Wednesday, July 30, 2014


A couple of times a year Spike pays a visit to the spa at a local hoity-toity hotel. I won’t tell you the name of the hotel, of course, but it’s a very famous and high-end chain. Oh OK, here’s a hint: think Cracker Brand-Cigarette Brand. Ha! That should keep you busy for a while.

For some reason Spike likes to get facials. And it’s not just at the Cracker-Cigarette either. Nearly every time we go on vacation, in whatever part of the world we happen to be, Spike will find someone who is more than happy to relieve her of one hundred, one-fifty, even two hundred dollars and slap goop on her face. And apparently she’s not alone—women seem to love this spa treatment. Someday I’ll explain it to you, right after I figure out the other 75,784 nutty things that women like to do.

Last week Spike went to our local hotel for her semi-annual facial. When she returned I asked her how her facial was, since pretending to care about stuff like that is a big part of my job. She responded with a less than enthusiastic, “It was O.K.” Just OK? Uh-oh, I knew there was trouble in Goopville.

And there was. It seems that the therapist/technician/goopologist or whatever the hell they want to be called was a yakker. She talked non-stop through the entire process, making the facial experience much less relaxing than Spike had hoped it to be.

When you’re a captive going through a treatment, either for relaxation or repair, do you ever get a yakker who just won’t shut up? Oh sure, you may be the type who wants to talk while you’re getting your massage or hair cut or teeth cleaned but what do you do if you’re not? In most cases answering questions with a terse yes or no will give the yakker a clue, but every now and then you get one who just doesn’t get it.

I told Spike that I wanted to make an anonymous call to the hotel, (Is an anonymous phone call still electronically possible?) tell Spike’s story and politely suggest that they mention at the next Goopers Meeting that they shouldn’t talk too much when their client is paying $180 to relax. I wouldn’t mention my name or the name of the yakker. Nobody would get in trouble—they’d just learn to shut the hell up. After all, this isn’t some half-assed $20 treatment conducted in a moonlighting co-worker’s stinky kitchen. This is the Cracker-Cigarette!

Spike, of course, wouldn’t hear of it. She politely told me to MYOB, (Maybe it wasn’t so politely, now that I think of it) and I’ve respected her wishes. Still, on the off chance that one of you facial babes from down the road is reading this, (and believe me I know the odds are about the same as Vladimir Putin leaving a complimentary note in the Comments) how about cutting down a bit on the yapping? If you want to talk non-stop for an hour perhaps you can take the two bills you make from the facial and go see a shrink. He’ll be more than happy to listen to your endless blabbering—it’s his job.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Things Guys Secretly Love (Part II)

So far we haven’t found a whole lot of things on that list that guys even like, much less love. Let’s continue, shall we?

Bubble Baths
I have lived in my current home for over eleven years now. Oh, it’s nothing fancy, just the usual things you’d expect to find in a house. We have a kitchen with both an oven and a refrigerator, a back yard, a driveway and yes, a bathroom. And in that bathroom we have both a shower and a bathtub. Care to venture a guess as to how many baths, bubbled or otherwise, I’ve taken in the past eleven years?

Cute Animals
Okay, now hold on just a minute! This was supposed to be a list of things that guys traditionally claim to not like but secretly love. Where did we ever say we didn’t love cute animals? Puppies, kittens, duckies, bunnies – we love ‘em all. I mean c’mon, we’re human, too. Just barely, I know, but still.

Gossip Magazines
There was a time, a rather short period of time, when I regularly purchased and read the National Enquirer. In truth, I got bored with it very quickly. I’ve always suspected that it’s not that men are uninterested in gossip, but that in our case it takes different forms. We find our gossip in other places, such as sports and politics. We can’t wait to shake our heads at the latest gaffe or sex scandal from a politician, or repeat what the baseball manager said about one of his own players. And then we’ll look down our nose at a woman who enjoys TMZ. “How can you watch this crap?” we’ll ask, in our superior and oh-so-bogus way.

And I assume they don’t mean the singer, but the color. To be honest, one of the shirts I wear most frequently just might qualify as “pink.” I have regular line-up of five or six casual shirts, all in the same style but in different colors. (God bless J.C. Penney.)  I have a blue one and a green one and a maroon one and a burnt orange one and yes, a pink one. I don’t remember buying the pink one; it doesn’t seem like something I’d do. But know this: Pink is not a color I secretly love. In fact, there are no colors that I secretly love. They’re just shirts, for fuck’s sake. And I wear the pink most often for a simple reason – it’s the baggiest.

Who doesn’t love babies? Or, more accurately, who’s willing to admit out loud that they don’t love babies? Not me, that’s for sure. I got enough people looking at me funny. Oh, sure, babies are entertaining enough, but only in - and this is key - very small doses. They have an extremely limited repertoire and that gets boring fast. Watch a baby sometime. Notice how quickly he goes through all of his tricks, and is back to repeating himself before you know it? Who needs it? Besides, they’re kind of disgusting, eventually.

Too vague. Do we enjoy going around a room and hugging everybody when we arrive and then reversing the process when we leave? Of course not. It’s time consuming and unhealthy. But do we enjoy a hug of gratitude from that new, impressively-breasted administrative assistant when we unjam the copier for her? That’s one’s rhetorical.

Manicures and Pedicures
As a child, getting my nails clipped by my mom was a very painful experience. Why this was so I still don’t fully understand. I think it had something to do with Eisenhower. Now, a shrink might say this is the reason why I have never, not even once, gotten a manicure or a pedicure. I don’t buy it, of course, but am also at a loss to disprove it. I will tell you that I have never had the urge to cut another person’s nails and from that I extrapolate that nobody would ever enjoy cutting mine. Mom sure didn’t. The bottom line, though, is I just never found it to be something I’m interested in. Sure, some men’s magazines might insist that manicures and pedicures are an important part of being well-groomed, but you know and I know that ship sailed a long time ago.

Cute Tiny Things
Okay, you got me. I love cute tiny things and I always have. As a kid I remember playing for hours with a handful of these plastic, two-toned “Mexican jumping beans.” I had my favorite (the blue and white one) and I even gave them names.  It wasn’t all that long ago that I had a minor collection of tiny pewter souvenirs that I bought back from various places. And even today, if you drive by my house you’ll see a row of colorful solar-powered figures dancing in the front window, a display sure to eventually make me known on the block as the senile old coot with all the toys in the window, if it hasn’t already. So yes, I admit it. I like cute tiny things. I’m guilty. Build my gallows high!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things Guys Secretly Love (Part I)

I stand corrected. I was going to start off with the qualifier that I didn’t know whether the article in question had been written by a woman or a man, but one more quick check and I can see his name in little tiny letters near the top of the page. Yes, his name. We writers really should start demanding larger font sizes.

The article, which is more of a list actually, purports to expose some of the things that men traditionally say they don’t like, but secretly love. Now, how this writer came to these assumptions is never explained. There is no mention of any research, or the opinions of more than just one person. Clearly the writer is pulling his conclusions out of the very same place where I myself go for evidence to support my own opinions. It’s a miracle that either one of us can still sit down.

So here we go – the list of things that this writer says that men secretly love, each with an in-depth analysis by your truly as to the veracity of the claim. I’m only here to help.

Wrong. Sure, you can find a guy out there who likes just about anything, from sleeping in a standing position to breastfeeding squirrels, but in general guys don’t like to have facials. And yes, I tried it once. My wife did one for me. The result was that I looked ridiculous while it was on and, even more sadly, exactly the same when it came off.

Reality Shows
I remember hearing about the TV show Survivor about a year before it first aired. And while it was not actually the first reality show, it heralded the beginning of the current wave of those types of programs and has become one of the most imitated shows in history. I was a huge fan for its first ten seasons, seldom missing an episode before suddenly losing interest.

Today there are so many varieties of reality shows that it’s hard to make a blanket statement about their watchability. Still, for guys I think you can pretty much dismiss any of them that take place indoors, like the Kardashians or Bored Housewives or whatever they’re called. The nature shows hold a little more interest for us, however, especially the ones where the women are running around in the jungle naked. Still, I’m curious as to who it was who decreed that it’s okay to show the back side of the human body but the front side must be heavily pixilated. Man, people of the future are going to think we were total imbeciles.

Fancy Soap
Every time I’m strolling along from booth to booth at a local arts fair, my eye is always captured by those huge cakes of colorful soap that you buy by the slice. Would I use it if someone gave me some of this fancy-ass soap as a gift? Of course, why wouldn’t I? Am I about to cough up eleven bucks for a piece as big as a toaster waffle? Not a chance. So I guess maybe it’s not the fancy soap that I’m opposed to - it’s the fancy price.

Aside from a paperweight, there is no gift that more clearly announces to the recipient, “I put no thought into this at all” than the candle. There’s one and only time that guys love candles, and that's when they are illuminating the naked body of a reasonably attractive woman. Candlelight works wonders—like a special effect from Industrial Light and Magic.

Romantic Comedies
As I’ve tried to explain to Spike on many occasions, a great movie is a great movie, and that doesn’t change just because some guy gets garroted in his car, or wakes up with a horse’s head in his bed. And this works both ways. Just because a movie tells a mushy love story, that shouldn’t automatically eliminate it from a guy’s viewing list. For example, When Harry Met Sally was clearly a romantic comedy. It was a great movie as well. And while the writers probably still cringe every time Bridesmaids is called a “chick flick,” it is also the funniest movie I’ve seen in the last five years. 

Ah, but it’s those sappy and formulaic movies on, say, Lifetime that almost always will trigger the gag reflex in guys. One of my favorite things to do is to sit down with Spike for the first ten minutes (or as long as I can stomach) of one of these things, tell her exactly what’s going to happen over the next two hours and then retreat to the bedroom to read. Did I ever tell you how much fun I am to live with?

Women’s Shampoo and Conditioner
Many years ago Spike and I stayed over at a lady friend’s house. The next morning while I was showering I decided to try some of our friend’s shampoo. It was Joico, and it smelled delicious (as did our friend.) I soon purchased my own bottles of Joico, both the shampoo and conditioner, and used them religiously for several years. And then one day I had an epiphany, suddenly asking myself why I was paying fifteen bucks for a bottle of shampoo and the same again for the conditioner. I recalled the words of Andy Rooney, who once groused that when he was a kid they accomplished everything they needed to do in the shower with a single bar of Ivory Soap. And he lived a good long life! And so now I buy my shampoo and conditioner at the dollar store. And sure, once in a while I’ll treat myself and steal a dollop of Spike’s fancy-pants lady shampoo, but I swear that only happens on the rarest of occasions. You know, like on my birthday.

I’ve never tasted an appletini. The truth is, except for my nightly glass of wine that helps me get through writing these things, I rarely drink alcohol at all. And so I defer to my oft-inebriated friend Mr. Zero, who I asked what he thought about all these new-fangled spirits, like flavored beer or vodka. He, of course, was offended by them, as any traditionally-minded alcoholic would be. And if I too drank to excess, I’m sure I’d feel the same way. If I wanted to drink something with an apple taste, well, I’d drink apple juice.

Figure Skating
Spike loves to watch figure skating. On our refrigerator is a photo of Spike and Kristi Yamaguchi, taken shortly after she won her gold medal. (Kristi, not Spike.) I still remember how, during the 1992 Olympics, Spike watched nearly every bit of the figure skating events. And I did too, seeing how we were a one-television family at that time. What was most striking, however, was the night that Spike had to go to work, and yet I still found myself at home engrossed in the figure skating. Does this mean it’s true that men really love figure skating? No, I’m afraid not. It was just a one-time thing, like getting chicken pox. Nowadays I might watch some of the Olympic skating if Spike has it on, but this is much less a case of genuine interest and more an example of the law of physics that states, “A body at rest tends to remain at rest.” Especially if that body is lying comfortably on the couch.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Immodest Proposal

I sure am glad that I’m not single and planning on getting married in the near future, and it’s not because of any of the myriad reasons that just passed through your brain. No, it’s because from what I’ve seen in recent weeks the proposal bar has been set outrageously high, and frankly, I no longer think I could compete.

Spike and I both enjoy oysters. One of our favorite spots to get them is on the wharf in Monterey. So just about sixteen years ago I took Spike down there for some oysters, and when I handed one to her it held, of course, a massive five-carat (It’s called poetic license, Chum, so back off.) diamond ring.  I watched carefully to make sure she didn’t swallow the damn thing, and just like that we were engaged.

Pretty creative, huh? Well, I thought so at the time, but with what I’ve observed lately, if I tried a mundane stunt like that today I’d be afraid of being greeted with a smirk and sarcastic, “Are you kidding me with this?”  Allow me to present two examples.

I just saw that the daughter of an old (as most of them now are) friend of mine recently got engaged, and the happy couple has the most delightfully unique photographic evidence to prove it. It seems the first time this couple ever kissed, nearly two years ago, it was in one of those photo booths. You know, where you close that little curtain and take four pictures in quick succession. (I was going to say “for a quarter,” but really, do you need any more evidence of my decrepitude?)

So the guy gets his girl into one of these booths and, as the lights flash for each photo, he presents her with a ring and pops the question. What’s amazing is that the four photos that result clearly tell the story. First the couple is looking at the camera, then he presents the ring, then she expresses joyful surprise and finally the newly-engaged pair seal it with a kiss. How he timed it so perfectly, whether by luck or careful planning, I can’t say. The result, however is a simple yet remarkable record that they’ll cherish forever.

I recently traveled to Peru, and while there I met a nice couple. They were somewhat younger than me, and by “somewhat” I mean a tremendous amount. And so, while our five-mile hike on a muddy trail through the Amazon had put me in the mood for a week-long nap, apparently it was just a warm-up for these hearty kids. When we parted company they headed out for a four-day trek over the rugged Inca Trail.

I wasn’t there to witness the proposal, of course. I can’t be sure, but I think I was in my hotel restaurant at about that time, scrarfing down breakfast at the complimentary buffet. I was fortunate enough to see the video on Facebook, however, and a sweeter scene I can’t imagine.

It was at the end of their hike, and obviously the guy had asked a friend to video tape the event. It was morning, and the sun was just breaking over the top of the jagged Peruvian peaks. As the girl gazed over the magnificent view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains, the guy chose that exact moment to drop to his knee and ask his question. This was followed by exclamations of surprise, a few tears and copious amounts of hugging.

I can’t say that everything was perfect, although I’d be at a loss to imagine how he could have done it any better. Perhaps if a choir of angels had descended from on high singing Hallelujah. Short of that, though, it was quite a proposal. He had carried the ring on a four-day hike. They were gazing down on Machu Picchu, one of the most impressive sights in the world. The sun was just coming up over the mountains. And then he asked her to be his wife. Whew.

And so I imagine some guy standing there watching all of this, or perhaps seeing the video on Facebook. Maybe he, too, was planning on proposing to his girlfriend, but how could he ever top this performance? The pressure would be enormous. What was he supposed to do now, go to some wharf and hide a ring in her oyster? I don’t think so. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Eggs: The Incredible, Edible Quiz

I suppose the second thing you thought when you read that title up there is how could anybody create a quiz just about eggs, right? The first, of course, is why would anybody create a quiz about eggs?

But not so fast, Bub. When you think about it, not that I would expect you to, there aren’t many foods that are quite as versatile as the egg. I tried to come up with another one and chicken popped into my head. How ironic, a mother and child reunion of sorts.

We love eggs! Not only as a food, but as a decoration as well. In fact they’ve been a symbol of spring, fertility and rebirth long before the Easter bunny started making deliveries. Do you know how many eggs are eaten each day? Me neither. But perhaps after I write, and you read, the quiz below we’ll both know the amount. How eggs-citing!

1. In what year was the egg carton invented?
a. about 1600
b. 1864
c. 1911
d. 1945

2. In regards to eggs, what is true about France, Costa Rica and Brazil?
a. Eggs are outrageously expensive.
b. Eggs are seldom eaten for breakfast.
c. Brown eggs are preferred over white.
d. More quail eggs are eaten than chicken eggs.

3. About when were chickens first domesticated for their eggs?
a. 7500 BCE
b. 2000 BCE
c. 500 CE
d. 1200 CE

4. How many omelets did Omelet King Howard Helmer make in thirty minutes?
a. 57
b. 111
c. 427
d. over 1,000

5. What can you do to tell if an egg is hard-boiled?
a. Spin it.
b. Hold it up to a light.
c. Sprinkle it with water.
d. Throw it at that yappy dog next door.

6. On average, about how many eggs does each person on Earth eat per year?
a. 20
b. 88
c. 173
d. Over 200

7. In Cool Hand Luke, how many eggs did Paul Newman’s character eat in an hour?
a. 12
b. 24
c. 50
d. 144

8. As a hen gets older, what will the eggs she lays do?
a. Get larger.
b. Get smaller.
c. Stay the same size.
d. Get darker

9. On average, how often will a hen lay an egg?
a. Every 12 hours
b. Every 25 hours
c. Every other day
d. Every third day

10. What is Harriet the Hen famous for?
a. Laying the largest egg on record
b. Laying the most eggs in a year
c. Being the oldest egg-laying chicken
d. Laying three eggs in fifteen minutes


1. To solve a dispute about broken eggs, Joseph Coyle invented the egg carton in 1911. Early cartons were made of paper.
2. While white eggs are preferred in most regions of the United States, this may vary in different parts of the world, where BROWN EGGS ARE PREFERRED OVER WHITE.
3. People probably first domesticated jungle fowl around 7500 BCE in Southeast Asia and India. Chickens didn’t arrive in Egypt for another six thousand years, and in Greece about 700 years after that!
4. Howard Helmer holds the Guinness World Record for making 427 omelets in thirty minutes. He also holds the record for making the fastest omelet, which took him a mere 42 seconds.
5. Take an egg and SPIN IT. If it is uncooked the liquids inside with make it wobble. If it is hard-boiled it will spin steadily. And I would never throw an egg at that yappy dog next door. As far as you know.
6. About 1.2 trillion eggs are produced for consumption each year. On average each person will eat about 173 eggs over the course of a year. Frankly, I don’t think I come close to that number. Unless, of course, you count chocolate eggs—then I’m way over!
7. Luke ate 50 eggs in an hour. He would probably be considered something of a slacker, however, by world record holder Sonya Thomas, who ate 65 hard-boiled eggs…in 6 minutes and 40 seconds! (She could have eaten more, but they ran out of eggs.)
8. As a hen gets older, the size of the eggs she lays will GET LARGER. Wow, it’s a good thing this doesn’t carry over to humans. Imagine being a fifty year old woman giving birth to a thirty pound kid!
9. A hen will lay an egg about EVERY 25 HOURS. This means if you had your breakfast egg at 8:00 this morning, you’ll be having it tomorrow at 9:00. (And it will be a “lunch egg” by the end of the week!)
10. In 2010 Harriet the Hen, of Essex, England, set a world record by laying an egg that measured 9.1 inches in diameter and weighed about a third of a pound. The egg was four and a half inches long, a full half inch longer than the previous record holder. Ouch!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

File Sharing: 1971 Style

Arthur and Howie agreed, and who was I to argue? I had wanted them to record me a cassette tape of Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield, but I was soon made to understand that this made no sense. After all, Buffalo Springfield had only recorded three albums in the two years they were together, and there hadn’t been a bad song on any of the six sides.

“So why not have them all on one tape?” asked Howie.

Why not, indeed? And so the next time I saw Howie he handed me a 120 minute cassette. It seemed like an impossible dream, but here it was: Everything ever recorded by Buffalo Springfield, right there in the palm of my hand. I thanked him profusely, or at least I hope I did, and headed out to my car to pop my new tape into the boxy, fifteen-pound tape-player slash radio that my parents had given me for graduation.

I don’t know which I found more exciting, that I now had the equivalent of all three Buffalo Springfield albums, or that I had gotten it for free. If I spent even a second feeling guilty about having possibly taken food out of Neil and Stephen’s mouths, well, I don’t remember.

Howie had recorded the albums in the order of release, as anybody would have expected him to. I leaned back in my car seat and pulled out of Howie’s driveway to the opening notes of “Go and Say Goodbye,” and drove around burning up 38 cent gasoline until the fading last strains of the simple and elegant “Kind Woman.” Then I flipped the tape and started all over again.

I played the hell out of that tape all summer long, and then in September took it with me to my freshman year of college. The tape served me well right into my sophomore year, but alas, it is the nature of all things to wear down, and my cassette containing every song released by Buffalo Springfield was no exception. And so one day, without the slightest bit of a warning, the tape just broke. I was sad when that happened, perhaps sadder than one should be over the loss of something as mundane as a cassette tape, but we had, after all, spent many happy hours together.

Right now I can click over any number of music websites, type in ‘Buffalo Springfield,’ and listen to every song that was on my old tape, and as often as I want. Additionally, I can hunt down alternate renditions of these songs, unknown songs that were never released, live performances and doctored versions where I can hear isolated vocals, guitars or a cowbell. Still, that was a pretty good little tape.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big Boy is Bored

Bored fans greeting the Beatles in 1964

Big Boy and I were standing outside a local club. When the door opened we could hear the singing of the talented lady who was performing inside.

"Hey, listen Big Boy. She's singing a Beatles song!" I said.
"Yeah? Did everybody in there fall asleep?"

Busting my balls about the music of my generation is an endless source of amusement for the 20 year old Big Boy. To him such long-ago bands like the Beatles and the Stones and the Who might just as well been popular during the Civil War as the 1960's. More than once he has walked up to me and one of my equally decrepit friends as we dredge up some nearly-forgotten tidbit about the Kinks or Jefferson Airplane. "Are you two talking about the 1920's again?" he'll say.

At one point I had shown Big Boy a YouTube clip of the screaming, near-hysterical fans at the Beatles Shea Stadium concert.

"Do those people look bored to you?" I asked.
"Oh, they're all high on marijuana," said Big Boy

He's just having fun, of course, but there is one recurring theme in his good-natured jibes that leads me to believe that underneath the joking there lies a real opinion. In his over-sized heart Big Boy truly believes that the music of the 1960's is boring. To his way of thinking, I suppose, it just doesn't offer the aggressive foul-mouthed monotony that he gets from his regular diet of rap music. And now, on this rainy night outside this tiny nightclub, I'm discovering that not only does he think the sixties music was boring, but that the entire era was boring.

"Are you crazy!" I yell. "The sixties were one of the most exciting times of the last 100 years!" And then he explains:

According to Big Boy's curious theory, everybody was bored during the sixties because they didn't have the technology that we have today. There were no iPads or iPhones or texting or even personal computers.

"But those things are just delivery systems," I argue. "You're watching and listening to the same things on your smart phone that people listened to back then: movies, music, books. There's really nothing new, except how the product is accessed. Oh, maybe video games are a new form of entertainment, but that's about it."

"Going on the computer just to search information is a new form of entertainment..." argued Big Boy.

I granted him this, although I could have argued that it used to be done all the a library. But really, claiming that everybody was bored in the sixties because they didn't have today's technology is absurd. And I told him so.

"Listen, Big Boy, not too long ago the highlight of a family's evening was gathering around the radio and listening to the popular shows of the day. You think they pissed and moaned because they didn't have television? They couldn't even conceive of what television was. And a few hundred years before that a family would sit around all night watching a log burn in the fireplace. Maybe once in a while they'd use a different type of wood that would cause popping noises and colorful sparks to fly out. You know what that was to them? Cinemax! And here's some more news for you. Eighty years from now some young lunkhead much like yourself is going to look back and claim that the poor people of 2011 were so bored because they didn't have the Floozenizer!"

"Nah, nothing will ever surpass the Internet," said Big Boy dismissively.

I was going to explain to him, slowly and patiently, that every generation has felt this, every era thought that they were the ones living in The Modern Age. Did he really think that the average man in the Middle Ages looked around at his world and thought, "Wow, we really are a bunch of backwards assholes."? No, they thought that their technological achievements, their hourglass and spinning wheel and such, were the greatest things to come along since sliced bread. (Which they didn't have, by the way.)

I also wanted to tell Big Boy that someday people will look back at his life with the iPod and GPS and notebook computer and find it as barbaric as we today find the family huddled around that fire. Yes, I wanted to explain all of this to Big Boy, but I found I just didn't have the energy. Besides, I was starting to get bored.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Kick the Can

I watched a particularly poignant episode of The Twilight Zone over the weekend. It was about a group of people who lived in an old-age home, or whatever the acceptable term is these days. A bunch of kids were playing outside the home, upsetting some of the residents while causing feelings of nostalgia in others. 

The game the kids were playing was also the title of the episode, which was “Kick the Can.” Several of the old folks were reminded of the times in their youth when they, too, had spent seemingly endless days playing this game. Watching the game on TV brought back some childhood memories for me as well, memories that, while not negative in any way, were also not particularly warm and nostalgic.

I was fortunate enough to grow up on a street where there were a lot of neighborhood kids running around, and we often played organized games in various sized group. Some of the more popular games were baseball, kickball and hide-and-go-seek. On more than one occasion the grown-ups (old men in their thirties and forties) on the block attempted to introduce us to kick the can. You could tell that they had enjoyed playing the game as kids, and thought it would be fun for us, the next generation, as well.

But we kids didn’t think it was much fun at all, and I’m really at a loss to explain why. Sure, we tried to play the game a couple of times but, for whatever reason, it just never caught on. In fact, as soon as the grown-ups went back inside to ease themselves into their overstuffed couches, we’d immediately revert back to one of our regular games.

I was fairly certain I remembered how the game is played, but I just looked it up anyway. It turns out I was pretty close, which you’ll agree is not bad for someone who last played the game over fifty years ago, and only twice at that. Basically, a can is set up in an open area, and one person is designated as “It.” (That term probably wouldn’t fly today, as it would be considered too detrimental to the poor child’s self-esteem. He’d probably have to be called “The King,” or something equally ego-boosting.)

Next, all the players try to get close enough to the can to kick it (obviously) before they are tagged by It.  There are many variations of the game, which I certainly don’t feel like going into right now. If you’re that curious you can always look it up yourself. There’s this thing called the Internet.

Why kick the can, so popular with kids in the 1930’s and 1940’s and before, would lay such an egg in the 1960’s is anybody’s guess. Sure, that previous generation was growing up in a depression, and so maybe an old dented can was all the sports equipment they could come up with, but I don’t think that’s the reason.

We certainly didn’t grow up in poverty, but most of our games, such as kickball and curb-ball, could be played with nothing but a single ball. And hide-and-seek required no equipment at all. Nope, I have no idea why we never took to the game kick the can, as had generations of children before us. We just didn’t like it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shoe Biz

“It will be fun,” Spike said. “And you’ll have something to write about.”

She was half right. This all began when Spike mentioned that there was a giant shoe sale over at the convention center. Just shoes? Yes. And though I know no more than anyone about what awaits us in the next life, I suspect that spending an eternity in the middle of a gaggle of shrieking females fighting over boxes of footwear might turn out to be a pretty fair approximation of what awaits me in my own personal Hell.

And so why did I go? Well, there were several reasons. One was that we agreed to have lunch at a sushi restaurant after the shoe sale, a restaurant that Spike still held a gift certificate to. Also, believe it or not, I really did think that I might get a story or two out of it, for your entertainment, of course.

There was also a third, minor yet ugly reason. I actually was looking forward to being in a large room where the ratio of women to men was sure to be about 20 to 1. I suspected it was prime “cheap-shot” territory, with scores of women in low-cut summer tops bending over to try on shoes, or dig through boxes.

The reality turned out to be quite disappointing, as reality often tends to do. The women were there in vast numbers, to be sure, but they’re pretty well strapped down these days, what with layers of shirts and ubiquitous brassieres. Now, if I had gone to a sale like this in 1975, women’s fashions being what they were at the time, that would have been much more enjoyable. (Not to mention the fact that I would still have been in my 20’s.)

We parked a few blocks away from the event (Because paying a $10 parking fee to go to a shoe sale would have been, to my mind, nothing short of ludicrous.) We found the entrance to the sale and got at the end of a long line of people. Why, I wondered, was there a line? Why couldn’t we just walk into this thing?

A few minutes later a couple of punks (my word for anybody under 40) walked down the line and, without questions or explanations, distributed wristbands to everyone in line. And I, dutiful 21st century American citizen that I am, put it on, without question.  Still, this was another puzzler. The event was free. There was no booze for sale. Why did I need a wristband?

We waited a few more minutes and then a bunch of us were allowed to enter the vast, warehouse-sized room, where we saw little except groups of large, shoe-filled cardboard boxes scattered throughout the building. Signs were posted identifying the shoes as Women’s, Men’s and Children’s.

“Why don’t you go check out the Men’s?” said Spike immediately. I just laughed. I’ve been around her long enough to easily translate that statement. She was basically telling me to get lost.

“No, I want to stay with you,” I laughed. This might be fun to watch after all.

And it was, at least for a few minutes. Fun, and occasionally borderline scary. For example, after we were there for a short time one of the workers brought out a new box, filled to the brim with shoes. He placed it on the floor right near the section I had been observing, and then the women moved in. I try to always be honest with you, and so I have to admit that I’ve never actually been at the zoo when they throw an antelope carcass into the lion den, but, well, you get the idea.

A few minutes later Spike was holding up a pair of shoes, completely covered in red sparkles, for my inspection. My reaction was to laugh, but I managed to stifle it. Ladies, why would you ever want a pair of red sparkly shoes?

“What do you think of these?” Spike said.
“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” I answered. And frankly, at this point of the shoe sale, I was starting to believe it.

Suddenly there was an announcement. It instructed those shoppers wearing an orange wristband to please proceed to the checkout to pay for their shoes. Aha! There was a purpose to the wristbands! See, the people in charge of things have a very good reason for doing what they do. There’s absolutely no need for us to question them.  Ever.

And so we got in the line for the cashier. Along the way we passed a trash can, and I threw out the empty plastic bag that they had given me to fill with my purchases. Even Spike had only chosen three pairs of shoes (including Dorothy’s magic slippers) which I thought rather constrained until the cashier said they were seventy-seven dollars.

What? I though we came here because this was some big discount warehouse sale. Spike assured me that it was, and that the fragile-looking footwear that everybody was jumping on usually cost forty bucks a pop!

Listen, I can pretend that I understand the whole shoe thing, but, again, I want to be honest. I didn’t see anything in those boxes that was much different from what you might find at a Payless for five bucks. Except, of course, that all-important designer label.

Later, belly filled with free sushi, we finally arrived back home. Spike immediately tried on a pair of her new shoes.

“These are so comfortable!” she said.
“That’s nice,” I answered. 

Friday, July 18, 2014


Then Start Loading Up, Baby!

An Animal Quiz Just For You

This one’s for you. Look, I know each time you try to answer a question on one of these quizzes you almost always get it wrong. Time and time again, your score is even worse than what you’d get from simple random guessing. Why, it’s uncanny how bad you are at this.

But hey, you’re human too, if only just barely. So how about if I make a quiz where the goal is to pick the wrong answer? You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Sure you would.  And what if I made it about animals? You like animals, don’t you? Sure you do.

Below you’ll find the names of ten animals, each followed by four statements. Three of these are correct and one is just plain wrong. All you have to do is pick out the wrong answer. You know, just like you always do.

1. Elephants...
a. There are over 400,000 elephants in Africa
b. A group of elephants is called a herd.
c. Nearly half of elephant births are twins.
d. There are two species of elephants.

2. Polar bears…
a. A polar bear’s favorite foods are seals and penguins.
b. Polar bears play games.
c. Polar bears in zoos sometimes turn green.
d. Polar bears have mated, and reproduced, with grizzly bears.

3. Parrots
a. Parrots can live over eighty years.
b. A parrot’s beak is hollow.
c. Parrots are the only bird that can lift food to its mouth with its feet.
d. Almost all parrot species are threatened with extinction.

4 Snakes…
a. Some snakes can grow to over 28 feet in length.
b. Snakes are found on every continent in the world.
c. Snakes do not have eyelids.
d. Snakes smell with their tongue.

5. Cats…
a. Cat sleep up to ten hours a day.
b. A group of cats is called a clowder.
c. The heaviest domestic cat on record was nearly 47 pounds.
d. There are half a billion domestic cats in the world.

6. Hippopotamuses…
a. Wild hippos are found only in Africa.
b. The word hippopotamus means river horse.
c. The hippo’s closest relatives are whales and dolphins.
d. A hippo has about the same lifespan as a human.

7. Gorillas…
a. Gorillas sometimes eat small animals.
b. Gorillas have fingerprints like humans.
c. A main cause of gorilla death is cardiovascular disease.
d. About 10% of gorillas have blue eyes.

8. Turtles…
a. Most turtle species have five toes on each limb.
b. Turtles date back about 20 million years.
c. The largest known turtle was about 2,000 pounds.
d. Turtles have good eyesight.

9. Whales…
a. The blue whale is the largest animal that ever existed.
b. Whales inhale and exhale through their blowhole.
c. Whales can swim up to 60 miles per hour.
d. Whales never fall asleep completely.

10. Ants…
a. Some ants are green.
b. Some ants raise ants of other species to be slaves.
c. Some ants are blue.
d. The largest ant colony ever discovered was 100 miles long.


1. While elephants do on occasion give birth to twins, it is actually quite rare.
2. Polar bears live in the Arctic. Penguins live in the Antarctic. In fact, the word arctic is derived from the Greek word for bear, and so Antarctic means without bear.
3. There are over 360 species of parrots, and only about 100 are endangered. Maybe “only” isn’t the right word.
4. Snakes are found on every continent in the world…except Antarctica! (No bears either, remember?)
5. On average, cats sleep 13 – 14 hours a day. In fact, there’s one loudly snoring at my feet as I write this.
6. Hippos live only about 45 years.
7. All gorillas have brown eyes.
8. Turtles go back over 200 million years! They originally had teeth and couldn’t retract their head. Modern humans (or “noobs” as the turtles call us) by comparison only go back about half a million years.
9. The top speed for a whale is about 30 miles per hour.
10. Actually, the largest ant colony ever discovered was over 3600 miles long. It stretched from Italy to Spain, and was home to billions of ants!
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