Archive | August, 2010

My Fair Lady

30 Aug

Summer may not be officially over for another month, but for us, it’s done. School has been back in for almost two weeks (thank God) and a few of the maple leaves out front have even started to turn an orangish-red. Sure, it’s 103 degrees and so dry it makes your eyes hurt, but Fall is close. I can feel it. Cooler weather and quenching rain are on the way.

A few weeks ago though, to end our summer with a bang, we decided to hit the State Fair.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan. It’s always hot, too crowded and usually just gross. (When I was younger, some kid spit on my mom from the top of the ferris wheel. Every time I walk by one, I still cringe).

So after a giant plate of curly fries and some funnel cake, I’m over it. And to be honest, I don’t really like funnel cake. It’s just a long day full of spinning backwards and flying upside down on noisy rides I don’t want to be on, while the greasy-haired carny who’s in charge of my safety picks his fingernails with a rusty pocketknife he won from the bearded lady in last night’s midnight round of quarters. Not that I judge. It’s just not my thing.

But every other person on the planet seems to like this stuff, so we went. We parked half a mile away (another bonus) and hiked to the entrance. As we stood in line to have our bags searched, I could feel the tickle of sweat already running down the backs of my legs. We hadn’t even gotten through the gate and I was miserable.

We paid the admission and pushed through the turnstile. After waving off the “complimentary” photograph (such a racket), we huddled around the ticket booth and started calculating the best deal for a day’s worth of rides. A few hand stamps later and we were good to go. Not five feet from the entrance and already $150 in. Nice.

And then I heard a woman behind me say this:

“I know someone who clawed her own eyes out, you betcha, and now she’s blind. Straight up.”

Huh. That’s a new one. I wonder if this unlikely event was the inspiration for Paula Abdul’s hit in the 80’s. YouTube – Paula Abdul – Straight Up (Video). Or better yet, how about for a new website: shitiheard.com.  Seriously, WTF? Is that even possible? I want to meet the cat that can claw their own eyes out. I have questions.

When I turned around (how could you not?), the long-haired, leathery old woman was wearing a bright orange vest. An employee. Of course. I can’t be sure, but I thought I saw a rough patch of stubble on her chin and the faded outline of an old pocketknife on the back pocket of her jeans. You know, like the burners in school used to get from their Skoal cans. Tough break. But like Everlast says, “it comes that way, least that’s what they say, when you play the game.” YouTube – Everlast – What Its Like.

And then I smiled. Because all of a sudden, $150 and a little bit of sweat seemed like a bargain. Definitely worth the price of admission.

The Dude Abides

23 Aug

A few weeks ago my stepdad had knee replacement surgery.  He’s doing well, despite this ridiculous scar and an ongoing, painful rehab. And in a few more weeks he should be, almost, back to normal.

During his first week home from the hospital he had to use a walker to get around. And it was slow going. My mom thought it might be nice for him to be able to carry around some small things, since his hands would be busy balancing on the walker.

So she made him a bag. And attached it to his walker.

When word of this got out, my brothers were merciless. No self-respecting man would have a cute little walker purse, no matter how full his hands were, or how much stuff he needed to carry. Or so they said. They insisted that if he really needed to have stuff with him he should wear a camo vest with lots of pockets instead. Ya’ know, full of bullets and raw meat.

Yes, there are three of them. All brothers. I’m the only girl.

Somehow that picture of my stepdad with his Steelers walker bag (way to man it up, by the way, Mom) is much less disturbing than the mental image of him shuffling behind the walker wearing a vest full of ammo and bloody beef.

But the thing is, my stepdad already had it handled. Because in his quiet, steady way, he had found a way to toughen up his walker bag, and make good use of it at the same time.

Turns out that one day while he was in the front yard with the dogs, a car drove by just a little too slowly, the young punk at the wheel staring for just a little too long at the crippled old man and his walker. (The Facebook ad for a Hovercraft that popped up later that night didn’t help much either).

Yep. That’s a gun. A Walther PPK to be specific. Right where he can reach it, next to the remote control and the dog brushes. I’m actually kind of surprised there was only one. There’s an awful lot of room in that bag.

Anyway, after getting leered at by the creep in the car, the walker bag has become a holster. Because hey, he might have to gimp around and look helpless for another month or so, and they might get him in the end, but sure as hell not without a fight.

Nice. It’s good to know where you come from.

So this one’s for the fighters. For everyone who ever refused to give up or give in, even when it sucked. For everyone who listened to that determined little voice inside that said, “Not me, Pal. Not today.”

But mostly it’s for you, Papa. Thanks for keeping it most real.

14 Reasons

19 Aug

Are we still talking about this? Really? Well, I’m done. The whole conversation is stupid.

Here are 14 reasons why repealing the 14th Amendment is the most asinine thing I’ve heard since Arizona started running it’s collective mouth back in April.

#14.

Because if Basil Marceaux (dot.com) qualifies to run for office (YouTube – Basil Marceaux : The Next Governor of Tennessee and YouTube – Basil Marceaux for TN Governor OFFICIAL CAMPAIN AD), any baby born here qualifies to be a citizen. Come on.


#13.

Because little brown babies are cute. See?


#12.

Because, for better or worse, if you’re born here, you’re one ah us. End of story. Parents of anchor babies, be advised.

#11.

Because random right wing rhetoric like this is why people hate Republicans. Thanks.

#10.

Because this is how you get a “Melting Pot.” Yeah. Remember that from 3rd grade?

#9.

Because pushing a baby out of your body is hard enough without adding this bullshit on top of it.

#8.

Because the 14th amendment is just as important as the rest of them, including the 2nd.

#7.

Because it’s only a HUGE part of how we define ourselves as a nation. (And I for one ain’t turnin’ into no commy).

#6.

Because the August 5th editorial in The New York Times was right: Editorial – Xenophobia – Fear-Mongering for American Votes – NYTimes.com, the danger from jet-setting pregnant Brazilians is probably pretty minimal.

#5.

Because it’s in the Constitution, and I’m just spitballing here, but that’s KIND OF A BIG DEAL.

#4.

Because the 14th amendment is a good thing. Just like it was 150 years ago.

#3.

Because you could probably count on one hand the number of illegals who are hiding in back rooms actually scheming to have “anchor babies.”

#2.

Because there are better ways to deal with the issue. This article is awesome. Barnidge: Anchor babies and angry readers go hand in hand – ContraCostaTimes.com. Read it.

#1.

Because inclusive is better/stronger/braver than exclusive. Any day. Any time. And it’s the right thing to do. DUH.

The Final Countdown

17 Aug

Yesterday afternoon I got lucky. I was running errands, flipping through radio stations in my car, and caught an old 80’s classic: Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” And it was even at the beginning, during the first 20-30 seconds of synthesizer, when Joey Tempest (I’m sure that’s his real name) and the boys are building all that cool, dramatic tension.


He started singing, and then I started singing, chanting and shouting while I drove, nodding my head enthusiastically as, together, the band and I lived through their harrowing adventures in space.

Except, it isn’t really so harrowing. Or adventurous. In fact, as I heard the words coming out of my mouth, the lyrics that I’ve known for over 15 years, the very words I was rocking out to, I realized that they were pretty bad. Shockingly bad. So lame that I was jolted from my nostalgic memory of cruising the circuit in 10th grade (you could only go around a few times before the cops came after you), right back to the drudgery of my suburban Walmart parking lot.

Thanks for crafting such quality lyrics, Joey. I had been enjoying running from the PoPo.

But I laughed. I mean, what else can you do when confronted with this:

“We’re leaving together

but still it’s farewell.

And maybe we’ll come back

to Earth. Who can tell?”

Who can tell? That’s what my grandmother says when I ask her if it looks like rain. Or what the creepy one-eyed librarian says when you ask if the book on flesh-eating mummies is checked out.

It is not what you say when you are strapping into a rocket headed to Venus.

Which brings us to verse number two.

“We’re heading to Venus

And still we stand tall.

‘Cause maybe they’ve seen us

And welcome us all, yeah.”

Okay, so all I have to say is thank God they rhymed “seen us” with Venus, instead of something else, if you know what I mean. Just sayin’.

The full lyrics can be found here (in case you need more): The Final Countdown: Lyrics from Answers.com.

But as I walked through the store, picking up dog food, mouthwash and a few college ruled notebooks in the perfect shade of sky blue (too dark and it looks stupid, too light and it’s just babyish-GOD MOM!), the whole thing made me wonder. Could lyrics get any worse, or had I somehow stumbled upon the very depths that music had to offer? So as soon as I got home, I started digging.

I found, for your enjoyment:

The 20 Worst Lyrics Ever: No. 20 – Spinner. There’s some good stuff, but curiously, no Europe. I think they missed the mark on that.

I also found a fun site called www.misheardlyricsguy.com. Some of his best work is below, translating Pearl Jam’s great (but completely unintelligible) song, “Yellow Ledbetter” : YouTube – misheardlyricsguy’s Channel. Give yourself the gift of these 6 minutes. You won’t regret it.

Regardless of the cheesy lines and the trumped up drama in “The Final Countdown,” it was a big hit.  Number one in tons of countries, (although it only went to # 8 here), and #14 in an Mtv list of 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs: The Final Countdown | Europe | Music Video | MTV. And it still takes me back. I guess it always will. There’s just no denying Joey’s big hair and pouty lips, or the call of that synthesizer.

Winnebago Man

11 Aug

Speaking of losing it…

We’ve all had those days. When you’ve reached the limit and still there’s no relief in sight. When you just missed the last train home and now you’re stuck in Suckville for the night.

You know, like when you’re at work, fighting hard to stay conscious as your boss (the same moron that putzed his way through the Electric Slide last Christmas after too much Goldschlager) waxes poetic about team building and someone’s cheese. Or like when you walk in your daughter’s room and trip over another heap of wet towels (the empty towel rung laughing from its lonely perch on the bathroom wall).

And yet, despite your increasingly detailed vision of shoving a watermelon-sized kielbasa up someone’s nose, you have to keep it together. You manage. Because surely there’s a law against treating sausage that way. Somewhere.

Luckily, for most of us, those moments pass without being filmed.

But what if they were? What if your job was being on camera? What if you had to stand in front of a whole crew of people and smile, delivering your rehearsed, inane lines, take after take, while keeping a lid on the pressure cooker?

What if the lid slipped?

This is what. This RV salesman is seething in a circle of hell you have to see to believe. Fair warning, he could put a bar full of sailors to shame. YouTube – The Definitive Winnebago Man.

Not only did Jack Rebney (now your favorite Winnebago Man) unknowingly become an underground hit as VHS tapes of his rant circulated in the 90’s, but when You Tube came on the scene, his popularity exploded.

And now there’s a movie. Oh yeah. Check out: Winnebago Man.

I haven’t cried this hard watching a video clip since Ford’s Evil Twin commercials. YouTube – Ford’s Evil Twin Commercials – Back to Back! So thanks to my brother Cheese for passing it along, and thanks to filmmaker Ben Steinbauer for taking it to the next level. I only hope I’m lucky enough to have Mr. Rebney’s piece de resistance playing in a theater nearby.

All Tied Up

6 Aug

When was the last time you lost it? I mean, for real, smoke coming out of your ears, head-spinning, Exorcist, berserker, lost it.

I had one yesterday.

You see, I got a new bag for my birthday. And for some unknown girly reason that I don’t even want to evaluate, it makes me happy. Just the sight of it. Just knowing it’s mine. It’s a great bag, from my favorite store. It’s big and slouchy but still has some shape, casual enough for everyday but quirky enough to make me smile every time I see it. The fabric is deep blue and green and just feels great in your hands.  And it has this super cute, perfectly tied bow right at the top. Ahhhh…

Or, I should say, it used to have a super cute, perfectly tied bow at the top.

Now there’s just a mess of wrinkled green fabric up there; two sad, limp strips hanging down from the top in defeated disgrace, like a boustier-clad cougar crawling home alone, throat sore, ears still ringing after a rockin’ night at the Justin Bieber concert. And, girl, there is nothing cute about that.

Of course it was an accident, which only added to my complete melt down. Not only did my daughter sit on one end of the bow as she got in the car, accidentally untying its gleaming, store-bought perfection, but she didn’t even do it on purpose. Which meant I really couldn’t be mad at her.

So, in characteristically good form, always going for that coveted “Mother of the Year” award, I completely lost it.

“AHHH!” I said, the whites of my eyes glowing as my body began to shake. “MY BOW!”

“Huh?” The impudence. Honestly, should anyone have to put up with this?

“It’s ruined! The whole thing! Just…just…LOOK at it!” I screamed.

“Here,” she said patiently, smirking a bit as she realized the lunacy that had overwhelmed me, “I’ll just re-tie it. It’ll be fine, Mom.”

Keep smiling. Go ahead. Destroy my perfect bow and all my happiness with it, and then laugh in my face!

“See,” she said, holding up the sad, homemade wreckage, “a bow.”

“That’s…that’s…not right!” Huff. Stamp. Pout.

She snickered, amused by my baby fit.

“The whole thing is just ruined now,” I fumed. “And it can’t be fixed. Ever. I don’t know how to tie a bow like that. No one ties bows like that. Only store people.”

She sat in the passenger seat, twitching from the effort it took not to laugh. She had been given that rare (hmm…) gift, a moment when she was the most mature person in the car.

“I’m sorry. Just forget it. It’s just that it’s stupid and ruined forever now,” I stammered, shaking my head. (If I’m honest, I was almost in tears. Don’t judge). “It’s nothing now but…but…but a big bag with an old ASSY bow.”

And that’s when she laughed, which (thank God) made me laugh too.

The good news is that after about ten minutes of deep breathing, more laughing, and the two of us shaking our heads at just how truly assy our pathetic attempts at bow tying were, I decided to take it to our dry cleaner, who happens to be a master seamstress, and, coincidentally, in case you’re ever in need, can tie a mean bow. Just like a store person.

It’s good to have great kids. Sometimes they’re right there for you when you need them most, to make assy bows with and to talk you down from the ledge. Even if the only reason you’re up there in the first place is because they ruined your shit.

Road Rules

3 Aug

I’ve been in California for a little over three years now. We moved from Pennsylvania, leaving behind our families and friends and just about everything we’d ever known. We traded giant, aging maples for California oaks and crepe myrtle, and summer thunderstorms for a fire season. The adjustment hasn’t been super smooth.  At least for me.


There are some good things about the golden state though. In addition to the thunderstorms, we traded oppressive humidity for that legendary “dry heat.” It’s nice, in a desert kind of way.  And Spring in Northern California is really special. So there’s that.

I guess I’m even getting kind of used to it. Now when strangers are unusually friendly or helpful, like when the bagger at the grocery store wants to walk your cart to the car, I don’t immediately look over my shoulder and wonder what the hell they’re up to. Seriously, do I look like I can’t even make it to the car by myself? It’s a cart load of groceries, I think I can handle it.

Oops, that’s the east coast slipping out again.

After the first couple of times this happened, I asked the kids at the store if I was supposed to tip them or something. They smiled and said no. It’s just something they liked to do. Yeah, sure.  And ironing is just something I like to do, too.

Over time though, I’ve begun to realize that the people here are, truly, just being nice.

You only think they’re being nice. You’re losing your edge. Ahh, the voice that soothes me to sleep at night.

But there’s one thing I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. No matter how long we live here or how many times it happens, I will never be able to wrap my head around it.

People walk right out in front of you while you are driving.

Like, right out in front of you and they don’t even look. It makes me insane. And it’s not an accident, or a distraction. It’s their right. YouTube – California DMV – Rules of the Road #10 – Right of Way.

It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. In an effort to make pedestrians safer (because it’s so hard to look before you cross the street), they have given them free reign over the pavement.

I think it’s the air of entitlement that really gets me; as if I have nothing better to do than wait (with a smile) for someone to meander across the road in front of me. It triggers a deep, sadistic itch to mash the pedal to the floor and run them down. Who doesn’t look before they cross the street? Hey! I’m driving here!

It’s worse in parking lots, as you can imagine. It’s so rampant that sometimes it can take fifteen minutes to go from one end of a shopping center to the other. Is there something wrong with the sidewalk? Perhaps we could pass a new law allowing me to drive there.

I had a guy do it as I was leaving the development the other day. I was driving down the street and this guy was getting his mail. He stepped into the road as I approached, right out in front of me, and never even looked.

Here is the crux of it. This is the part where my blood just begins to boil.  Everyone just assumes that the car will stop or slow down, that it’s no problem for me to accommodate them, that somehow they have the right of way. Okay, I guess they do have the right of way, but that doesn’t make it right. It just makes it legal. Stupid and annoying, but legal.

And anyway, you know what they say about assuming. That it makes the driver of the car you just walked out in front of want to run your ass over.  It’s something like that. I’m sure I’ve heard it before.

So the guy walked into the street and I literally had to stop my car so I didn’t hit him.  It took everything I had, trust me.  At this point, you might think he would’ve looked up and waved, ya’ know, as a small token of thanks for not running him down like a piece of jerky. You might think that, I know I sure did. But no. He leisurely leafed through his envelopes and checked out the sale flyer from Costco as he continued across, oh so confident in his right to be there and in his safety.

I guess they figure that all drivers are nice, like them. Don’t bet on it. Some of us are still adjusting to all of this sunshine.

So let’s just call this one a public service announcement, a kind of health advisory, if you will.

Let this be a warning to all those westerners thinking of traveling east. If I were you, I’d think twice before I stepped into the street, or even the parking lot at Walmart, without looking.

The rules of the road are different on the other coast, along with the attitude of the natives.  Maybe it’s the constant cloud cover or maybe it’s the humidity, but I absolutely guarantee that people back home will run you down.  And maybe you’d just deserve it.