Sunday, December 9, 2012
Another thing I’d like to make clear is an adage I heard my father say many times of which I am in full agreement. My Daddy will be the first one to say: “Inventors are the laziest people in the world.” It’s really true. Throughout history, people have made inventions to make life easier. People can do more work in less time with less effort. I use the term work only in the realm of physical science here. Again, we are talking as little effort as possible.
Recently, I was walking through a department store and browsing through the menswear. It was during such browsing that I saw the most appalling evidence that my Daddy was spot on about inventors and laziness. Right before my very eyes was an invention known as a zipper tie. What, pray tell, is a zipper tie you ask? Simply explained, a zipper tie is a pre-knotted neck tie with a zipper mechanism that helps to properly tighten the knot at the neckline. Such ties are not designed for 8 year old boys to wear to Sunday school. They are not even designed for the 14 year old boy who would only buy shaving cream for his Momma’s legs. No sir, this cretinous creation is designed for ADULT MEN.
I went home after this daft discovery in “menswear” to investigate this matter further. These zipper ties are marketed for men “on the go”. I found several online videos that spoke of the attributes of whipping this sucker around your neck to make that last minute job interview or that date that is patiently waiting for you.
People I am just going to come right out and say it. This type of marketing is the greatest baby barfing bile of untruth I have ever heard in my life. This invention is catering caters to men to who don’t want to be bothered to take the less than 5 minutes it takes to tie a proper double Windsor knot. What worse is they have reached adulthood and DON’T KNOW HOW to tie a double Windsor knot. Part of me can not help but feel pity for such a poor soul. We are talking about a man who has reached adulthood and does not know how to properly tie a necktie. It’s quite possible that the young sap’s father is not in the picture. What’s worse is that he is probably still buying cheap shaving cream for his hairy legged Momma (and he can’t get a date in a fruit market)
Unfortunately, that only represents a small portion of the zipper ties marketing demographic. There is quite the possibility that this poor soul HAS a father who failed to teach him how to tie a double Windsor knot. Basically, this father is lazier than the man who invented the zipper tie. People this MUST stop NOW! We should not allow young men to get an age reduction on their car insurance without knowing how to tie a double Windsor knot. Fathers, I beg of you to take the time and teach your son how to tie a double Windsor knot. Make that boy stand in front of a mirror until he knows how to tie that necktie in less than 5 minutes BY HIMSELF. If he can tie it properly without a mirror, give that boy a few bucks. He’ll need it for the date he can now get.
I realize I may have gotten a bit carried away on this issue. Still, I think about these frauds of fashion who created this necktie and just want to hold my baby grandson just a little bit tighter. To paraphrase the writings of Margaret Mitchell: As God is my witness, they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, my grandsons WILL know how to tie a double Windsor knot. I shall give this issue a rest for now. After all, tomorrow is another day (Sorry, Ms. Mitchell, I couldn't resist).
Sunday, November 18, 2012
That particular Friday in September was not just any routine Friday. I left work early that day. My wife, Renee, and daughter, Brianna, had long planned in advance the details of this particular weekend. They made sure that bags were packed with all the essentials. My younger son, Caleb, elected to recuse himself from this particular excursion to “hold down the fort” and look after the cats. This was DEFINITELY NOT your everyday family getaway. On this particular Friday in September, we were driving Brianna to the hospital. Brianna was in full term pregnancy and going to a birthing unit to induce labor. Again, this was not a vacation. Still, to say that we were going on a trip would only prove to be a tremendous understatement.
Brianna, Renee, and I arrived at the hospital and got things somewhat settled in the birthing room. Other family members arrived including my older daughter, Shayna, and my older son, Tom. Along with Tom and Shayna was Tom’s fiancée, Christy, and my son in-law, Mike. Brianna’s boyfriend, Jamie, also arrived to await the arrival of his son. We all sat and socialized for a while. Soon, the subject came up regarding projections for the baby’s arrival. It wasn’t long before we started recording everyone’s projections on a whiteboard that was mounted to the wall. For those of you whom have never experienced a labor induction (i.e. mothers, fathers, and other family/friends), I should explain one of the first things I learned from this experience. I arrived at the hospital on that Friday afternoon thinking I would be holding my grandson early the following Saturday morning. My expectation would prove to be one of ignorance and inexperience as, one by one, names and projection times were erased from the whiteboard. Tom and Mike left to go home during some of this early wait period. Christy and Shayna would remain behind to keep Brianna company and assist with the labor coaching (once that moment arrived).
Friday night soon led to early Saturday morning hours. I would routinely get up and walk around. I have sleep apnea and require a CPAP machine to sleep. I won’t go into much detail other than to say that, without the machine, I usually forgo any attempt to sleep. This is partly because the resulting snoring is horrendous to anyone within a mile of me. This is also due to the fact the effects of attempting to sleep without the machine would likely leaving me feel worse (and less alert) that to just stay awake. Besides that, I truly didn’t want to risk missing anything. Aside from dosing myself with caffeine using sodas and coffee, I would get up and walk around. I would wind up getting more chances to do such walking than I had anticipated. The hospital staff would routinely come to check on Brianna. Part of these visits would involve an exam for which Brianna would naturally prefer some privacy. Each time this took place, Brianna would politely ask me to step out.
As the Saturday hours passed, Brianna had been given some medication to help induce the labor process. The hospital staff began using words and phrases such as “soon” and “getting closer” to the point where it seemed almost scripted. I had long been past the point of when I expected to be holding my grandchild. As frustrating as that was for me, I tried to empathize with Brianna as well as I knew how. She had not really slept much at all since arriving at the hospital. It was becoming clear that this fatigue, combined with the extreme discomfort that goes with labor induction, was taking its toll on Brianna. She was becoming the stereotypical demonically possessed woman in labor. Let’s just say there is a reason that pea soup is not served on a labor floor of a hospital.
As we all got into late Saturday evening, the cycle continued. I’d sit and talk to whomever was awake. Occasionally, Brianna would stir (or growl) haven’t still not truly slept since her arrival. Only two projections remained on the whiteboard. At any given point, one of us would bend down to Brianna’s belly begging this child to please hurry up. Several times over the past 30 some odd hours at this point, mothers in other rooms could be heard screaming with labor pains. Each time I heard these screams, I pictured a grandfather that was closer to his moment than I was. It seemed unfair. I WANTED MY TURN! I was sick of hearing “Soon”. We had to post a notice on Facebook asking that people please wait for us to post an update as the inquiries of “Is the baby there yet?” was really upsetting Brianna. We were all getting a bit frayed at the ends.
It was upon the arrival of Mary Jane. Mary Jane was an overnight nurse assigned to Brianna. As we had all done for previous staff, we asked Mary Jane for her projections for the birth. Mary Jane said she wasn’t certain the baby would arrive by the time her shift ended at 7:00 AM Sunday morning. As frustrating as that was to hear, I was actually relieved to get a more realistic projection other than “gettin’ closer”. In addition, Mary Jane brought a pot of coffee into the room with cups, sugar, and creamers for everyone. She kept us supplied throughout the night. Best of all, Brianna was getting to a point in her labor pains where she could get some medicine to help her rest. Brianna got a heavy duty epidural painkiller and FINALLY was able to get in SOME productive sleep after more than 30 hours. As Brianna began to get some rest, we all began to relax a bit more.
The cycle continued but we could see some light at the end of the tunnel. We had now gone into Sunday morning. Many times, I would get up to walk around. I would go back to the room to sit down with a cup of coffee only to have Brianna politely ask me to step out for another exam. The little bit of sleep was proving helpful for Brianna. The epidural elephant tranquilizer was really taking the edge off of her contractions. When Brianna woke up from her brief nap, she actually apologized for her earlier behavior to everyone. Yup, that medicine was doing a good job.
As morning staff came in, Mary Jane’s predictions had proven correct. Her shift had ended and no baby. It was soon afterward that Brianna, though heavily medicated, informed everyone that she was ready to push. The midwife came in and prepared to deliver. Renee and Jamie stood at each side of Brianna at the head of the bed; each holding one of Brianna’s hands. Shayna and Christy stood next to Renee and Jamie respectively. Their job was to hold up Brianna’s legs during the delivery. My job was much simpler – stand back and shut up. I was expecting a screaming banshee as I had heard from other mothers throughout this ordeal. That didn’t happen as the epidural medication only required Brianna to take deep cleansing breaths each time she pushed. I kept my post and watched eagerly as the baby’s arrival got closer and closer.
I decided to step in from the sidelines when the doctor said she saw crowning (the baby’s head was visible). I stood on the other side of Christy as I watched Taelor-James Robert Schaller make his debut into the world. Soon enough, Taelor was out, pink, and crying. The doctor asked if anyone wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I switched places with Jamie as every father short experience this with the birth of their child. I held Brianna’s hand and things progressed forward as they transferred Taelor to a baby table in the same room.
It was somewhere around this point that things had apparently gone awry. Taelor, who was just seconds ago, pink and crying was suddenly not either of these. As Brianna was continuing the afterbirth phase of delivery, I heard one of the doctors standing over Taelor use the word “resuscitate”. I heard this word and softly said “What?”. Apparently, the phrase “What?” perked up several sets of ears. Jamie immediately moved over to where Taelor was laying. Seemingly out of nowhere, a cadre of doctors and nurses sprang into the room. I could barely see Taelor between an array of stethoscopes, people, and a bag pushing oxygen into his body.
Brianna began to pick up on the fact that something had suddenly gone wrong with Taelor – VERY WRONG. You could see Brianna’s face instantly change. She was no longer letting out deep cleansing breaths. She was crying as she overheard the team of doctors and nurses work to revive Taelor. As the team began their efforts, Taelor began to respond and get his color back. Unfortunately, Brianna could not see any of this because all the people in the room were (unintentionally) blocking her view of Taelor. Brianna was now sobbing uncontrollably in Renee’s arms. Jamie stood and watched, horrified, and the staff continued working on Taelor.
This was easily the most traumatizing event I have ever experienced. I stood there. I was unable to help Taelor and had to rely on medical staff to do their jobs. I was unable to console Brianna who knew something was wrong but could not see that her son was actually improving.I had never before felt so powerless and weak as a father. Daddies fix things. Daddies make it better. I was unable to do either. Brianna began to scream: “LET ME SEE TAELOR! I WANT TO HOLD TAELOR!’ I told Brianna that she would get to hold her baby but she had to let the medical team do their thing and take care of him. I promised her that Taelor was getting his color back and was breathing. One of the doctors who was resuscitated came over to reassure Brianna as well: “He’s pinking up and breathing really well”.
Brianna’s delivery was now complete and the medical rescue cadre who came to rescue Taelor left almost as quickly as they arrived. The neonatal doctor told us Taelor would have to be observed in a neonatal intensive care unit due to the fact that he stopped breathing after birth. The doctor told us we had just a few short to hold him and then they would have to take him. So five of all took turns holding Taelor in the space of less than 10 minutes. We were all relieved to finally hold this baby but still numb from what had just happened. As I held my new grandson, barely able to contain my emotion, I kissed his forehead and said: “If you scare your Momma like that again. You are GROUNDED!”
The NICU staff then took Taelor for observation. We would later find out he came in at 7 lbs. 12 oz and was 20.75 inches long. We would also find out that, after going to the NICU, Taelor began experiencing seizures. Taelor would spend 12 more days in the hospital before he could come home. During his post partum stay I dubbed him – Taelor, The Mighty Warrior. It would truly prove to be a fitting title as he is now home and is as right as rain.
As I have had time to reflect on the entrance of Taelor – The Mighty Warrior into the world. I realized how blessed we all were in the situation. I have had more than one friend who would endure the trauma of a miscarriage or stillbirth. God chose not to have us endure such an experience. Brianna got to bring Taelor home (eventually). I cannot imagine the pain my friends experienced given what transpired with Taelor. All I can do is be grateful for the blessing of a grandchild and hope I never have to experience such a blessing in the same fashion ever again.
Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to kiss my grandson…because I can.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
The day had finally come. It was Shayna and Michael’s wedding day. At this point, it seemed like all we had to do was put on our fancy clothes and show up. I say that it seemed that way because it wasn’t just some snap-your-fingers-and-VOILA-it happens process. First, there was the issue with my formal Scottish kilt. Donning this gear was an interesting experience to say the least. I spent some time searching for some instructions on on the Internet and found a very informative video. I was initially a bit thrown by the instructions telling me to first put on my socks and shoes. [Note: I KNOW they are called kilt hose but let’s not get into that again]. Once I did this, then I had to deal with the kilt, chain, and sporran. This was quite a production. It probably took me a good hour to get the outfit on and be satisfied with the results. I would imagine if you ask any girl I ever dated (or married), they would describe my experience in two words: poetic justice.
Once I was dressed, I decided to walk up and down the hallway for a few minutes. This was really a test to be sure that everything stayed where it was supposed to be. Once this test was successful, my pace became more of a strut (I did NOT prance). Being a guy, I even found myself quoting Mel Gibson from Braveheart. It was at this point that my younger son, Caleb, walked into the hallway dressed in a very nice suit and tie. Caleb sized me up and said: “Nice outfit, Kilt Boy.” This was one of several reminders that each of my four children are now actually young adults. It was now time for Caleb and me to make our way to the wedding site – Highland Park.
Once Caleb and I arrived at the park, we met up with Michael (the groom) and the other groomsman which included my older son, Tom. We were one fine looking bunch if I do say so myself. Michael told me that there were corsages and boutonnieres for everyone in the wedding party. Caleb, Michael, and the groomsmen donned their boutonnieres and adjourned to the area of the park where the wedding was being held. I remained behind at the party house where the reception was being held (also in Highland Park). I donned my boutonniere and greeted folks as they arrived. If they were a guest, I directed them to the wedding site. If they were in the wedding party, I gave them the applicable floral decoration. This involved a lot of waiting and pacing. As I paced, my boutonniere kept falling off. I must have fastened that stupid flower on like eight times. Some extended family arrived and took a picture of me in my formal kilt. I soon thereafter shared that picture on my Facebook wall. As I greeted more guests, I noticed that someone had commented on my picture. It was my niece commenting that I “look a lot like Grandma”. I understand that my niece was sincerely trying to compliment me. I did, however, let her know that a man in a kilt does not wish to be told how much he looks like his mother.
My routine continued onward….pace..drop boutonniere…re-fasten boutonniere. Maybe I am typing this just because I love saying the word boutonniere. Still, it IS what happened. Ladies from the bridal party began to arrive. This included my younger daughter, Brianna, who couldn’t resist complimenting me on my dress and my corsage. I was getting too nervous to retort at this point. It was shortly after this point that Shayna (the bride) arrived. All I can say is that she was just too beautiful for words. My wife had also arrived (looking amazing). Tom’s fiancée, Christy, also arrived with her mother. It is at this point that I must acknowledge and thank Christy for the wonderful job she did on everyone’s hair (after insisting she would only be doing the bride’s hair).
The ladies all congregated in the reception hall chattering about I don’t know what. I resumed my nervous pace in the foyer. Once again, my boutonniere fell off my vest. I decided it was time to seek some help on the matter. I turned around and saw Christy and asked if she could re-fasten my boutonniere. Christy also felt the need to outsource this solution by summoning her mother – Jean. Jean remedied my problem quite nicely. I don’t know HOW she did it but that sucker was STAYING on my vest. THANK YOU, JEAN! Once again, my pace became more of a strut (still no prancing). Once again, it was time for the next phase.
I walked with Shayna and the rest of the bridal party through an area of Highland Park called the Poet’s Garden. This allowed us to along a nice path to the wedding site without being seen by the wedding guests (or the groom). As we made it toward the end of the pathway, we began to pair up and form our proper places in line. It was at this point that two things happened. First, the world around me seemed to be suddenly running in slow motion. Secondly, I seemed to lose the ability to do the simplest thing without instructions. It was only Shayna’s voice that seemed to keep me on course and in reality.
Shayna and I were soon the last ones left to make our way to the wedding site. Again, I needed Shayna to guide me through the simplest tasks. “Fix my dress, please, Daddy.” What do you need me to do? “Just straighten out the hem so it isn’t crumpled.” OK, when do we know when to start walking up? “When they play Here Comes The Bride, we start walking.” My heart and mind were racing but everything else was still in slow motion. I was more nervous than Lindsay Lohan’s driving instructor. I was bracing myself for the worst. What if I trip? What if I step on Shayna’s dress? Shayna and I walked forward as the music played. People stood as we walked closer and closer to the altar. We had made it. Shayna did a wonderful job leading the way and was kind enough to make it look like i was the one leading.
Luis, also a member of the family, was the minister for this wonderful event. He asked in his cheerful but thunderous bass voice: WHO GIVES THIS WOMAN TO BE MARRIED? It was at this point where everything seemed to play at normal speed again. I proudly replied: I DO! I kissed Shayna on the cheek and placed her hand in Michael’s hand. I then whispered to Michael: You kept the payments up, son. She’s all yours.
I stood next to my wife and the ceremony continued. My baby had finally become a bride.After the ceremony, we all posed for hundreds of photos. We even let the wedding photographer get a few shots. We made our way to the reception. On top of all the wonderful things I experienced to that point, I got to dance with my wife and both of my daughters. My body was in Highland Park. My heart was on Cloud Nine.
Once I got home, I changed out of my formal kilt outfit. As I was getting ready to put the outfit away, I noticed that I had forgotten to remove something. It was the one thing that, for hours, I was happily able to take for granted. I reached for the vest and happily removed the boutonniere. With this last action, a very happy, important day was over.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
I should point out that there were a few details of this wedding that, shall we say, veered a bit from tradition. We had arranged with the deejay that the bridal party would be introduced as “Master of Puppets” played. The bridesmaids were all wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers. One particular bridesmaid wore a pair that had a Batman theme. These were all very cool elements for the ceremony. Other elements, on the other hand, were quite traditional. The groom, Michael, comes from a Scottish bloodline. Because of this, the outdoor ceremony took place as the bride and groom stood beneath an oak tree. The setting was amazing. Nothing was as beautiful as the bride but one could argue that I am biased on that matter.
Another tradition that Michael wished to honor had to do with the formal wear for the groomsman and, yours truly, the Father of the Bride. Once again honoring Scottish heritage, we all had to wear formal kilts. Now, in spite of my Celtic bloodline, this was NOT something I was particular looking forward to. Still, I joked that if it meant I got to watch Mike and Shayna get married, I’d wear a dress. Mike and Shayna politely declined my offer.
About three months prior to the wedding, several of us went to the Celtic formal shop to get measure for our kilts. Once that was done, we had to leave a 50% deposit then pay the balance the day before the wedding when we picked up the outfits. That part of the ordeal was pretty quick and painless. The rough part was the constant teasing by both of my daughters. This was especially on the part of my younger daughter, Brianna, who still lives with me. At every possible opportunity, when the subject of the wedding came up, Brianna would say (in between fits of laughter): DAD HAS TO WEAR A DRESS FOR THE WEDDING! This would result in some back and forth dialogue between us: DAD HAD TO WEAR A DRESS! It’s called a KILT, Baby Girl. DAD HAD TO CARRY A PURSE, TOO! That’s a SPORRAN, Baby Girl! HEY DAD! I”M GOING TO THE MALL! WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO PICK YOU UP SOME FRILLY UNDIES AND SOME GARTERS TO GO UNDER YOUR DRESS? NO, Baby Girl. The garters come with the ….LEAVE ME ALONE!
Finally, the day before the wedding arrived and I had to go to the rental shop and pick up my outfit. For some strange reason, I thought bringing my wife (Renee), daughter (Brianna),and son (Caleb) along for the occasion was a good idea. Actually, part of it had to do with the fact was that it was also, coincidentally, Brianna’s 21st birthday. Brianna had actually been rather well behaved as we ran some errands prior to getting to the Celtic formal shop. I would soon find out that this was temporary. As we walked into the store, the first thing Brianna saw was a mannequin dressed in a formal kilt. This caused Brianna to succumb to a sudden (and loud) outburst of laughter. I tried my best to ignore her as I was inspecting the outfit with the nice saleslady and going over the terms of the rental. When we got into our van, it all started again. This time, my wife decided to join in: DAD HAS TO WEAR A DRESS FOR THE WEDDING! It’s a KILT, baby girl. HONEY, WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO GET YOU A SLIP FROM THE DEPARTMENT STORE? [Brianna is now snorting with laughter] HEY, DAD! ARE YOU GOING TO WEAR FISHNET STOCKINGS WITH YOUR DRESS? It’s a KILT, Baby Girl. Also, I don’t wear “stockings”. They are special socks called [perusing the list]…ummm…kilt hose….LEAVE ME ALONE!!! Brianna, Renee, and Caleb are now doubled over with laughter and squealing like howler monkeys. DAD’S WEARING HOSE WITH HIS DRESS AND PURSE!!!! Y’ALL LEAVE ME ALONE!!!
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Not quite three years ago, I once again let my mind go wandering. One thing lead to another and I began to muse over words that sound funny but are real words with legitimate uses. I reached out to my sons for input. This resulted in one son scouring a dictionary and the other son combing through a thesaurus. My two daughters even got involved. I came up with a list of 18 words and wrote my feelings about each word on the list. I had a wonderful time doing this and wanted to revive the piece. I reached out to friends on the Internet as well as colleagues from work, I also, of course added a few words of my own.
The conditions of the list are pretty simple. First, it had to be a real word that can be found in the dictionary (I used several dictionary sources). Secondly, keeping in the spirit of my blog, it had to be family friendly. Lastly, if you could imagine Tigger saying the word, it had a good chance of making the list. With that in mind I submit to you the following 18 words:
- absquatulate – This word means to flee, to abscond, to vamoose, or to leave as if your britches are on fire and your backside is beginning to spark. I discovered that if the word is a verb that had the –ate suffix, it has a good chance of sounding funny enough to make the list (annotate, defenestrate). Given this, if your britches are on fire and your backside is beginning to spark, it would be wise to absquatulate to the nearest fire station. Once you arrive, you should stop, drop, roll, and politely ask the first fireman you see for a remedy to your anomaly.
- cacophonous – This is an adjective that describes a harsh or discordant sound. I only know what this word means because, in the 1980’s (when guitars were properly tuned), there was a band called Cacophony that included Jason Becker and Marty Friedman. I rather enjoyed there ne-classical guitar work. Still, the name was GREAT marketing. I imagine the poor souls whose britches are on fire and with a sparking backside let out quote a cacophonous sound as he absquatulated to the nearest fire station.
- crepuscular – This adjective refers to the twilight hours of the day. Lightning bugs, for example, are crepuscular creatures. The word also implies dimness. Politicians are often said to have crepuscular logic on an issue. I am challenged to find a more appropriate adjective for the average candidate. This is an election year with an abundance of examples. It makes a man want to absquatulate with a cacophonous cry of frustration.
- curmudgeon – This refers to a ill-tempered, cantankerous person. The curmudgeon in question is usually, at least, middle aged. I have yet to meet a 22 year old curmudgeon. One of my colleagues offered the following observation: "You know what I like about Shane's blog? You see, I act curmudgeonly. Shane only does that WHEN HE WRITES". With THAT kind of back-handed compliment, I HAD to include this word. I just wish those unruly hoodlums next door would turn down their Brittany Perry music (or whatever her name is) so I could hear myself think.
- depone – This is a verb meaning: to testify under oath. Sometimes, when such testimony involves a politician it leads to another word – perjury (followed by some crepuscular logic on the part of the politicians lawyer). I also find this word amusing because pone is a type of flat cake bread. If one’s flat cake bread is stolen, are they then deponed? This would eventually lead to the victim deponing about the alleged thief who stole his pone and then allegedly absquatulated.
- falafel – Be honest, now. Do I REALLY have to explain why this word made the list? For those who do not know falafel is a dish of Arabic origin. It consists of a spicy mixture of ground vegetables (often chick-peas or fava beans) that are formed into balls or patties and then fried. This sounds awfully good. Even if I didn’t like falafel, I’d get a big kick out of telling people I had it served to me. I could have a waffle for breakfast and a falafel for dinner. I’d be too tired from laughing to eat either.
- finagle – This verb means to acquire something by trickery or manipulation. For example: The old curmudgeon finagled the neighborhood kid into mowing his lawn. Shortly thereafter, the old curmudgeon absquatulated on his new Harley Davidson.
- gobbledygook – This a a great word that refers to jargon that is usually wordy and often unintelligible. For example, a supervisor may tell his superiors that he helped one of his team members thoroughly investigate multiple development opportunities in order to facilitate improvement of the respective team member’s quality of life. Simply stated, the supervisor told the team member he stinks at his job in multiple ways and will risk an abrupt update to his resume if he fails to improve. Through all the gobbledygook, five words rise to the top: Shape up or ship out.
- inundate – Again, we have a word with a prefix of –ate. This means the word has already made it through the first auditions and got a callback. The word means to flood with water. It can also refer to being overwhelmed by something. For example, when the old curmudgeon insulted his gourmet neighbors about the smell of their cooking, he woke up to find his front lawn inundated with falafel. This was especially unfortunate because the old curmudgeon was unable to finagle the neighborhood kid into more lawn work.
- luciferin – Previously, we discussed the crepuscular insect known as the lightning bug (or firefly). Luciferin is the pigment that causes the lightning bug to…well…light up. Still, I can’t but think of some 1970’s hospital drama where a doctor might say: “Nurse, get me an ampule of luciferin. STAT!” It won’t cure the poor fellow’s cardiac emergency but his abdomen might light up at night.
- osculate – This word is, at its origin, a geometric term. It refers to when a curve touches another curve at the same point of contact (sharing the same tangent. The word also means to kiss because that is what happens, geometrically speaking, during a kiss. This is funny to me. The reason why is that I can’t even fathom even the nerdiest guy on the planet telling his girlfriend: “Baby, when I see you, I plan to osculate you as if such were prohibited by the Volstead Act and we would have to wait another 11 years for the Blaine Act for a repeal.” Talk about your smooth operator.
- outré – This refers to something that is bizarre or violates accepted conventions. I mainly find this word funny because it makes people think that using a French word makes a person sound smarter or more sophisticated. I, personally, find such behavior to be rather gauche.
- pajamas – I don’t need to explain what these are. I included because the word sounds funny to me whether you pronounce them as puh-JAH-muhs or puh-JEH-muhs or PJ’s.
- pedantic – This works smacks of irony. It refers to making a show of one’s knowledge. This is ironic because using the word pedantic in a sentence is usually pedantic. Many consider pedantic behavior to be outré and ostentatious.
- perturb – I really like this word. This verb refers to upsetting or agitating someone. The problem is that the word sounds too funny to hear. If someone tells you they are perturbed. You start giggling. This causes an aggravation to the perturbation. I giggled just writing that.
- protuberant – This adjective refers to something that protrudes outward from an adjacent surface. The best example I can come up with is the late actor Don Knotts aka (Barney Fife or Ralph Furley or Mr. Limpet). Knotts had protuberant eyes. It actually added a lot of comic effect to his characters. I can watch Barney Fife while whispering the word protuberant and giggle through an entire episode of “The Andy Griffith Show”.
- usurp – You don’t really have to have any idea what this word means for it to sound funny. It refers to taking over something by force or without proper rights. Even funnier, one who does so is a usurper. A usurper’s action is called a usurpation. The more you follow this word grammatically, the funnier it gets. I offer the following (with apologies to any educated historians): The Russians consider Napoleon’s attempted usurpation to be a mere perturbation. Therefore, it behooved Napoleon to absquatulate back to France as if his little britches were on fire and his backside was beginning to spark.
- zephyr – The person who submitted asked me the following question: “Why can’t they just call it a breeze or a wind?” To her, the use of the word zephyr appears a bit pedantic. Further investigation revealed that the word zephyr refers to a breeze from a west wind. It comes from the name Zephyrus – god of the West Wind. This is not to be confused with the Oklahoma blues guitarists J. J. Cale. They called him The Breeze because he kept blowin’ down the road.
Once again, folks, there you have it – another list of funny sounding words with legitimate uses. If you found that I omitted words from this list (or the first volume). Feel free to chime in as long as they meet the guidelines (funny and family friendly). I hope you didn’t find it too pedantic or crepuscular (however, I WILL accept being described as curmudgeonly).
Sunday, July 22, 2012
I should start with a brief back-story. Some years back, I had made an online friend named John. John lived in Illinois. John and I corresponded very closely for several years via phone and Internet. John and I never met face to face. In spite of this, we shared many laughs together. We also endured many trials together. John comforted me when my parents were involved in a severe automobile accident. I did my best to help John face his impending divorce. John was also a man who had issues with his weight. John’s weight struggles took their toll on his health. The toll ultimately became too great. On April 1, 2000; John collapsed and died in his living room in the presence of one of his teenage daughters. It has been 12 years since John died. I will never forget the laughs we had. I will also never forget the stories he shared regarding the physical and emotional consequences of his obesity. They have especially struck a chord with me as my weight climbed over the past year to the 300 lb. mark.
About 7 years ago, I acquired another friend named John. There were some differences from my deceased friend of the same name. This friend named John lives locally, within walking distance. John is a few years younger and in better health. We have somewhat different personalities. Those differences allow us to complement one another very well. John has expressed tremendous concerns about my weight and overall health in the past year. Actually, at times he has railed me rather harshly. John has, at times, talked to me in the same way Mickey Goldmill lashed out at Rocky Balboa. Still, I know that John, like Mickey, is always in my corner.
In the past couple of months, I had spoken to my wife about making a significant financial investment in my fitness goals. I wanted to buy a bicycle. I didn’t just want some off-the-rack department store bicycle. I wanted a bicycle that could endure my extra weight, provide a comfortable ride, and be easily modified (when needed) as my fitness progressed. My lovely queen agreed that this was a sound idea and was very encouraging. I, once again, reached out to my friend John. This was a no-brainer to me. John not only has a very nice bike of his own. He also teaches a spin class. Divine providence is really a wonderful thing when you realize it for what it is.
John took me to a local bike shop where he got his own set of wheels. They sized me up on a bike. I fell in love with that thing the minute I got on it. I felt like I was a kid again that could ride his bike everywhere. I looked like a hippo who probably needed training wheels. Still, nothing was going to steal my bliss in that moment. I got a quote on the bike. John also guided me on some accessories I would need such as lights, a lock, a helmet and appropriate riding apparel. I spent the next few weeks obsessing about getting this bike. My older son asked if I was getting a bike so I could ride to the mailbox and back. To the untrained ear, that would sound like an insulting crack. I took it as a phrase of encouragement from someone who is definitely his father’s son.
The day finally came and I went in and got my new bike. Allow me this one unsolicited testimonial. The Bike Zone (http://bikezonebikes.com/) did GREAT by me. They gave me 25% off on the bike and 15% off on the accessories. They even mounted the accessories as they were setting up my bike. They had me out the door with my bike in less than 15 minutes. If you are in the Rochester, NY area and want a good solid deal on a bike, head out to The Bike Zone on Route 104 near Greece Ridge Center.
John and I woke up early the next morning and went riding together. I was decked out in my riding gear which included a strong helmet, a bright t-shirt, and a bright fluorescent vest (think DOT orange). The last thing John or I want any other person on the road to say with a straight face is “I never saw him coming.” By the way, I named my bike the X-1 in deference to one P. W. Herman. My buddy John took me on a conservative ride. He guided me about shifting gears and hand signals. John was doing this because he knew I had not ridden a bicycle in this manner in roughly 30 years. It should be noted that one item missing from my new bike was a rack for a water bottle. Fortunately, John has a rather nice pannier on the back of his bike he he stored my water bottle so we could hydrate at brief points during the ride. We rode 6.8 miles that day. A few days later we rode again. My only goal was to go farther than the previous ride. We rode 8.8 miles that day. Just yesterday, I acquired my own water bottle rack and installed it on my bike. John and I were having troubles the entire week connecting for a ride together. I decided that since I had a way to store my water, I would ride solo. I promised John I would wear the proper gear and stick to our route. Once again, I rode just a bit farther than I had previously. I rode 10.4 miles in exactly 90 minutes.
In closing, I don’t think it is any big secret at this point that I am very grateful for John’s mentorship. I am looking forward to many more rides (both solo and with John). Lastly, if you are curious if the investment had made a difference in my fitness goals, I have lost 7 lbs. in less than one month.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
So the question remains, having overcome the aforementioned obstacles, why is it such a struggle to get my weight down to a heavy level and keep it off? To best answer that question. Smoking was something I was did well. I had gotten especially good at smoking during that last year before quitting as it was also the same year my mother passed away. I would even go outside in sub-zero New York temperature because I refused to allow anyone to smoke inside my house. It was sometimes merely a dramatic prop and at other times a tool (pronounced \ˈkrəch\) for stress relief.
As it turns out, eating is also something I do well. American men have even been known to engage in eating competitions. I have never done sure but I am sure I’d have some post Olympic endorsement deals if I ever ventured into such “sport”. The point is, while I AM a fussy eater to some point, what I do eat I tend to do in unhealthy amounts. This is where part of the problem lies. As much as I enjoyed smoking and found great solace in the habit, I knew I was never at risk for dying prematurely if I quit (it’s NOT quitting that tends to have that terminal side effect). Food is a different story. I enjoy eating and find solace in it as well. However, while overeating can lead to a premature passing, NOT eating can also leading to inopportune exit. So the trick is finding a healthy level eating. I believe it was Kesuke Miyagi that balance makes one’s whole life better. I am paraphrasing a bit but I haven’t seen the movie in a while.
Part of achieving this balance is in making different food choices. Now, I should be clear on this issue. This doesn’t mean that I will join the society of herbivores. I have quite a few friends and loved ones that are either vegetarians or vegans. I love them dearly and respect their choices. I have even been known to occasionally borrow a recipe. Still, a full time membership is just not in the cards for Shane. It’s just a stone cold fact that if my doctor tells me that I must abstain from fried chicken and cheesecake forever or die, I will immediately update my will. I can go for long stretches without having certain foods. I don’t need fried chicken and cheesecake daily. Other food choices HAVE been eliminated.This is because they have shown themselves to be trigger foods. If I have one, I must consume them until they are all gone. Back last November, I announced my divorce from chocolate malted milk balls. I am sure the Whoppers company was shocked by the sudden and devastating news. I just felt that I could no longer go on with such a presence in my life. It was a tearful departure. My torrid relationship with Pringles potato chips has been on hiatus for some time now. We have not been together in some time. I hear that Pringles is doing okay since our time apart. I still get the occasional anonymous note and hang-up phone call saying “Take Me Back!” I am not certain who is responsible for such anonymous communications. I suspect it may be a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger. We have also not spent time together in months now. Yes, I admit it. I am a food polygamist.
Please understand that I am writing this not only as a means of sharing my catharsis with you all. I also do it for some accountability with my weight control. In a future essay, I will share how I have made some recent investments and set up a chain of accountability.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Karen Klein is a 68 year-old bus monitor working in the school district of Greece, NY (my neighborhood). Karen was doing her job as she has dutifully done for years on a somewhat meager salary. Sadly, during the course of a routine bus ride, several students from Greece Athena Middle School became criminally unruly. That’s right, folks. I said MIDDLE school. I am talking about students ranging in age from 12 – 15 years old. I know we all wish to think that kids go to school and behave like angels. Let me remind you of one Biblical fact – Lucifer was an angel too.
Karen sat in her seat amongst these students with incredible decorum. When it came to etiquette and respect, Karen lead by example. The incorrigible students thought it was better to show another example of behavior. These students hurled one profane remark after another at Karen. They insulted her about her weight, made jokes about committing sexual acts with her, and threatened her with violence. More than once, one of the students literally poked at her. One student even implied that her kids should commit suicide. By sad coincidence, Karen had already lost a son to suicide. As if this was not all enough, the students were apparently so proud of their behavior, they shot video footage that went on for 10 minutes and uploaded it to YouTube.
This is where things began to unravel somewhat for these mutinous miscreants. Once the video footage hit the Internet, it went VIRAL. The video got more than 100,000 hits from as far away as Australia. People from all over the world have reached out to the school district regarding the video. What’s more, the local police have promised to assist in the investigation. I truly hope that every student involved in this reprehensible behavior receives swift and severe disciplinary action. Perhaps, they can do community service cleaning stalls at the Seneca Park Zoo. After all, why not let animals take care of their own. Furthermore, I would like to see every student involved present Karen Klein with a rose and an apology. This ceremonial policy should take place on camera with their mothers present. Make these students face their actions, face their mothers, face Karen Klein, and ultimately face the world. It seems only fitting since they apparently enjoy a worldwide audience.
I should point out that there is SOME good outcome from all this. Someone started a fundraiser on the Internet to fund a vacation for Karen Klein. The fundraising goal was $5,000. As of this writing, more than $43,000 has been raised on behalf of Karen Klein. The link for the fundraiser is at http://igg.me/p/124322.
To the reprehensible students: May you face a severe penalty for your behavior. I also hope that your mother, grandmother, sister, and future spouse is NEVER subjected to such behavior. May your future children never commit such acts.
To the school district and local authorities: I am sure you all continue to work very hard daily to keep our kids out of the gutter. Clearly, the gutter must also be cleaned out.
To Karen Klein: Thank you for your years of service. I hope you enjoy your well-deserved vacation. I hope that you encounter a random young teenager who will kiss your cheek and hug your neck. Chivalry is not dead. It’s just the reinforcement of chivalry that is lacking.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Allow me to offer you some background that can give you an idea of how the rambling starts. I am what you call a frustrated guitarist. I know a few chords, a few scales, and some decent riffs or two. Having said that, no one is going to make me sing for my supper. Some HAVE been known to start feeding me so I will shut up and stop playing. Now, there are many guitarist out there that I admire. Presently, I am a bit fixated on Jeff Beck. This guy has a long history that includes playing with the likes of Rod Stewart and The Yardbirds. He is also a well known musician in his own right. Jeff Beck is truly a master of the Stratocaster. I have had his song “Freeway Jam” stuck in my head for days.
This fixation on Jeff Beck lead me to watching a video of him performing at the 2010 Crossroads Festival. Watching Jeff Beck playing his beautiful song “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” simply made my jaw drop. I also enjoyed watching other acts such as Robert Cray and Joe Bonamassa perform. The seamless interaction with the other musicians onstage is nothing of short of fascinating to me. Then, a pun popped into my head about how it seemed seamless. It was seemingly seamless.
Once the puns started going into my head I started thinking about all the musician jokes I have heard. I have heard (and shared) jokes about drummer, bass players, singers, and guitarist. After all, if I am unwilling to share jokes about guitarists, I have little business joking about the others. Such jokes include (but are not limited to) the following:
- How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb? ONE…TWO…ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!
- How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb? None. Leave it out. No one will notice.
- How many lead singers does it take to change a light bulb? One – he holds the bulb in the socket and the world revolves around him.
- How many guitarists does it take to change a light bulb? Twelve – One to change it and the other eleven to say they could have done it better.
Now, all of this rambling had me thinking about the musical pun about slipping on a banana peel: If you don’t C♯ then you might B♭ & in the end your face might # into the ground and you will wind up @ the hospital. This is how my mind wanders in my spare time. I appreciate you indulging me by taking a step into the musty basement that is my mind. Oh yeah, one more joke: What does it mean when a guitarist is drooling from both sides of his mouth? The stage is level.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
My wife, Renee, is going through commencement today to celebrate her 4 year degree in Social Work. I won’t lie to anyone. I was nervous about my wife going back to college for her degree. A lot of it had to do with the timing. I had enrolled into a 4 degree program myself in 2010. It took quite a great deal of legwork on my wife’s part to get my college enrollment in place. Once, I have my placement in the program, I had the moment of naiveté in thinking that I could relax since our enrollment struggles were over. I was wrong. My wife then announced that she was choosing to go back to college herself to obtain a degree in social work. I had wondered at the time why this news jolted me so much. My wife pointed out to me in a unrelated conversation recently: “You just don’t like to have things upset your applecart”. That statement proved to be as true in that conversation as it did (in retrospect) about her announcement about her college enrollment. If there is one thing my wife has taught me it is this – An upset applecart is often…upsetting. However, many times, an upset apple cart is often the origin of a mighty fine pie.
I should also point out that my wife’s career in social work did not begin in 2010. It actually began much earlier. Renee and I were married in a town hall in Henrietta, New York in 1993. I had two older kids from a previous marriage. Renee also had a 2 year old girl. In addition, Renee was VERY with child. Our youngest, Caleb was born 3 weeks to the day of our marriage. It was determined in the years that followed that Caleb was born with a mild form of autism - Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified). This diagnosis helped pave a long road of Renee learning to advocate for our children via Hard Knock University (the curriculum is relentless). Renee did a lot of hard work and research to be sure that if any of our four kids, needed services at school, medical care, or even surgery it happened. She proved to be a tenacious tigress who would do anything to provide for her young and devour anyone who tried to impede her task.
So here we are today in 2012. My wife is walking a stage to indicate the start of a new career. Renee is already involved in some organizations that help provide advocacy for people with autism and other developmental disorders. I have seen her help others obtain services they thought was unavailable. She not only allows others to see the tigress on action. She often helps bring out the tiger in others. Her work has even influenced our daughter, Brianna, to steer her own career toward autism awareness and advocacy (a tigress babe in training?) Be advised, Western New York, you are about to see an ambush of tigers take on autism reform and advocacy bigger than you have ever seen.
Now onto a note of a more personal nature to my wife. Renee, I realize that with both of us wrapping up college studies for the semester, we have both been rather busy and I have been rather silent. I have tried to figure a way to express how extraordinarily proud I am of you today. To do so, I am going to borrow one of our daughter’s favorite quotes: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt. Congratulations, my lovely queen on the beauty of a dream realized.. I look forward to seeing you move the tassel on your crown. I love you.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
One of the major events of this week is that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg got married this weekend. Zuckerberg married a lovely lady named Priscilla Chan after a 9 year relationship. This wedding occurred the day after Facebook had an IPO that could have made Zuckerberg a gazillionaire. Well played, Mrs. Zuckerberg. I hope you have a better ROI than your husband did at his IPO.
There have been several celebrities who have passed away in this past month. Like most of us, I tend to file such news under the categories of “c’est la vie”, “que sera sera”, “vini vidi vici” (no wait, that one doesn’t apply here). Such passings have included actor George “Goober” Lindsey and hair designer Vidal Sassoon. This week however, two musical giants from the disco era have left this earth after losing their respective bouts with cancer – Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. Now, I was not a huge disco fan mind you. However, as a very young teenager, I had to assimilate somewhat because disco was played at school dances and school dances had girls. It is with this in mind that I must thank Miss Summer for all the kisses I was able to get during “Last Dance”. Also, please forgive the fact that I once danced in public. Robin Gibb was on third of a harmonious trio known as the Bee Gees (Brothers Gibb). Mr. Gibb, I forgive you and your brothers for the Sgt. Pepper’s movie. Thank you for such songs as “Nights on Broadway”, How Deep Is Your Love?”, and “I Started a Joke”. May you and Miss Summer rest in peace.
On a more local note, a man here in Rochester, NY has reported that his dog is missing. Apparently, his cocker spaniel (Gabi) was abducted from the back seat of his car while he was shopping at the Rochester Public Market. Gabi is only a year old and her owners are desperate to get her back. Personally, I think anybody who steals someone else’s dog ought to be flogged in the center of the public market. I’d settle for Gabi’s safe return and a mild dog bite.
Well, folks, thanks for indulging me. I will try not to go so long between postings as I truly enjoy writing them and sharing them with you.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
There are some leisure activities that I do not particularly like. One fine example would be golf. This is because I do not understand a sport that will have a grown man waking up at 5 AM (on his day off), spend hours in an activity that would have a Bible believing pastor cussing and throwing metal objects, and say that they do it to “unwind and relax”. There are other activities that, while I truly enjoy them, I do not participate very often because I just absolutely stink at it. The example I will use for this writing is the wonderful pastime of bowling.
I find bowling to be a truly enjoyable activity. That is, once you put aside any germophobic concerns and rent a pair of uncomfortable shoes to play the game. Once you have done this, you get to hurl a sphere down a lane with the intention of knocking 10 pins down. Each regulation game has 10 frames with up to two chances per frame. The 10th frame offers up to three chances to knock down the pins. These means you have up to 21 chances to hurl the sphere, knock down the pins, and make the obligatory grandstanding gesture. As an added bonus, the grandstanding is not part of your score so you are not penalized if your Chuck Berry duck walk does not meet the approval of your audience. I mean what is not to like about this game?
Nevertheless, I do not bowl very often as I have never been very good at it. This is in spite of the fact that I was actually on a bowling league in 6th grade. Mind you, I think it was the league’s first year and to get on the team you just had to sign up. You only got “cut” once they ran out of spots. Still, if you are a student of Azalea Middle School in Mobile, Alabama and on the bowling team, you can now stated that you have read the work from one of the league’s pioneers.
Once a week, after school, we would take a bus to a nearby bowling alley. Each team in the league would bowl 3 games. The leader of our team was in the 8th grade and a very proficient bowler. He was very good at certain bowling techniques that I routinely failed. For example, he was very good at keeping his ball out of the gutter and actually knocking the pins down. He was also good at doing so while avoiding two things I did quite often – crossing the foul line or falling down. Actually, in one shining moment, I did both of those things. I formed my stance. I proceeded forward and began to hurl my ball down the lane. However, in doing so, I slipped and fell. Once I fell, I actually began to slide forward with half my body ending up across the foul line. Normally, my team leader was very stern and impatient about such things (probably because I managed to do this so often). This time was different. He came over, helped me up and asked me if I was OK. He then offered to let me bowl my frame over again. I curiously asked him why since I had, once again, fallen AND crossed the foul line. He then pointed toward the pins. I HAD KNOCKED THEM ALL DOWN. That’s right. I fell down, wound up across the foul line from my head to my waist, and got a STRIKE. I bowled my frame again, without falling, and knocked down a total of 2 pins. Clearly, lightning wasn’t striking twice here.
Yesterday, some 34 years later, I decided to go to the bowling alley for the first time in what must have been a good 10 years. The reason I did this is that I signed up for a corporate bowling tournament at my job to support Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I wanted bowling to be a recent memory before the tournament. I rented my pair of community germ ridden, uncomfortable shoes and selected my bowling ball. I looked up and, with humorous curiosity, asked God: How long will it take before I fall down in front of a bunch of 7 year olds having a birthday party to my right? God provided his answer – in the first frame. The number 10 pin was a routine victim in my practice as it was often the only pin I knocked down. It should be noted, however, that I knocked that lone pin down with great ferocity. In subsequent frames, I believe the other pins fell down merely as an act of compassion and kindness. I did manage to get a strike without falling or crossing the foul line.
I don’t think the other teams in this forthcoming tournament have much to worry about from the likes of me. Still, if I was a number 10 bowling pin, I’d start quivering with fear.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
My younger son, Caleb, was born with a condition called syndactyly. Syndactyly is a condition where two or more digits on the hands or feet are webbed together. Caleb had a pair of toes partially webbed together on each foot. He also had a pair of digits partially webbed together on one hand. The other hand had a pair of digits that were completely webbed together. This is a hereditary condition. As it turns out, Caleb inherited this condition from my side of the family. I only found this out after I was discussing Caleb’s condition with my mother. My mother had two toes that were webbed together. I never knew that until Caleb was born. It may seem strange to some of you that I did not know this before but how many of you go out of your way to look at your mother’s feet?
Caleb had multiple surgeries over the years to help correct the syndactyly. The surgery initially involved separating the affected digits and grafting skin from other areas of his body to help these digits heal and grow. The reason why this surgery had to be done several times is that the scar tissue would cause his fingers to contract as his bones grew. The scar tissue would also cause the nails of the affected fingers to be offset slightly to the side.
Several months ago, at the age of 18, Caleb had yet another surgery to help the fingers gain more mobility and to reset the fingernail. This surgery also involved the placement of a titanium pin into one of the fingers on his left hand. This was to help straighten the finger which had become contracted somewhat. After several weeks the pin was removed and Caleb began adjusting to his post operative freedom of movement.
It should be note at this point that Caleb’s personality and demeanor is somewhat passive. He is not a wimp by any means but at the same time he is not one I have to worry about bullying some kid for his lunch money. I was sitting in my room one night and Caleb walked in. Without saying a word, he faced his mother and me and made a fist with his left hand. This struck me unusual for two reasons. First of all, Caleb is right handed. Secondly, when he made this left handed fist, he had a look on his face as if he were posing for a heavy metal music magazine. He then proudly announced: “I CAN MAKE A FIST!” This is something he had never been able to do before with his left hand. He was now doing it for the first time in 18 years. That son of mine could not have been happier if he had beaten Sonic the Hedgehog in the 50 yard dash. There’s not even a Greek god derived adjective to describe it.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
My sources usually come from personal experiences. Some are recent. Others are from sometime in my past. Occasionally, however, I go mining for material. Sometimes, I just go to a public place such as the mall, a restaurant, or a library. Other times, I surf the Internet. Usually when I do such mining, I am looking for something unusual and amusing that I could not have conceived even in my most vivid imagination (and my mind is a pretty warped record at times). For the purpose of this writing, I decided to mine the media, peruse the news, and find the glories in the stories. I was not disappointed. Before I begin, I’d like to thank BBC.com and MSNBC.com for providing stories that would have zoned out Rod Serling and Robert Ripley would never believe.
The first piece is one I truly had sympathy for the person involved. Honestly, I did. It just didn’t look that way when I was laughing so hard at the picture to scroll down the webpage. Apparently, a dog passed away at the ripe old age of 15. This wasn’t just ANY dog. This dog was a mix of chihuahua and Chinese crested breeds. This amusing mixed breed was named Yoda. Why, you ask, would anyone give their dog such a name? As it turns out, Yoda’s appearance consisted of very short sprouts of thin hair all over her tiny body. She also had this incredible bulging eyes and a protruding tongue. The story even says that when the owner first found Yoda she was initially mistaken for a rat. However, Yoda’s true distinction comes from a contest in which she was entered by her owner in 2011.Yoda won her owner $1000 dollars for being deemed by a panel of judges as the World’s Ugliest Dog. My curiosity got the better of me so I surfed the net for the contest. Let’s just say that Yoda had her competitor’s beat hands down. To Yoda’s owner, I extend my sincere condolences and please forgive my uproarious laughter. To Yoda, the World’s Ugliest Dog, in peace rest you must. This story can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17380971
The next story I ran across came from a small town in Italy called Falciano del Massico. Apparently this town is so small that it has run out of burial space. Therefore, the town’s mayor decided to exercise a brilliant political prerogative. This mayor passed a law that outlaws dying. That’s right, citizens of Falciano del Massico are forbidden by law to die. I presume this brilliant piece of legislation is being enforced by capital punishment. Actually, if the accused is lucky, he might get life. Find this piece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17378497
Shifting back again to the animal kingdom, I ran across a study about the colossal squid. These creatures are incredibly huge (as their name implies). However, some scientists wanted to determine why these great sea creatures have eyeballs the size of basketballs (three times the diameter of any other animal). Now personally, I would have told these scientists to save their money. I would then tell them that the reason they have Voit written on their eyeballs is because – IT’S A GIANT SQUID. Oh but, nay nay nay, nix nix nix, spake the scientists. These eyes help to detect a sperm whale from great distances. The sperm whale is a natural predator of the colossal squid.
Don’t believe it. Go to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46749434/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.T2KAIBGxaTk
Lastly, I found a story that rendered me unable to find the most appropriate reaction – shock? disbelief? raucous laughter? Apparently, a very unique rabbit was discovered at a zoo in Germany. This rare creature that was born out of a litter of six with no ears. As if this poor rabbit didn’t have enough problems, a camera crew showed up to film a news report. The cameraman took one step back and unintentionally stepped on this innocent rare rabbit. It was accidental but unfortunately fatal to the rabbit (his name was Til by the way). Now along with the unfortunate death of this rare rabbit, this news reporter has to live with the fact that he also killed the news story and created a new news story at the same time. This poor guy will get into a fight with his wife years later. Just when he thinks he has the upper hand in the argument, his wife will say: “Oh yeah? Well, you killed a bunny without ears”. This tragic tale of Til can be found at http://entertainment.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/15/10700716-mutant-bunny-crushed-to-death-by-cameraman-at-news-conference
Well folks, there you have it. I know many of you have read my stuff and think I have a warped sense of humor and creativity. You would be correct. As you can see, however, some things are even wilder than my imagination.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Before I tell this story, I should offer some background. The character behind this story of significance is female. I met this significant female via another significant female. I met this significant female via my wife. The thing is, she wasn’t my wife at the time. At the time, she was a very new girlfriend who had a daughter that was less than a year old. This daughter is also not the main character of this significant female story but nonetheless plays a role. Another important detail is that this story takes place on Valentine’s Day (which happens to be two days after my birthday). Lastly, it is important to know that this story takes place inside Rochester International Airport in 1992. For better or for worse, the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001 now makes repeating the events of this story nearly impossible and definitely illegal. Oh yeah, one more thing, the significant female – her name is Daisy.
On this Valentine’s Day in 1992, I was preparing to fly down to Georgia to visit my parents. It was a trip I had planned since the previous November. It was also the first time I had been to Georgia since I move to Rochester, New York in 1988. My girlfriend was kind enough to offer me a ride to the airport. I knew my feelings toward this relatively new girlfriend were strong. Still, I was somewhat reluctant to speak up about my feelings as I had already endured a marriage that did not end well. I had two kids from that marriage that I missed being able to see on a daily basis. Also along for the ride to the airport was my girlfriend’s aforementioned daughter. We made our way through airport security and we were all waiting at the gate for my flight to begin boarding. We had plenty of time to spare before boarding so I figure this was a good time for us all to relax.
As it turns out, I was mistaken about the relaxing part. My girlfriend suddenly said: “OH NO!” Apparently, her daughter needed to be changed but the diaper bag was in my girlfriend’s car in the parking lot. I offered to watch her daughter while she retrieved the diaper bag. She said: “No, I’ll take her with me in case you have to get on the plane before I get back.” She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and darted toward the parking lot. You’d have thought she was entering that stroller in a NASCAR race the way she rapidly weaved through the sea of people in the airport on her way back to the car.
I nervously waited; hoping that she would return before I had to board my flight. I alternated between looking at my watch and looking through the crowd of people for any sight of my girlfriend, her daughter, or even the stroller which I still swear was detailed with a spoiler on the back. This pattern repeated for what seemed an eternity: Check for the time, check for the girlfriend, repeat. Suddenly, I saw them - the unmistakable brown tresses of my girlfriend’s hair and the unmistakable smile of her daughter. My girlfriend and I were both relieved that she made it back before my boarding call. In case you were wondering, she even had time to change her daughter.
A brief while later, they announced my boarding call for my flight. I kissed my girlfriend and her daughter goodbye. I boarded the plane and began stowing my stuff in the overhead compartment which included a guitar. Once I had everything stowed, I was immediately approached by an airline attendant. “Excuse me, Sir.”, she stated with that friendly airline attendant smile, “I’ve been asked to give you this box.” I curiously accepted the box and sat down. It was a simple white box. On the top of the box, someone had written my name, my flight number, and my seat assignment. I wasn’t sure at this point if I was more curious or nervous about this box. I took a deep breath and I opened it.
My curiosity was met with a pleasant surprise. Inside the box was a Valentine’s Day card with a message from my girlfriend. Also in the box was a stuffed cow made by Gund. For the unaware, Gund is a company that specializes in stuffed collectibles. It even came with a cowbell around the neck. I placed the cow and the card back in the box and stowed the box under my seat. As my flight began, you couldn’t have removed my smile even if you were a dental surgeon.
Many things have transpired since that day. The girlfriend in question has been my wife now for nearly 19 years. We also had a child together which gave us a total of two boys and two girls. Two of those kids are now engaged to be married and a third (the one that came with me to the airport) is pregnant. The cow, since named Daisy, travelled with us all over the years as we moved several times. Sadly, somewhere along the line between the first house and the current residence, Daisy disappeared. It was unfortunate and sad but such things happen when you move from one place to another.
I got a call from my wife the other day on the way home from work. “Guess what was delivered to the house today.” she said coyly. I sarcastically replied: “Our new dinette set?” “NO!” she said, “Daisy’s BACK!”. My wife had scoured the Internet and found another Gund cow identical to the one she gave me in 1992. I hate that it was so hard for her to find but then again, I am not a supporter of Gund control. (Did you REALLY think I was going to let that one pass by?)
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Author’s note: This piece was one that I wrote specifically for the purpose of entering a writing competition. I did not win that competition but I wanted to share the piece with you anyway. I hope you enjoy it. – PSM
I became a parent for the first time back in 19…well, it was some time back anyway. Like most expectant fathers, I bought a bunch of books that I thought would prepare me for this forthcoming event. I mean, I easily spent close to $100 in books. Those books might as well have been released as a set of several volumes entitled: Some Books That Make You Think You Know What’s Coming and Make You Feel Good About Yourself. Someone should have just typed the following on a sheet of paper for 25 cents each: “YOU DON’T HAVE THE SLIGHTEST CLUE WHAT IS COMING TO YOU! SAVE YOUR BOOK MONEY! YOUR CHILD WILL NEED IT MORE!” Then again, it is quite possible that such a truth was written and prepared for circulation. I suspect that a gang of leather-clad-book-writing child psychologists lead by Eyemokay Yerokay, Ph.D. found the author and beat the truth telling tar out of him.
Once my child arrived, my confidence and courage was quickly replaced by changing and crying. Occasionally, my child required more change and cried louder than I did. This little soul turned my world upside down, drained my wallet, sucked away my sleep cycle, and had me second guessing myself day after day. I endured all of these trials and ultimately reacted in the same way that 95% of parents in my situation have reacted throughout history —I had more children.
During the span of just over 5 years, I was blessed with 4 children: 2 boys and 2 girls. I decided at this point that my Biblical quiver was full. Besides, a tied score of boys and girls is hard to beat. In the years that followed, I made multiple trips to the emergency room, stopped many sibling wrestling matches, endured enough contractions of chicken pox to make me and my wife start clucking uncontrollably, and retrieved one child from the roof of our house. On the other hand, I have also attended many choir concerts, received many exhibits of child created art, and watched my kids have the time of their lives playing on a dining room table that I coated with shaving cream.
All these years later, I can tell you my worst error — I blinked. By this coming autumn, one daughter will be married. Another daughter will deliver our first grandchild. Between the two daughters alone, I know I have many grandparental adventures ahead of me. I also know this: “I DON’T HAVE THE SLIGHTEST CLUE WHAT IS COMING TO YOU! I’M SAVING MY BOOK MONEY! MY GRANDCHILDREN WILL NEED IT MORE!”
Monday, February 27, 2012
It’s not a big secret to those who know me well that my weight is something that I have battled with for about 25 years now. Well, perhaps battle is not the most accurate term. After all, the word battle implies that one has put up some kind of a fight. There have been times over the years where I have faced someone or something in an effort to protect my family from harm. After all, that is what any decent father or husband would do. It is ironic then that this same type of fortitude and tenacity has been temporary at best and absent at worst as it pertained to my weight. Pound by pound, I let it slowly creep into my life and did little to nothing to stop it.
I think part of it was by allowing myself to use euphemisms to label the issue. When it first began, I referred to my gut as a spare tire or perhaps even a pot belly. This is probably largely due to the fact that I pride myself on having a sense of humor and such terms add levity to the situation. I can even remember at one time referring to my weight as a bulge in my equator. Well, over the years my equator shifted resulting in a total eclipse of my toes. Yes, even now, I use some levity because that is just part of my personality. Well, the reality is that what I have is morbid obesity. This means that I am at least 100 lbs. above my ideal weight for my height.
This condition has not come without expense to me. For example, I can buy myself a nice outfit that fits me properly and may even look very nice on me. Still, not matter how properly the garments fit or well well I dress, I will still look like a morbidly obese man. Personally, with the exception of my wife, I couldn’t care less of someone else’s opinion about my appearance. Still, when I look in the mirror, I truly dislike what I see.
The other expense is the potential damage my weight brings to my health. I already have hereditary risk factors for heart problems and diabetes. I also have high blood pressure (controlled by medication). My weight increases that risk tremendously. In addition, being so obese is truly hard on the bones. Without the proper muscle tone, a body is just not designed to carry such weight without risk to the knees and back. This goes hand in hand with an increased risk of injury. It’s true. Those that are bigger DO fall harder.
Quite possibly the hardest consequence for me to accept is the development of sleep apnea. This means that I can literally have episodes where I stop breathing while I sleep. This results in increased health risks, a chronic feeling of fatigue (due to the lack of quality sleep), sore throats (due to the harsh snoring), and looks of worry on the faces of your family (due to the fact that they actually witness these episodes of apnea).
There is some relief to be provided from this oxygen deprived, brain addled state. I can use a machine that will force humidified air into my airway via Controlled Proximal Airway Pressure (CPAP). This machine is not free and covered 50% by my insurance. It makes me look like a SCUBA diver on a mattress. It does truly provide relief though. While this is a better way, it is not without it’s trappings. Gone are the days of taking catnaps on the couch. If I travel somewhere requiring an overnight stay, the CPAP machine has to travel with me. I fly to Georgia once a year. This means I have to take the CPAP machine through the security check and the machine requires extra scanning by security.
My only consolation is that I KNOW there is some hope. Several doctors over the years have told me that with significant weight loss, I could very possibly become independent of the CPAP machine as the weight loss could resolve my sleep apnea. The weight loss could also reduce or eliminate the need for medicine to control my high blood pressure. The reality check in that glimmer of hope is that it would require a loss of at least 60 – 70 lbs.
Given that I think of myself as a humor writer, my readers may find it curious that I would write about all this. First of all, writing about it and publishing it helps hold me accountable. Secondly, I hope and pray that anyone in a similar issue will do what it takes to resolve it. Consult your physician. Get into a weight loss program or a gym membership. I hope and pray that, in short time, we are all in better states of health not just living life to the fullest but living it for as long as possible.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Sometimes a situation comes into your life that makes you realize how much you have taken something for granted. It’s the kind of thing that makes you stop and smell the roses, tiptoe through the tulips, mingle among the magnolias, and carefully caress the cactus flowers. It’s the kind of thing that makes a man thankful to be alive. You guessed it. I’m talking about Western movies.
I am currently taking a class in American Cinema. The professor has a list of movies and you select movies from the list to watch and write about them. For the purpose of the class, I have to analyze the film direction, storyline, and cinematography. I have to use such terms as iris shot, parallel action, and mise-en-scène. In spite of such under-the-microscope analyses, I am still able to actually watch and enjoy some of the films. Given that the focus is currently on Western films, I get to enjoy it even more.
It is hard for me to succinctly explain what it is about Westerns that appeals to me. Maybe it’s because it’s the best way to see the good guys versus the bad guys where the good guys (almost) always win. Maybe it’s the underlying themes of medieval chivalry that weave through the characters such as The Lone Ranger. Then again, I also loved the character or Rooster Cogburn in True Grit who had a crust as thick as Texas toast. Maybe it’s because I was named after a Western movie. Apparently, my Mom and Dad liked the movie Shane hence my name. I am quite happy with that since my Dad also likes The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Today, I had the pleasure of watching High Noon. This is one the the great ones and I had never seen it before. Gary Cooper plays the local marshall. The movie starts with the marshall getting married to a very lovely lady played by none other than Grace Kelly. The newly wedded couple is getting ready to leave for their honeymoon which coincides with the marshall’s retirement. These plans are completely derailed when everyone receives news that a man the marshall had convicted has been pardoned and is due to arrive back in town on the noon train.
Now I understand the “codes of the West” and a sense of duty and all of that. But, c’mon Marshall Kane. You are in your early 50’s and you have just married a 21 year old Grace Kelly. I don’t mean to be indelicate but I respectfully suggest you have bigger (and prettier) fish to fry. If that isn’t enough, everywhere you walk Tex Ritter can be heard singing “Do Not Forsake Me. O, My Darling”. To top it all off, there isn’t one single solitary man who is willing to go to the train depot with you. All those years you have been protecting every man, woman, and child in this town and this is the thanks you get on your wedding day and retirement party. I may be selfish, Marshall. Nevertheless, I’d be tempting to grab my gorgeous wife (reminder: it’s GRACE KELLY) and leave town with mistletoe fastened to the seat of my pants.
I won’t give away everything because this is a movie worth watching. I will tell you that the marshall’s newly wedded wife proved to be quite a woman. I will also tell you that the marshall put his wife on a coach and road with her out of town as the credits roll. Why did he do this? Is it because it is such a stereotypical Western ending. I don’t think so. I think he finally realized that 1 minute past high noon was half past time to get on with his honeymoon. After all, IT WAS GRACE KELLY!
Monday, January 2, 2012
Still, we have some good things to look forward to in 2012. First of all, 2012 is a leap year. That means I get one extra day to pay bills and exercise. I might celebrate the occasion by buying a Slurpee. I’ll just have to figure out how many kettle bell lunges will be required to work it off. Other events include new musical output from longtime acts. On the rock front, Van Halen and Black Sabbath are both promising albums of new material. Van Halen is even promoting a tour in 2012. I take this as a positive sign that David Lee Roth has finally allayed his fears that Eddie Van Halen has another kid that no one knows about and is planning to turn the band into a family act. With reunions such as these, I am sure that Ricky Martin will inevitably sign a deal with Menudo and launch the “C’MON! SERIOUSLY?!” tour.
If you don’t want to hear new music, you can possibly look forward to going to a movie. 2012 will offer yet another Twilight film so that we may continue teaching young women that there is no hope for a lasting romantic relationship with a man who has a pulse. But wait, there’s hope. If you disliked Thor and loathed Captain America: The First Avenger, don’t fret. You get to see them again in The Avengers with Iron Man. OK, there’s a little hope. We can all even look forward to a 3-D release of Titanic. After all, what better way to appreciate Leonardo Dicaprio’s one dimensional performance than by wearing funny glasses that allows the viewer to see how flat something is from more than one angle.
OK, now that I have looked upon this schedule of events, I think I might forget about a concert or a movie. Instead, I will just stay home and relax with the new video game system I just got for Christmas. All I need to do is to clear the levels and enjoy hours of game play. This will be easy once I can negotiate my game controller. This controller includes (but is not limited to):
- Two joysticks
- One directional button (not to be confused with the joysticks).
- Four individually colored round buttons
- Two bumper buttons
- Two trigger buttons
- Use one joystick to face the alien.
- Use the other joystick to aim your weapon. This is after you have hit one of the color buttons to choose the right weapon.
- Hit the trigger button to fire your weapon. This is not to be confused with the bumper button.