a chill or Goosebumps, then someone is walking over your grave. (Which means you are in the grave, right? So how come you can feel Goosebumps?)

More than 80% of high-rise buildings don’t have a 13th floor.

The dried body of a frog worn in a silk bag around your neck can ward off epilepsy and other fits (and friends, too).

If the palm of your right hand itches, you’ll soon be getting money, and if it’s your left hand, you’ll be paying out money. (If both hands itch at the same time, you’ll break even or you’ve got a nasty case of poison oak).

If you take a test with the same pencil that you used to study for the test, the pencil will remember the answers (glad somebody will).

Triskaidekaphobes are people who fear the number 13. (If you ask me, that name is way scarier than the number.)

A watermelon will grow in your stomach if you swallow a watermelon seed (that explains a lot of pot bellies at picnics).

If you dream of eating ham, then you will lose something that means a lot to you, and if you dream of eating jam, you’ll suffer embarrassment at the hands of a woman through no fault of your own. (Moral: it’s dangerous to eat in your sleep.)

In closing I’ll leave you with a few things that bring bad luck: a bat flying into the house (hate when that happens), an owl hooting three times, three butterflies together, a picture falling, and getting out of bed left foot first.

To get rid of your bad luck, turn three times counter clockwise (works every time!)

Be careful, stay safe, and hope you get lucky tonight.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When Did We Become Giants?

If we left our house for the day, and Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame) crawled up a hypothetical vine and found a bowl of porridge on our kitchen table, would he think he was in the home of a giant?

Absolutely, because of the size of the bowl.

I made myself a can of soup today, and all my favorite, human-sized bowls were in the dishwasher, so I had to use a bowl from a set I’d gotten as a present that I don’t like to use because they are TOO BIG!

This so-called “soup” bowl could masquerade as a serving dish at a Thanksgiving dinner and no one would be the wiser. Usually I get two human-sized bowls of soup out of a can, which is satisfying because I like seconds, and if I divvy it up just right, even thirds. But I poured all the soup in this bowl and it didn’t even fill it – I think I could have gotten another whole can of soup in there, plus croutons, and a fly doing the backstroke (an old waitress joke – Customer: What’s this fly doing in my soup? Waitress: The backstroke).

I got stuffed on the one bowl of soup, and I didn’t even get seconds, which made me cranky. Food is so psychological – they don’t call it comfort food for nothin.’ You think if you’re having seconds you’re getting full, and you walk away from the table mildly miserable but contented.

With a bowl made for giants, you fill it up, and it fills you up, but you still want seconds so you put a little more in there of something, like cereal, and when you’re done, you are belly up on the couch moaning until sleep mercifully puts you out of your misery. This is not good for humans.

Giants, on the other hand, eat from giant-sized meal on a giant plate, then they have seconds, then they have a short nap before going out and roaming the countryside looking for gooses laying golden eggs. This is how it should be. The giant eats a hearty meal suitable to his size, and then walks it off.

In contrast, when humans are forced to eat using plates and bowls designed for giants, we fill the plates and plow through acres of food, stretching our stomachs every time we sit down to a meal like we’re in a hot dog eating contest, then we go back to work where we sit all day updating Facebook and Twittering, then go home and eat the same thing all over again and settle down for a few relaxing hours in front of the TV. We have consumed as many calories as the giant, through no fault of our own, but we don’t have that extra three or four feet of height. The extra calories have to go somewhere, and they decide the best place is our bellies, hips, thighs, ankles, under our arms and, yes, our jowls. What has made the giant a strapping specimen has made us hot air balloons.

If you want to know who is responsible for the obesity problem in America, you don’t need to look any further than plate and bowl manufacturers. And people who make Big Gulp cups and super-size containers for French fries. And the makers of boxes of candy in the movies that don’t even try to hide it – they say “GIANT SIZE!” right on the box. Same thing with popcorn and potato chips. Remember how a little bag of Lay’s chips would just hit the spot? Now the smallest bag you can get is, “GIANT SIZE.” Is it a conspiracy that these manufacturers, let’s call them “Communists” for want of a better word, are making us weak and ill from fat-related maladies so can they take over and rule the world? It certainly is food for thought.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Age Happens

I do some photography on the side, and I’ve noticed that older people lack color in their faces. I’m not talking about old women who spend their retirement years in the sun, turning their skin to leather and looking like a Shar Pei. I’m talking about the ones you see in church, or at bazaars, or in the line ahead of you at every checkout counter with a small change purse extracting correct change, one penny at a time.

Older women tend to have a heavy hand when it comes to coloring their cheeks. I used to think it was because they were blind and didn’t realize that they were putting on too much blush, but now I think it’s because they’re starting with such a washed out background that it’s the contrast in color that’s so noticeable, not the quantity of makeup.

Older men lack color too, but fortunately they don’t try to hide it. They’re too busy convincing the general public that they have hair. I’m sorry men go bald, I really am, but must they have those long strings of slick black hair running over the bald spots like someone drew a grid on a basketball? FYI Donald Trump, the general public is not fooled by these comb overs.

When women start losing their hair, they deal with it by cutting it all off. Then they pay a hair dresser once a week to kinky curl it up so that it looks like thin, coarse, pinkish beige wool all over their heads that you can see through.

Which, I suppose, is more attractive than the blue-haired ladies I grew up with. I don’t know how it happened that so many of them had that magical shade of blue. Did they go to the store and find boxes of Clairol called, “midnight blue” (for blackish blue) “baby blue” (for bluish blond), and “blue all over” (for bluish-blue.

When I started getting grey hair, I fretted about it just like everyone else who was turning prematurely grey (everyone in my age group). After plucking a few hundred, I toyed with the idea of dying my hair. When I had my kids captive in the car, I’d ask them if I should dye my hair. “No, mom, it looks really pretty,” was their standard response. They had learned to say this to keep me from asking additional questions: “Does my grey hair make me look old? How old do I look? Do I look older than the other moms? How about Rebecca, do I look older than Rebecca? What about Cindy?”

One day I asked my son again, “Do you think I should dye my hair?” He said, “You don’t need to color your hair to look younger.” I sat up straighter, thinking what a fine young man I’d raised. Then he added, “It’s the wrinkles that make you look so old.”

I can’t remember exactly what happened next, but I think I used the ef word, and I think I reached over and opened the passenger door and used both of my feet to kick him out on the sidewalk, but it’s all a blur, I could have just patted his hand and said, “we need to see about getting you some glasses, sweetie.” It’s hard to remember the details when you get my age.

Keeping It Clean

I used to like having my house clean when people came over. They’d compliment me on how wonderful everything looked, “even your bathroom faucets sparkle.”

That’s all in the past now. I can no longer devote my life to a clean house, especially for imaginary people who “might drop in.” When the kids were little, and there were stay home moms in the neighborhood, you never knew when the doorbell might ring. I was genuinely embarrassed when stuff covered the floor like fluff from a cottonwood tree. If I got wind someone was going to drop in, I ran around grabbing handfuls of toys, shoes, socks, underwear, can openers, wine bottles, bon bons, and tacky novels and slung them in a back closet.

I realized tonight how far I’ve come since those days because my daughter came home from swim team practice and nonchalantly said, “Maddie’s coming over.” I went in panic mode for a couple of seconds, protesting “At 9:45 on a school night?” “No school tomorrow, mom, it’s Veteran’s Day.” “Crapola!”

I said this into the phone to my favorite aunt in Tennessee, who was telling me a pretty good story about my uncle’s booze scandal. He buys all the books and manages the supplies warehouse for the county school system in my hometown. He’s always been a pillar of the community as well.

My uncle received a couple of bottles of booze as presents (people seem to give women candy and men booze – maybe we should turn that around). He left them in his office, locked up, unopened, in their original gift bags, and planned to donate them as a door prize for an organization he belongs to, thus re-gifting them like any red blooded East Tennessee school official who’s worth his salt would do.

Unfortunately, while he was on vacation, someone broke into the office and stole the booze and other odds and ends. They caught the guy and found the booze, as well as several other stolen items that were not taken from his office including, gasp, pornography. The local paper, in its infinite wisdom, decided to only mention the office robbery, and, interestingly enough, also decided to talk about only two of the stolen items, (guess which two), thus linking my uncle to the booze and porn. Who can blame them? This is such juicy stuff for a small town, and since there wasn’t a cat stuck in a tree or other breaking news story, my uncle’s robbery got front page billing.

It caused a scandal that spread to all corners of the countryside, about three miles from the epicenter of town. My poor uncle, who is literally the nicest guy in the world – in any contest pitting him against all the other nicest guys in the world, he would take the blue ribbon every time – was placed on unpaid leave for a week as punishment for having the booze on school property.

I just consulted the all-knowing Google and found the articles, which pretty much go from pointing a Bible-thumping finger at my uncle in the first one, to later admitting, without apologies, that there was no evidence that the porn came from his office. I read the readers’ comments and liked this one: “Warehouse managers are smarter than school administrators. The warehouse manager did not stand up and say, ‘Yeah, that's my porn, I brought it in to watch during slow periods and I realize it was a lapse of judgment.’ That is what a school administrator would have said.” After reading that, I’m just thankful my uncle isn’t a school administrator, because those guys must be really stupid if they would admit to clandestine meetings with Palmela Handerson during work hours.

Needless to say, I didn’t get my house cleaned up, but I fed Maddie cheese quesadillas and black olives, so she’s cool with the mess. I’ll keep you posted if I talk to my aunt again. So much excitement in one night!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mr. Thomas, Part 3

The school year was drawing to a close. We had gotten through the annual spring fight, an all-school affair that took place in the cafeteria. We were not allowed to go off campus for lunch, which was fine by us because the food was really good back then. Everything was homemade right in the cafeteria. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, yeasty rolls, green beans cooked with a ham hock. We all waited in line every single day to get a plate of cafeteria food and a box of Borden’s milk.

With so many kids in one place, and spring in the air, and testosterone so thick you could practically taste it, someone would start a fight just to relieve the tension. I saw a guy pick up a chair and hurl it across the room into an empty area, and before you knew it people were jumping off tables and punching each other, spilling out to the smoking section on the patio. No one ever got seriously hurt because we were tough – we meaning the guys, us girls were in the glass hallway watching from a safe distance. People got in fights back then. Even white trash girls would start shoving each other and end up rolling around on the grass, pulling each others’ hair in the middle of a ring of students egging them on.

But all this has nothing to do with Mr. Thomas, who was back in the library keeping an alert ear open for alarm clocks. We could have told him that those hooligans and their friends would not pull the same prank twice. I’m not saying they were real hooligans, they were actually the most popular guys in school, but they were at the root of everything, including the spring fights.

As I said a couple of blogs ago, everyone who went to my school lived in the city. We could get to the “country” where the hicks lived by driving three miles in any direction. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the country. Somebody, and none of us was sure who but rumor had it that it was Rick Piercy, must have known someone with a farm, because he put a piglet in a canvas sack and smuggled it under his lettermen’s jacket into the library. He turned it loose, and it took off squealing across the room. Furthermore, it was greased. The reason you grease a pig was strictly for entertainment value, so that whoever is chasing it will not be able to hold on to it even if they catch it.

Unfortunately, I was not present when the greased pig went on a rampage through the library. I heard it described so many times, however, that I think I might have been there. Mr. Thomas chased it, bent from the waist and arms outstretched, all through the library. There were plenty of tables and chairs for the piglet to try and seek refuge, and it was absolutely determined not to be caught. Kids chased the pig to keep it away from Mr. Thomas, which prolonged the fun. Finally someone opened the library door and the pig ran down the ramp to temporary freedom. From there it was either caught, dissected in biology, or became the next day’s pulled pork sandwiches, depending on who was telling the story.

Mr. Thomas wasn’t the same after that. He got jittery, and who could blame him. Crazy thing is, that the last day of my junior year, and I can’t even remember him in my senior year. That would be just like kids, run the poor guy off and forget about him.

Now I feel bad for the poor guy who was only trying to do a good job and help us learn. We were such brats! If you’re reading this, Mr. Thomas, you must be about 110 years old. We’re sorry, really we are. RRRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGG. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mr. Thomas, Part 2

We had a love-hate relationship with Mr. Thomas. We loved him because he entertained us. We didn’t really hate him, but we didn’t appreciate that he wouldn’t let us talk, throw spit wads, chase each other around the room, and otherwise put that lovely, carpeted library to some practical use.

That’s why people liked to torment him. You couldn’t do it openly or you’d get detention. There were a couple of seniors, Ricky Kendall and Billy Nurenburg, who existed for mischief. We relied on their expertise in these matters.

During my library period, as Mr. Thomas was busy keeping it like a soundproof room, an alarm clock went off. Everyone turned toward the noise, which was from a wind-up clock that actually had a metal bell inside and something, maybe a small elf, hitting it with a miniature sledgehammer. The sound filled the room like a fire bell.

Mr. Thomas jerked to attention, then floated rapidly toward the noise. Just then another alarm started ringing on the opposite end of the library. He spun around, forgetting the first clock, and headed toward that one looking like someone pretending to be a choo-choo train. Two more clocks starting clanging, then another. It got really loud as more clocks went off. Mr. Thomas started spinning like a top n the middle of the library, jerking toward each new noise, putting his hands over his ears, starting toward a sound then changing directions.

My friends and I came out of the conference room to be a part of the action. Everyone was laughing, which added to the chaos. For a fleeting second I felt sorry for Mr. Thomas, but who knows where that came from, and it left me quick, with a “whoosh.”

Finally he went over and found an alarm clock. He turned it off and put it down, hard, on top of a bookshelf. He found another, and took it over by the first. When he went toward the back, somebody ran over and put the clocks back on alarm.

“Who did that?” he shouted. “Who did that?” It startled us, and we got quiet. “Someone is going to be in big trouble.”

Within a couple of minutes, the clocks had all wound down and the library got still.

“When I find out who did this, you’ll be out of this school,” Mr. Thomas said quietly, his chest rising and sweat starting to form at his hairline.

He never did find out, which is what led the guys to do the second huge prank of the year, which I’ll tell about tomorrow.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mr. Thomas, Part 1

Volunteering at my daughter’s high school library reminds me of Mr. Thomas, the librarian at my alma mater located in otherwise Hicksville East Tennessee. Many of the students had dads who worked at “The Eastman,” a sprawling chemical complex whose location could be determined anywhere in a 200-mile radius by massive clouds of chemicals spewing from smokestacks, or, on foggy days, by the smell.

People working at this plant made lots of money, so the rest of us got to enjoy the fruits of their labors by being the recipients of a sparkling new, state of the art high school with carpeting, closed circuit TV’s, a “Little Theatre” that rivaled Broadway, and a library with…CONFERENCE ROOMS.

All you had to do to get one of those rooms during library period was dispatch your fastest runner the second the bell rang to fly up and down the ramps (no stairs), knock down anyone in her path, explode into an empty conference room, slap down her three-ring binder on the table, and yell, “Dibs!” to save it for the rest of us.

My group of three or four friends landed a room nearly every day, and from there we could look through the glass walls at Mr. Thomas as he harassed all the other luckless smucks who didn’t have a bruiser for a friend.

I’m going to describe him because his appearance was half the fun. He stood about 5’6” and weighed a couple hundred pounds, but he was evenly proportioned all over, and had the posture of a ballet dancer. He wore a white shirt, maroon tie, and black suit every single day of the year, had dark brown skin and graying hair cropped close to his head, and had no inkling of a sense of humor. Plus he kept his arms folded across his chest all the time, the ends of his mouth turned down, he took very short, fast steps so his head never moved when he walked, and he could cover great distances with the speed and stealth of a cheetah.

One of Mr. Thomas’s few talents was his ability to spot chewing gum at distances equal to a runway at a major airport. He could sense a jaw movement, invisible to the naked human eye, and be beside the student in a tenth of a second flat, clutching a small wastebasket.

He ran a tight ship, so the least little whisper and he’d come out of nowhere, put his finger to his lips and blast out, “SHHH!” It blew homework off the table at seven feet.

We in the conference room used our library study time to observe and comment on Mr. Thomas’s skills at keeping the library an almost holy place to learn. “Look, look, he’s streaking across the library, who’s he after? Oh! Oh! He’s got the garbage can. It’s Priscilla Abbott. Oh my gosh. Can you see that look she’s giving him? Is she going to spit it out or what? Oh my gosh. I can’t believe she’s just hanging her head over the garbage can and no gum’s coming out.”

Alas, all good things come to an end. I’ve got to go volunteer for an all day and most of the night gymnastics meet, as if vacuuming the whole gym on a Friday night wasn’t enough. Fuzz and little strings stick to those carpeted mats like Velcro. It took me two and a half hours, which is why I didn’t finish my blog yesterday until after midnight, having procrastinated all day thinking I’d write it after finishing the one hour of mandatory set-up time I’d committed to against my will, leaving me plenty of time at 9:00 when I got home, which ended up being 10:00, and then having to shower off all the chalk dust that got sucked into the vacuum and blasted out the back all over me, but since I’ve already written about my complaints on the subject of volunteering, I won’t repeat myself here, but only because I have to stop RIGHT NOW. More tomorrow, maybe.

In Library, Kids Get an Ef

On Thursdays I go up to the high school and tutor writing for a couple hours. Sometimes no one wants to be tutored, so I get an old book off the dusty shelves and pretend to read until a decent amount of time has passed and I can leave.

This library is nothing like it was when I was in school. For one thing, computers attract the kids like something really attractive. Not that we ever opened a library book back then unless it was an encyclopedia or an anatomy book, but these kids wouldn’t even think of looking at a book.

One thing all these kids have in common is the perpetual use of the f-word: loudly, and repeatedly, and in every sentence at least once but preferably multiple times used as a verb, noun, adjective, adverb, gerund, past perfect participle, and object of a preposition.

Another thing is their determination to reveal acres of skin. I saw one girl sitting at a table with a plumber’s crack as long as the San Andreas Fault. Back in the day this would have aroused considerable attention, but no one was gawking but me.

The noise level in the library is akin to being at a rock concert, only louder. No one whispers. The school has a boiler-type heater that keeps temperatures just shy of inferno, so the windows are usually open. Whenever people walk by, which is more often than you’d think, kids get up from the computers to go over and make fun of them, yelling things like, “you’re such a dork,” as loud as they can. The librarians are too deaf to notice.

Whenever someone does come over to be tutored, they’ll hand me a paper that their teacher has slashed and scrawled so many notes and corrections that you have to excavate down to find the original work. It’s an incoherent mess beyond repair, and yet I smile and give them lovely suggestions about how to improve the first couple of sentences before they jump up and go spit out the window at a passing dog.

In their absence, I write a little tiny, “ef you” at the bottom right corner of their papers. Not really, but wouldn’t that be cool? They’d get home and think it was from the teacher, which they’d probably think was far out or whatever they say these days. It might create a bond that would last through the school year. On the other hand, they might bring a knife and slash the effeing ef to teach her to effing ef with them, son of an effing ef. It’s hard to know with kids these days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I've Got a Cure for That

My daughter and I were watching a movie. Well, we were attempting to watch a movie, but it kept being broken up by little mini-series about drugs.

The first string of eight or nine drug episodes had miserable, worried actors with heartburn, high cholesterol, twitching legs, insomnia, heartburn, insomnia, and heartburn. A couple of minutes later, another mini-series with more miserable actors came on with insomnia, diabetes, depression, heartburn, high cholesterol, heartburn, insomnia, and insomnia. All of these ended the same, with smiling actors running through fields waving scarves in the breeze, tossing small children in the air, petting dogs with wagging tails, and all because they had taken drugs.

It was very educational. There are literally thousands and thousands of maladies just waiting to ensnare the human body, and, thank goodness, at least a gazillion drugs to snatch us away from the brink.

My favorite part is the disclaimers, “Do not take…” and “See your doctor if…” The ones that win my personal Academy Awards are for erectile dysfunction. I love when they say, “See your doctor if you have had an erection lasting more than 36 hours…” I bust a gut every time I hear this.

My mirth is bittersweet; however, because I went to Europe last summer and watched French and Italian TV. They have all our same shows, but in their languages, so I know everyone else in the world is watching our commercials, and I know they must be thinking, “Is every man in America a limp d___?” The answer is an emphatic NO.

According to a reliable source who works in the film industry, ED drugs are only used by older Hollywood men who are trying to make young actresses happy. I can say this about that. If I were attempting to secure employment, and my only option was spending “quality time” with a wrinkly old (30+) geezer, and he’s taken a pill to make the “quality time” last longer, I would not be happy. I’d have to be a pretty skilled actress. Some drug company should come out with a pill for this situation and call it something like “CouchOhNo.” I can’t wait to see those commercials.

I want to tell the world that America is not a bunch of sissies. We’re not! We simply prefer our ethnic foods, like potato chips and dip, and our big screen TV’s over yucky vegetables and running around like a bunch of stupid Olympic athletes. And you can bet your bootie we could rise to any occasion if we wanted to, we’re just rich enough to pay a drug company to do it for us. So there.

Now I’m in a cranky mood. I’m going to ask my doctor for a pill for that, and if he won’t prescribe it for me, I’ll get a free sample straight from the drug company by calling 1-800-CRANKYNOMO, (that’s 1-800-CRANKYNOMO).

To see Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s classic ED commercial on MySpace, copy this link into your browser: http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=32622947

He should definitely get best actor, and best stunt man.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Here's to Health

I’m happy to say I’m back in the saddle again after fighting the good fight with that flu virus.

And I tell you, it’s good to be back. While I was battling the sickness, I entertained myself with a detective novel that was a fast, exhilarating read. The only thing that bothered me about it was that it had little errors in it — not a ton of them, just enough to be aggravating.

In this blog I might have a misspelled word or misplaced comma here and there. It’s easy enough to miss your own mistakes. Look at those two “mis” words above. They both started out with the same “mis” but one has one “s” and the other has two. Luckily my computer had my back and fixed both of them as I typed.

This book had a problem with commas. They’d show up in the oddest places, where you’d never even think to put a comma. A kid in middle school writing a paper and just sprinkling commas in at random like he was putting pepper on scrambled eggs would not have put commas where these commas were. Here’s an, example. See what I mean?

Since the author is a best seller and it came from a good publisher, you'd think the editors would have caught these unworthy commas and sent them packing.

He made a mistake that had me scratching my head, mostly because I hadn’t washed my hair in a couple of days for fear my virus would turn into pneumonia. One place he said the police found a dead woman in one park, and about 200 pages later she had moved to another park across town. “Huh?” I said. I went back and looked it up, and sure enough, she'd moved to a totally different park.

It makes you lose a little bit of trust, you know? You want to believe his cockamamie story (WOW, my computer just fixed that word – who would have thought cockamamie was in it’s vocabulary?), but then he makes a big error and you realize that all the killing and conspiracy and corruption are just make believe.

Since it’s set in my town, I recognized a lot of the places in the book and I was totally convinced that these were real events, you know, but the names had been changed and facts rearranged to protect the guilty. Which wasn’t really necessary because he killed off all the bad guys or had them put on death row by the end of the book, and all the characters I liked ended up coming out fine, even the one who was shot in the head, and the one who shot her, who then got shot himself in the temple at point blank range but escaped with only a scratch.

It was a seriously complex story until the end when everything came to a screeching halt and got wrapped up as if the author was tired of writing and wanted to be done with it. I know how he feels. If I let any more time elapse, I’m liable to suffer a relapse.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Revenge of the Virus

Well, I beat the bacteria, but the virus threw a knockout punch to the head so I’ve had the joy of lying in bed all day with a throbbing headache and trying to keep from coughing as much as possible. What a swine the swine flu is, if that’s what I’ve got but it’s hard to know for sure since they say that it has about the same symptoms as regular flu except that you might, or might not, get a fever. One thermometer said I had a fever of 100.2, the other said I’m at a steady 98.6. At any rate, I set a goal to comment on this blog every day for 365 days, and no stinking virus is going to stand in my way, even though I’ve got the chills and can’t stand to be on this computer anymore. Stay well, my friend, and beware Halloween parties, which is surely where I got this bug. Next year I’ll deck myself in a clever costume to avoid contact – I’ll go as a surgeon and wear a white mask and latex gloves, and stuff myself before I leave home to avoid the inevitable double dippers, which would make a fine topic if I were feeling better, but since I’m not, too-da-loo!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Food for Thought

Where do you go for inspiration? I go to the refrigerator. If I’m feeling at a loss for anything, like I can’t find my black gloves, I’ll open the refer door and, no, I generally don’t find the missing gloves, they’re usually in the bread bin, but I will find something that makes me forget that I’m at a loss.

The something is comfort. I don’t know what it is, but staring into that bright box, one hand braced on the outside of the refrigerator and the other swinging the door back and forth, has a calming effect on me.

There’s rarely anything in there to eat in an emergency. Jars of assorted pickles only appeal on occasion, like when I’m pregnant, which hasn’t happened in awhile. Those pickles would be covered in mold except that even bacteria won’t go in those jars.

Bacteria are a funny thing. I feel like I’m catching a cold right now because I’ve got a scratchy, dry throat. I guess I’ve got the swine flu. That’s caused by a virus, you know, scientific name: the swine flu virus. Viruses seem to like to cause damage to your lungs and their associated apparatuses. Bacteria, on the other hand, seems intent on making you upchuck or get a festering, oozing, swollen, and I would say puss-ie but I’m not sure how to spell it, infection from an innocent cut.

I once tripped over a vine at Girl Scout camp, and it made a little cut on the front of my ankle. That thing swelled up and got so red and puss infested that I had to go to the doctor and get a tetanus shot in the bottom. Gosh that hurt. I limped around for two days because the nurse reared back and aimed that syringe at my cheek, and it went right through the muscle and lodged in the bone. The nurse and doctor were yanking and pulling, trying to get it out, sweat beading on their faces and dripping to the floor as they strained, me screaming like a banshee birthing a porcupine. Yes, I’m kidding. But it did hurt like a son of a gun.

Bacteria aren’t anything to mess with. That being said, yesterday I made a huge pot of fresh vegetable bean soup, and, what with the time change and everything, I left the pot on the stove all night. This morning I promptly put it in the refrigerator, but I knew those bacteria had been partying in there all night. I saw some swimming in the broth this morning when I opened the lid. They dove for cover behind green beans and carrots, but they were in there — I could see the splashes.

The all-knowing Google said I should pour the whole pot down the drain, ladle and all, and I started to, but I couldn’t bring myself to waste all the food and time and energy, and besides it was a rare batch of soup for me—it was fit to eat. I had a giant bowl for lunch, figuring I might as well make it worth my while if I was going to be heaving all evening.

Knock on wood, so far so good. But I do have this puss-ie thing on my leg I’m going to keep a very close watch on. No sense in having those bacteria in my belly joining forces with the ones on my leg, with the swine flu virus playing tag team. BACK OFF, BACTERIA! VAMOOSE VIRUS! I showed them who’s boss. I’ll be fine now.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Here's a Tip for You

I went into Starbucks this morning to get my once weekly latte. Caffeine gives me a jittery buzz followed by a headache, but on Sundays I succumb to the craving for a fine cup of coffee – fine meaning any coffee I don’t brew myself.

Because it was early and I was the only one at the counter, I noticed the tip box right by the cash register as I was handing over my money. I got $2.50 back in change, which I wanted to pocket except that the tip box, already seeded with a couple of dollars and some change, made me feel like a cheapskate.

I carried on this really quick debate in my head: “All she did was repeat what I wanted to the barista, take my five bucks and hand me my change. Why do I have to put extra money in the tip box?” To which I replied in my head, “They probably don’t make much money, and it’s only fifty cents, just put it in there, you tightwad.” To which I responded in my head, “Why the heck doesn’t Starbucks pay them enough money rather than making me feel like I’m taking food out of their mouths when I don’t want to reward them just for doing the job they were hired to do?”
The generous half of me won - I put the money in the box, grumbling in my head the whole time and wondering why tipping is becoming the norm these days.

I worked as a waitress during college, and I’m not sure how they got away with it, but they only paid us half of minimum wage. We were supposed to get the rest of our income from tips, which we all managed to do. One woman I worked with did quite well for herself. She’d race over to everyone tables and steal their tips if we didn’t beat her to it. It was like those bonuses managers gave themselves from the bailout money. They didn’t deserve it either, but that didn’t stop them from stealing our hard earned tax payer dollars.

I’m okay with tipping people who give you a lot of personal attention like your massage therapist or hairdresser. Also tipping the bellhop who drags your overstuffed luggage to your room. Paying him to put his hand back in his pocket and vacate your room is worth it.
But people whose whole interaction with you is to take your money? I’m not sure about that. What’s next? The grocery clerk at Safeway? The person selling tickets at the movies? The kid hawking Girl Scout cookies at your front door?

So I’m going to generously give you a tip, Starbucks, along with every other coffee shop and deli in the world. Put up a sign saying, “No tipping, please! We pay our employees more than enough to scrape by – they don’t need any handouts from you, thank you very much.” Then actually pay them a decent wage.

You guys are just like coffee. You leave a bitter taste in my mouth and give me a headache.